Trees are a wonderful addition to the aesthetic appeal of any city. With a wide array of benefits, including improved air quality and increased property values, it’s no wonder people love having trees around. Occasionally, however, trees can become a nuisance, and you may start to consider pruning or even removing them entirely. While tree trimming can often be necessary, in the Portland area and many of the surrounding cities, a permit is often required from the city before any pruning is undertaken. Failure to secure the proper permits can lead to hefty fines and may leave you liable for the cost of replacing the tree.
If you intend to do any tree trimming, make sure you find out if you need a permit beforehand. Having trees pruned, trimmed, or removed illegally can get you hit with thousands of dollars in fines; up to $1,000 per day per tree cut. This can apply even if you hire a professional arborist if they neglect to tell you that you require a permit. These fines can quickly add up to the tens of thousands but are easily avoidable if you make sure you acquire all the proper permits.
Depending on the situation, these permits may apply both to trees on city property as well as private property. The location is also a factor, as well as the variety of tree that you wish to trim or remove. Native trees may be protected; Elm trees may not be removed between April 15 and October 15 of every year. This is to help prevent the spread of Dutch Elm disease, a devastating plague that has done a great deal of harm to trees in the Oregon area over the years.
With the exception of certain emergency situations, pruning street trees always requires a permit. A street tree is any tree within the city right-of-way. Generally, being in the city right-of-way means in the planting strip between the curb and the sidewalk. This is not a hard and fast rule, however, and it is also possible for street trees to exist in unimproved areas without curbs or sidewalks. If you are ever uncertain, contact the Urban Forestry department to inquire whether the trees you want to prune are considered street trees.
Besides trees on public property, you may also need a permit to perform tree trimming on trees that are located on private property. While a permit is not always required to prune trees that are on your own property, it is often best to err on the side of caution and contact the Urban Forestry department to make sure a permit is not required.
If the tree is a native tree found in certain environmental zones designated c, p, or v, then you will most likely require a permit to trim or remove it. To discover if your tree is in a c, p, or v zone, go to www.portlandmaps.com and search for the address of the property that the tree is located on. Once you have located it, follow the “maps” link; then the “zoning” link, and finally look for the “overlay” designations c, p, or v. If the tree you want to trim is located in any of these zones, you will need to acquire a permit to have it cut.
Your location is also a factor when applying for tree permits. Different areas have very different codes and some are more strict than others. For example, if you live in West Linn and wish to have a tree removed, you are required to submit photos and a map and to mark the location of the tree. You are also required to post a copy of your permit in the area once you have acquired it. In Happy Valley, removing a tree means you will be required to either replace it, or contribute $250 to the city’s tree bank. In Lake Oswego, you are generally only allowed to remove two trees per year and trees that are set for removal require a visit from a city official. Wherever you are located, whether in Portland or any of the surrounding cities, it is important to contact your Urban Forestry department before taking any steps towards tree trimming or tree removal.
Applying for a permit
If you have decided to do any tree trimming or removal in an area, the first thing you should do is contact Urban Forestry to ask about the necessary permits. They can advise you on what permits you need and how to go about getting them. In many cases, you can apply online for a self-issued permit. The fee is usually about $25 and you can apply at the Portland government website at www.portlandoregon.gov. Some cases will require an inspection before they can be undertaken. In these cases, a self-issued permit will not apply and you will have to have a city official come and investigate the situation before you can take any steps to prune or remove a tree.
Doing the tree trimming
Because Portland’s Urban Forestry department has a strict code as to what may or may not be done with trees, it is recommended you hire a certified arborist to carry out the job. Arborists, or tree surgeons, are required to go through training the city provides to ensure they follow the Street Tree Pruning Standards. Rather than attempting to undertake work yourself, you should go through a reputable company such as Mr. Tree. The arborists there are certified in taking on projects in both urban and residential areas and can prune trees with minimal invasiveness as well as remove trees when necessary. Some local codes also require that you replace a tree which you have removed; a certified arborist can do this for you as well. Whatever work you need, utilizing the services of a company like Mr. Tree can save you a great deal of time, money, and inconvenience.