Legal Requirements for Land Clearing: What You Need to Know

When it comes to land clearing, the laws and regulations vary from state to state. In many cases, small, dead trees can be removed without permission, but larger trees or an acre clearing will need prior consent from the city. It is important to check local tree laws and ordinances to see if you need a permit before you start. The City of Mount Vernon has established certain regulations to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare of its citizens.

These regulations include preserving and improving the physical and aesthetic character of the city by preventing the indiscriminate felling or destruction of trees on undeveloped properties; retaining groups of trees to reduce noise and protect against wind; promoting construction and site planning practices that are consistent with the natural topographic and forest characteristics of the city; ensuring rapid development, restoration, and replanting; and effective control of property erosion after land clearing through the use of phased development, compliance bonds, and other reasonable controls. In addition, Mount Vernon has implemented the goals and objectives of the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), as well as the policies of the State Forest Practices Act in accordance with Chapter 76.09 of the RCW and Chapter 222-20 of the WAC. The city also seeks to protect and improve critical areas and their shock absorbers, as well as implement and promote the comprehensive city plan. When it comes to land clearing in Mount Vernon, no person, corporation, or other legal entity shall participate in or cause the clearing of land without obtaining a clearing permit from the planning director or designee, unless exempt from such permits as set out in this chapter.

Additional permits may be required if activities are regulated by other chapters, such as Chapter 13.33 MVMC (Stormwater Drainage Utility), Chapter 15.16 MVMC (Qualification, Excavation and Filling), and Chapter 15.40 MVMC (Critical Areas). On undeveloped land, land clearing will not be allowed without an approved management plan for non-structural activities such as site plans, descriptions of proposed uses, drainage and erosion control measures, fences when needed, and property management methods that avoid damaging land and adjacent natural resources. The maximum area that can be cleared is one and a half times the minimum lot size for the area where the property is located. Management plans must be an administrative approval by the director or designee.

On developed land, clearing will not be allowed without an approved management plan for non-structural activities such as fire hydrants, water meters, pumping stations, electrical transformers, sewer and water networks, connections for pedestrians or bicycles, street improvements and street furniture by the city or utility companies or their contractors. In lots created through development processes submitted before the effective date of this chapter, land clearing will not be allowed without an approved management plan for non-structural activities such as removing trees in emergency situations involving an immediate danger to life or property or a substantial risk of fire; minimal swelling for direct topographic inspection and walking access; normal and routine maintenance of undeveloped non-forest properties; gardening and routine landscape maintenance of existing garden areas on built-up lots; installation and maintenance of fire hydrants; water meters; pumping stations; electrical transformers; sewer and water networks; connections for pedestrians or bicycles; street improvements; street furniture by the city or utility companies or their contractors; routine maintenance activities including removal of trees essential to public services; rights of way; easements; parks; stormwater control plans consistent with Mount Vernon design and construction standards; a report on title as proof that plot is not subject to six-year development moratorium; if applicable a critical area report as set out in chapter 15.40 MVMC. Requests for approval of authorization will be processed as type II and will follow procedures in Chapter 14.05 (MVMC). Such approval may be granted at same time or after underlying permission has been granted. Approved compensation plans will not be modified without authorization of director or designee.

The director or designee may suspend or revoke a dismantling permit due to incorrect information provided or any violation of provisions of this chapter.

Léo Brotman
Léo Brotman

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