To get an idea of how much the town of Woodside cares for the well-being of its trees, you need look no further than the four- and five-figure fines the town slaps on anyone who cuts down mature trees without having first obtained a permit.
The latest example, and by far the most dramatic, is set for review at the Town Council meeting on Tuesday, June 14, in Independence Hall at 2955 Woodside Road. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.
The council will hear an appeal by resident Rudolph Koppl asking for relief from a $212,500 fine imposed by Town Hall staff for cutting down, without a permit, 22 mature trees seven coast live oaks, 14 bay laurels and one madrone, according to a staff report.
Mr. Koppl applied for a tree-removal permit in July 2015, and it was in process when staff learned of the downed trees. The application identified 225 trees for removal, a number large enough to trigger delays as the town considered the potential impacts.
Citing the number of trees involved, the planning director exercised her option to pass the application to the town's Architectural and Site Review Board and commissioned a biological assessment, the staff report says.
The planning director also requested a photo survey, detailed justification for Mr. Koppl's claim that sudden oak death was a threat, and information on methods to be used to remove the trees and replace them.
In his appeal, Mr. Koppl said that " many of the live trees succumbed to Sudden Oak Death and fell on their own," a claim not substantiated in an arborist's report, the staff report says.
Mr. Koppl also claimed a need to establish emergency access and to remove trees "positioned ... to fall," but staff countered that these were matters that could have been resolved in the permitting process.
Removing any vegetation from a Woodside property has complications. To protect endangered or threatened species, including the dusky-footed wood rat and the California red-legged frog, the municipal code forbids removal of "existing vegetation" without having first established a purpose for the action, Principal Planner Sage Schaan told the Almanac.
The penalties for felling "significant" trees without permits, spelled out in an ordinance adopted in 2006, are particularly severe: $5,000 for the first tree, $7,500 for the second and $10,000 for each additional tree.
A tree's significance depends on its species. Native trees including live oaks, bay laurels and madrones become significant when they measure more than 9.5 inches in diameter at 4 feet above the ground.