Having trees surrounding your house is great. It adds value to your property, can provide you with shade, can attract wildlife to your yard, and helps the environment. But it’s a big responsibility as well, and you should be aware of the requirements. For instance, who is responsible for trees overhanging on roads? Is it you or the city?
There are quite a few questions that you may not have even thought about that you should talk through before deciding to plant a tree in your Portland, Oregon, yard. There are important rules and regulations that you should know about first. For instance, did you know there’s a difference between street trees and yard trees? Yard trees are those planted on your private property. Street trees, however, are planted in the public right-of-way. If a tree is partially on private property and partially on public property, it is classified as a street tree.
To make things easier for you, here are five facts about owning trees in the city of Portland that you should be aware of.
1. If You Are Planting a Street Tree, You Need a Permit
A permit from the Portland Parks Urban Forestry is required before you can go ahead and plant a street tree. This is to help prevent it from conflicting with any infrastructure you may not have noticed, such as buried wires or piping.
There is a chance that you may be planting a street tree even though you’re trying to plant a yard tree. It can be difficult to tell the difference, especially if you don’t have curbs or sidewalks in front of your property. The website portlandmaps.com was created to help you figure out where the right-of-way public space begins. If you want to plant a tree in this area, you will need a permit. It also is possible that the right-of-way area can extend beyond the sidewalk, so it’s especially a good idea to check the area where you are looking to plant.
2. Maintenance of Street Trees Is Your Responsibility
Despite a street tree being in the right-of-way area, the maintenance and care of the tree is the responsibility of the property owner who is the most adjacent to, or closest bordering, the tree. To answer the question of who is responsible for trees overhanging roads, the short answer is that if your property is the closest to that tree, it’s your responsibility. The owner of the adjacent property needs to make sure the tree doesn’t block any visibility within transportation corridors.
Additionally, if the tree has caused any sidewalk damage, such as cracks or unevenness, it’s your responsibility to get it repaired.
3. A Pruning Permit Is Required
Tree pruning is so important to the health of a tree, it doesn’t matter whether that tree is a yard tree or a street tree. However, if you’re looking to prune a street tree (which, as mentioned above, is your responsibility as part of the maintenance), you must first acquire a pruning permit.
That’s right, you can’t simply go out and start cutting branches. Not only can it be potentially harmful, but it also goes against the rules of the city. Pruning that happens without a permit can be treated as a code violation. This can result in civil and criminal penalties. A pruning permit can be acquired from the Urban Forestry website.
There is one exception in which you do not need to acquire a permit before pruning a tree, and this is if you’re planning to prune branches that are less than half an inch in diameter at the attachment to the stem.
4. There Are Height Requirements That Must Be Met
Trees in your yard can be as short, tall, wide, or narrow as you desire. Street trees, however, have certain size requirements that they must meet. This is to ensure a safe passageway for everyone—those walking on the sidewalk and those driving in the street. The limbs of the tree must not hang lower than 7.5 feet above the sidewalk, 11 feet above residential streets, and 14 feet above main arterial streets.
5. A Tree Removal Permit is Necessary for Both
Sometimes, trees need to be removed. For the most part, in order to do this, a permit is needed, regardless of whether your tree is a street tree or a yard tree. However, there are some exceptions. For street trees, if the trees are sucker shoots or self-sown and less than half an inch in diameter, a permit isn’t needed. In terms of yard trees, if the tree is 12 inches in diameter at 4.5 feet tall or larger, a permit is needed. It’s important to know that not all permit applications for tree removals are approved.
If you see someone in violation of any of the above, there is a number that you can call to report them. This also means that if you are in violation of any of the above, a next-door neighbor or a stranger simply walking by your home may notice and call Urban Forestry on you. Therefore, it’s important to know the facts about owning trees in the city of Portland before you go ahead and start planting or cutting. You do not want to get into trouble with the city.
As you can see, the important first step is to figure out if you’re planting a yard tree or a street tree. Both types of trees are your responsibility, assuming you are the property owner closest to where the street tree is planted. And now you know the answer to the question of who is responsible for trees overhanging on roads: it’s you, not the city. This can be a big responsibility, so if you need a hand with your tree care, contact a professional tree service, such as Mr. Tree. An expert with experience with Portland trees will know the ins and outs and what permits may or may not be needed.