Comment to Planners: Retaining Mature Trees

Under Alt 2, there is a proposal to Replant Trees rather than Retain Trees in the UGAs. While the intent is to provide more buildable space, the fact that Alt 2 already provides an excess of buildable land makes it unnecessary. I urge the Planning Commission to consider the value of preserving mature trees and the canopies they provide within the UGAs. It will take over 25 years for newly replanted trees to begin to provide equivalent environmental value of mature trees; this is critical time lost in the climate change crisis. Other incentives for building affordably in the UGA will benefit the community without harming the environment. For example, expedited permitting, increased heights, deferred taxes, using energy-smart building designs, and offsets for preserving green spaces.

Please consider these practical benefits of preserving mature tree canopies in UGAs.

  • Removing Pollution from the Air – Trees can remove up to 60% of street-level air pollution, a very significant impact on public health.
  • Energy Savings – Trees reduce cooling and heating costs, both through their shade as well as emissions of moisture. In fact, the cooling effect of one healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-sized air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
  • Water Pollution Reduction – As cities grow, the amount of land that naturally absorbs rainwater tends to shrink, while hard surfaces that cause rain to runoff increase in area. After flowing over roads and parking lots, rainwater accumulates contaminants, polluting water. One mature deciduous tree can intercept over 500 gallons of rainwater a year, while an evergreen can intercept up to 4,000 gallons per year.
  • Safer, More Walkable Streets – Walkability and pedestrian-friendly areas tend to draw the most people; also, tree cover is a powerful tool in revitalizing districts and neighborhoods. Urban trees have been shown to slow traffic and help ensure safe, walkable streets. According to the Federal Highway Administration, tree canopy along a street discourages speeding. The buffers between walking areas and driving lanes created by trees make streets feel safer.

April, Kitsap County