City reaches settlement with two couples in unauthorized cutting of West Seattle trees

The city of Seattle announced Wednesday, April 2017, that it has reached a settlement with two of the couples involved in an illegal tree cutting in West Seattle in 2016. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - The city of Seattle announced Wednesday it's reached a settlement with two of the homeowners involved in removing trees from a steep slope in West Seattle.

The settlement involves one of two civil lawsuits surrounding the hillside along 35th Avenue Suthwest, near the Admiral neighborhood.

The city was originally seeking more than $1 million from homeowners, but because two couples were cooperative in the settlement early in the litigation, that figure was reduced.

In 2016 neighbors cut down more than 150 trees to improve views of the city.

"It's right up the hill from the West Seattle Bridge on a steep slope, on a potential land slide zone," Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold said during a briefing on Wednesday.

Two homeowners, the Harrelsons and the Reimers, admitted to being involved in removing the trees.

Under the settlement terms, together, both couples will pay the city $440,000 in total.

"Trees are a vital resource and this settlement puts people on notice that the city will not ignore any unauthorized cutting of city trees," said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.

The city says 20 percent of the settlement will go towards green youth programs. The remaining dollars will restore what's been destroyed.

"The near half a million dollar agreement is going to pay for removing the damage trees, stabling the greenbelt and replanting trees," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

The city Parks and Recreation Department said engineers have determined no signs of movement on this hillside, which will soon see revitalization.

"The full restoration effort is going to extend for at least five years because every years," said Joe Groshang with the City of Seattle. "Every year we will have to monitor the hillside, check on the health of trees that have been planted and make sure things are going according to plan.

Holmes said the city filed an amended complaint on Wednesday in the second civil case regarding additional homeowners that took part in the tree cutting. He said he hopes they will work towards a settlement with the city, but they are prepared to take the case to trial.

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