As nearly every Portland certified arborist is well aware, a new Portland tree code named “Title 11 Trees” is rolling out on 1/2/15. Title 11 Trees is part of the Urban Forest Plan, which aims to “protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of Portland” by “enhancing the quality of the urban forest and optimizing the benefits that trees provide.” The City recognizes that trees provide many benefits, including the creation of oxygen, erosion prevention, storm water filtration, reduction of storm water runoff, minimization of energy demands, visual screening, maintenance of property values, and preservation of the “beauty, character, and natural heritage” of Portland. As such, the City of Portland is changing the rules about how homeowners can prune, remove, and plant trees.
While the City’s tree ordinances previously applied mainly to commercial property owners and new developments, the new regulations also include private property owners. Today we’re reviewing how the city defines “Title 11 Trees,” i.e. those that are included under the new tree code.
Overall, the City of Portland’s Tree project aims to retain healthy trees and the urban canopy. When trees are removed, the new code requires “tree-for-tree” replacement according to the trunk diameter of the removed tree. For instance, if a tree with a 12” diameter is removed, multiple trees with smaller diameters adding to 12” may replace it. If space is unavailable for tree replacement, the city forester can waive replacement. In such a case, the property owner may be required to pay into the city’s tree fund, so that other trees may be planted elsewhere in the watershed.
Let’s take a look at the basic definitions of Title 11 trees, and how Portland homeowners will be impacted by the new urban forestry code.
What are Title 11 Trees?
Private property trees included in this new plan are defined as:
- Trees with a diameter of 12” or larger or
- Trees of any size that are:
- In the right of way
- Being removed for development activities.
- Heritage Trees, the 300+ trees in the city that have been recognized for their horticultural or historic significance, size, and/or age.
- Included in a previous land use review.
- Located in a special Overlay Zone, such as the Pleasant Valley Natural Resources overlay zone, or the aircraft landing zone.
- Located in a special Plan District, such as the Johnson Creek Basin Plan District.
Whether or not they contract for Portland tree services, residents will be required to submit a permit for removal of Title 11 trees.
What does this mean for Portland homeowners?
The main change for Portland homeowners is that a permit will be required to remove a Title 11 tree as defined above. Permits will also be required for pruning private heritage trees and native trees in certain Overlay Zones. Finally, topping and heavy-handed pruning are unlawful under Title 11, and the City may categorize such activity as removal for Title 11 enforcement.
Title 11 Tree code enforcement is complex; complex enough to require 15 pages in the Title 11 legislation. Homeowners should know this: A monthly enforcement penalty may be charged for properties in violation of the new tree code. Property owners may also be required to pay for replacement trees. For trees that are damaged but still viable, residents may work with an arborist to enact a treatment regimen.
Ultimately, the easiest route for homeowners will be to partner with a professional Portland tree removal service such as Urban Forest Professionals. Rather than combing through the byzantine City tree regulations, it will be far less of a hassle to contract with professional local arborists who know municipal tree codes in and out.