Olympia homeowner loses fight to save ‘boundary tree’ from chainsaws

OLYMPIA, Wash. — An Olympia homeowner who challenged the city of Olympia and a builder lost his struggle to save a 150-foot Red Cedar tree, which stood on the boundary between his property and a construction site, where a housing development is being built.

On Monday morning, the tree was cut down on the development side while the homeowner and several neighbors leaned against the other side in protest.

Nearby, five Olympia police officers looked on, warning the protesters not to cross the property line. “They cut the tree over the top of our heads,” said Andrew Hannah, the homeowner who owns the property. He admitted only a small fraction of the tree was on his side. “The majority of it is on his property, and only a portion of it is on my property,” said Hannah, while pointing out state law, which states if two property owners share a part of a tree, then they own the tree equally. This time, the city of Olympia settled the dispute.

Below the tree, the city of Olympia posted a sign, stating the city’s urban forester, engineer, and certified arborist determined the tree could not be preserved in a healthy condition because the construction project would damage the tree’s critical root structure.

A city spokesperson told KIRO 7 the building permit allowed the developer to legally take the tree down.

Eventually, Hannah decided to back up when the tree began to give way as it was sawed and chopped to a tipping point. “Half the tree was gone, and the tree was dead,” he said. “There’s no reason to die over a tree that’s already gone.”

Hannah said he got a lot of public support in his effort to have a say in what happened to the tree, which is now a small wedge on his side of the property line.

“I don’t feel defeated,” he said. “I feel intensely disappointed with the local government that represents a country I served (in the Marine Corps). They did not protect my rights.”