Orcas Dreams hazardous tree removal approved

San Juan County Hearing Examiner Sharon Rice has reversed a decision made by the county on a request to remove hazardous trees off of a 38-acre parcel owned by Dave and Nancy Honeywell.

The hazardous tree removal plan was denied Sept. 4 by the San Juan County Department of Community Development and Planning. The Honeywells, represented by attorney’s Nick Power and Stephanie O’Day requested an appeal of the decision. Hearing Examiner Rice approved the appeal Dec. 14.

The Honeywells had hired John Geniuch, a certified arborist, to conduct a site visit to assess hazard trees. According to his testimony and report, 12 trees along the beach were deemed hazardous and required removal or severe pruning, reducing the canopy cover of the forested shoreline area by 4 percent. Geniuch recommended the pruning on the basis of maintaining beach stability and reducing erosion.

Former Director of the Department of Community Development Sam Gibboney approved one tree removal in the Sept. 4 decision because of the possibility of damaging nearby infrastructure. Gibboney wrote that the remaining trees were not approved because “although these trees may ultimately fall, the potential for significant property damage or personal injury seems unlikely. The area described is a path to the beach. It is not in proximity to a residential appurtenant or accessory structure.”

The department suggested that the use of the paths be restricted during storms, and that the property could be used without using the beach.

After the Sept. 4 denial, one tree broke and fell down to the beach.

According to Dave Honeywell in testimony during the hearing process, the beach access trails are used frequently by guests and residents alike.

After the appeal was approved, in a statement from Dave Honeywell and attorney’s O’Day and Power, Honeywell was pleased with the examiner’s decision.

“This was a long, expensive and unnecessary battle with the county for a homeowner to go through to remove clearly hazardous trees,” said Dave Honeywell “When it comes down to it, I just wanted a safe place on the beach for my grandkids to play, I don’t think that is too much to ask.”

The Honeywells were previously fined $79,000 in July 2014 by the Washington Department of Ecology for removing 80 trees from 1.25 acres of shoreline without proper permits.