Thursday, April 26, 2018

Talaris Removes Large Oak Tree Along NE 41st Street Fence Due To Safety Concerns

 tree with eagle's nest
(stil standing)

downed tree

Several neighbors recently reported a tree was cut down on the Talaris property (4001 NE 41st Street) next to the fence running along the street and close to the entrance.

One nearby neighbor told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff:

Talaris has cut down an enormous tree and at first I thought it was the tree that for years had the eagles nest, which really concerned me.  In looking at the other trees, searching for the nest, I found it safe and intact.  

Another neighbor said:

A huge tree is lying near the fence on NE 41st street. It must have been quite dramatic when it was cut down.  Did Talaris receive approval to remove the tree?

The Laurelhurst Blog contacted Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board who said that Talaris submitted an application for  "proposed removal of one hazardous tree" along with a report from a certified arborist.

On March 4th, Arbor Info LCC, inspected the red oak tree (Quercas rubra) to determine the condition of the tree and provide recommendations for future management.

The tree, which had a 19" diameter and stood 60' tall,  was found to be learning 15 degrees southerly over NE 41st Street. 

The root plate had lifted up 18" on the north side and the arborist said that the likelihood of root failure was high.

The arborist reported that there wasn't an opportunity for cabling as there were no nearby trees to anchor it to.

"In my opinion, the entire tree should be removed to minimize hazard risk that could be extreme in the event of failure," the arborist report stated.  

On March 22nd, Talaris presented these findings at the Landmarks Preservation Board meeting and the Board approved removal of the tree. 

Because Talaris has been deemed a landmark, no changes can be made to the property without a Certificate of Approval from the Landmarks Preservation Board.

In November 2013, neighbors reported that Talaris had cut down several trees. When the incident was reported to the Landmarks Preservation Board, Talaris suddenly got a retroactive certificate in place after the trees were cut down.

Just two months prior, the Landmarks Preservation Board, "issued a report that informed the property owner that they were required to have approval from the Landmarks Board before making alterations or significant changes to specified features proposed for preservation. The areas of control for this property include the site and the exteriors of the building."

A second violation occurred in April 2016 when neighbors reported tree removal underway and the situation was immediately reported to the Landmarks Preservation Board.

The Landmarks Preservation Board told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff:

The need for a Certificate of Approval was made clear to the owner’s representative prior to the action taken to remove the trees.  The next step is for the owner to seek retroactive approval from the Landmarks Board.  

The Board stated that it understood the trees needed to be removed, but made it clear to the property manager that it was very displeased with the situation. The property manager accepted full responsibility for the mistake and stated that he will make sure to seek approval in advance.  
Given this is a landmarked site, the owner is responsible for coordinating with the Department of Neighborhoods.

The property owner’s representative prepared an application several days later and was granted another retroactive approval, after the trees had been removed. 

The property was designated with landmark status in November 2013, which dictates that specific controls define certain features of the landmark to be preserved and a Certificate of Approval process is needed for changes to those features. Some incentives and controls included in the City's ruling are zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives, which are protected, as stated on the City's Landmark and Designation website.
The 17.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street) was reportedly sold to Quadrant Homes in January, who, proposes to build 63 single-family homes on large lots that could sell for about $2 million each, according to a recent article in the Seattle Times and Daily Journal of Commerce.

The plan would keep some of the existing buildings and park space, including the existing conference center and four other buildings, and two ponds. Two other small buildings, including Building G, housing a lodge, would be demolished.

The site, built in 1967, was originally owned by Battelle Memorial Institute. In 1997 Era Care Communities purchased the property for $6,125,000 and it was developed into Talaris Institute which focused on infant and early learning research of the brain. In 2000, Bruce Mc Caw under the name 4000 Property LLC of Bellevue, purchased the property for $15,630,000. The county has assessed the property at $14 million and sold in 2000 for $15.6 million.

The property, when sold several decades ago, included an underlying Settlement Agreement in which Battelle Neighbors and the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) are partnered together with the land owners of the parcel.  The Settlement Agreement specifically states that major institutions can't operate within this property (no hospitals, colleges, etc).  And the Settlement Agreement has specific restrictions attached which specifies the use of the property to protect the quality of life in the adjacent neighborhood.

For decades, neighbors were free to stroll the grounds, until 2013, when Talaris suddenly put up "No Trespassing" signs and installed a four feet chain link fencing in 2013, as well putting up a main driveway barricadefence on northwest side and a surveillance camera.  Neighbors were no longer allowed to use the large grassy meadow area where generations of kids practiced soccer and the past few years the grounds facing NE 41st Street are often neglected and grass not consistently mowed. 

The Laurelhurst Community Club, has been involved with the site for over 30 years, working to ensure the property is well integrated with the neighborhood by closely monitoring proposed development.  LCC has also worked with current owners in lobbying for better property maintenance

LCC's other priorities in partnering with the owners are maintaining open space, the eagle's habitat and valuable mature trees, supporting and enhancing property values and character of the entire Laurelhurst neighborhood and minimizing traffic impacts on all neighborhood streets and access points.

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