Two couples settle with city over West Seattle tree cutting

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

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The Seattle city attorney announced Wednesday that a $440,000 settlement has been reached with two families in West Seattle concerning the cutting of trees on city property.

KIRO 7 covered the incident beginning in early 2016, when the city alleged that West Seattle residents deliberately had 150 trees cut in order to improve their views. Residents claimed that there was a misunderstanding with the contractor, who was supposed to only trim the trees.

In the announced settlement, Stanley J. and Mary E. Harrelson, along with Marty and Karrie Riemer, will together pay the city $440,000.

 

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who represents the district, said the affected area is in a potential landslide zone.

“We have to make sure our sanctions are significant enough to deter this activity in the future. And penalties have to be strong enough so that those with financial means don’t see this as sort of a shortcut,” Herbold said.

 

She said the settlement amount makes the payment 60 percent more expensive, per tree, than others paid in a 2003 case in Mount Baker.

This lawsuit concerns the northern parcel near the 3200 block of 35th Avenue SW. There is an additional case still pending regarding a parcel to the south.

When asked why there were no criminal charges, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said, “A criminal investigation did proceed. That’s why the SPD did a wonderful job taking this case as far as they could. At that point, even though criminal and civil liabilities are an option, we pursued then the civil cases that were announced earlier. And that in turn, led to lots of discovery to enable us to get to this point. From where we stand, we’re trying to get the best result for the city. And that means both financial as well as deterrent value that this settlement sends.”

The Harrelsons and Riemers now have criminal immunity.

Kostas A. and Linda C. Kyrimis,are still being sued in the second lawsuit concerning the southern parcel of land. They have been given criminal immunity in exchange for their full cooperation, including sharing other neighbors’ names.

The city of Seattle has now amended that complaint. In addition to naming the Kyrimis family, the city now adds the following defendants: Nancy Despain, Wendy Sweigart, Leroy Bernard, Joyce Bernard, Charles King, Shirley King and Bruce Gross.

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