There are a lot of things that can trigger the need for a tree removal permit in city if Portland. That is why it is important to do your homework before proceeding with any tree removals on your property. Even if the trees are in your back yard and you are on a single family lot the city still may have a say in what you do with your trees.
What Tree are Covered:
All street trees need a permit to be removed and must be in bad shape for the city to even consider it. Just because the tree is not in-between the sidewalk and the street does not mean it is not a street tree. You must look up your right of away boundaries to be certain. In addition, most trees (with some exceptions) on dividable lot, lots under development or with building permits issued, corner lots, commercial, or multi-family lots and also Heritage trees (which are usually marked) require a permit for removal. The city also has specific zones with conservation rules that may affect your ability to remove or even prune your trees.
So how do you figure out whether you need a permit or not. My recommendation is you don’t. The rules are complex and different rules are covered by different city agencies. I recommend home owners thinking about removing a tree either contract with their tree service to research and obtain the permit or that they call the Urban Forestry department at the city of Portland who can provide them with a definitive answer or point them to the correct agency to inquire with. If you do contract with your tree service to obtain permits make sure it is part of your written contract because most tree services only provide this service at the request of client. You should never assume they are getting the permits unless they say that they are on the contract.
The city is notoriously slow in responding to permits we recommend home owner to expect a 4-8 weeks for an answer. Even a call back from their office takes a couple of days. This is one of the ways we can help out a lot. When your tree service sends a permit in they know what the city would like to see and so you won’t wait 8 weeks just to hear your permit is incomplete. Also it helps to have arboricultural terms used in the reason you would like your tree removed. If you write “too many leaves on my driveway” the city could really care less about your driveway or that the trees are lifting your sidewalks. They are tasked with the preservation of the urban forest and they are focused primarily on that goal.
Fees and Fines
Most tree removal permitting fees in the city if Portland remain a very good value at $35 a pop. This has to be less then it costs the city to send someone out to look at your tree. Fines on the other hand can be quite punitive. They start at about $1,000 per tree for removals without a permit and go up into and the sky is the limit. I have heard of fines in the 20,000 range. The Urban Forestry department does not mess around and even in the event of a “I didn’t know any better situation” they usually want more and larger trees planted then would have been required by the permit and a $1,000 fine. The responsibility for the planting and fines will either lie with the tree service or the home owner or most likely both depending on the specific circumstances.
I am sure most of you are disappointed in reading this article that you still don’t know if you need a permit to remove your tree. I wish it were a simple task that I could explain in a short blog post but unfortunately it is not and that is what we are here for. We can help!
Permit Questions for Urban Forest Pro: 503-226-7143 or firstname.lastname@example.org
City if Portland Urban Forestry: 503-823-4489 or email@example.com
Disclaimer: this blog post is accurate as of the date posted and changes to permitting rules may not be immediately updated.