Money may finally be approved for Portland's shelved tree policy

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland City Council will consider a funding proposal for a new tree policy.

If eventually approved, the money would be used to hire staff members to enforce a citywide tree project adopted several years ago. City commissioners have delayed implementation of that project several times because there's been no money for it.

The policy was adopted as a way to protect trees from being cut down on private property. It requires homeowners to get a permit if they want to cut down any tree that's 20 inches or larger in diameter. They're also required to plant a tree in its place or pay the city for replanting efforts elsewhere.

The rules have drawn controversy because some say they infringe on private property rights. But supporters say a broad coalition of interest groups worked on the rules over an 18-month period.

"You have all kinds of different views -- from homeowners that don't want to see any trees taken down to people on the other side that want to scrape the lot clear and then build their building," said Jeff Fish, a Portland home builder. "It was a place for the stakeholders to sit down and sort through that and come to some mutual agreement on what were good ideas and what weren't."

Implementing the policy would take $750,000 from the city's general fund in the first year and $430,000 in subsequent years. Supporters say that's a very small amount compared to other city expenditures.

City commissioners could vote on funding as part of budget considerations early next year.