Lacey woman out on a limb after tree removal City regulations require permit to cut down trees

The Olympian,

Olympia WA - June 20, 2002 - 
On the Web City of Lacey:  

LACEY -- Stacy Magee thought she had the perfect plan for getting rid of the trees she didn't want shading her back yard.

A Shelton-based tree service cut down 25 trees for free, the tree service sold the timber, and she cleaned up the back yard.

But now Magee, whose husband is deployed in Afghanistan, is afraid the plan backfired.

Having those trees cut will be far from free because Lacey officials have told her she violated the city's tree protection regulations and will be financially responsible for their value.

Magee, who bought the house on 36th Avenue Southeast in September, said she didn't know about the ordinance when she had the trees cut down starting May 28.

"It's not something they apparently advertise," Magee said.

The city's forester, Galen Wright of Washington Forestry Consultants, is calculating the value of the trees.

Wright uses a process developed by the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.

Magee will need to revegetate the site, but if the cost of revegetating is less than the value of the trees, the city can require Magee to pay the difference into the city's tree-planting fund.

Magee, who has three young children, doesn't want to see other people stuck in the same spot.

"They need to know about it," Magee said of the regulations.  "I certainly didn't."

Lacey residents need to contact the city if they want to remove trees.

Olympia and Tumwater also have regulations about cutting trees, and they are all different, Wright said.

Lacey's tree regulations are designed to protect the city's character, said Doug Kramer, Lacey code compliance officer.

Lacey allows a homeowner to remove up to five trees in a three-year period.

Trees that the forester determines are diseased, damaged or hazardous also can be removed.

If the trees are removed without a permit, the business that takes down the trees also is responsible.

Kramer said he expects the tree service that removed Magee's trees will be held accountable as well.

"He apparently was unaware of the permitting requirements" Kramer said of the logger.  "(Magee) was unaware.  She was kind of left holding the ball in this case with a clear lot."

Magee said she is perfectly willing to plant trees.

"If they need money, I think they really need to be contacting the business people,"
Magee said of the city.

Zane's Tree Service, which cut Magee's trees, also cut down trees for Magee's neighbor, Steve Sleasman.

Another tree service took out seven trees for Sleasman, dropping the last on the roof and deck, and Zane's took out nine more.

Neither tree service mentioned the permit.

Sleasman said he refused to allow Wright to measure the trees after Wright couldn't explain the formula for determining the trees' landscape value.

Sleasman said he understands ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law, but he'd prefer to get a misdemeanor and a fine and then go in front of a judge.

Sleasman said his brother drives a log truck, and the trees are worth less than $1,000.

Sleasman plans to spend at least $1,000 on landscaping -- rhododendrons and trees.

Magee and Sleasman are not alone in not having permits.

The city usually learns of six to 10 people who cut down trees without permits each year, Kramer said.

Neighbors frequently call, especially this time of year.

"It's an ordinance that's not well known citywide," Kramer said.

The ordinance went into effect in 1994.

The rules do regulate private property, but so do regulations about nuisances such as garbage or junk cars, Kramer said.

"When it has an effect on neighboring property or an entire property and ultimately an entire community, we feel there needs to be some regulations to protect the overall welfare of the community," Kramer said.

Anyone who has questions should call the city, Kramer said.

Homeowners shouldn't assume that loggers, even licensed contractors, have taken out the permit or are aware a permit is required, Kramer said.

"It would be a lot easier to contact us up front to avoid a violation rather than to have to go through the violation process after the fact."

Liona Tannesen covers Lacey for The Olympian.  She can be reached at
360-754-5427 or

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