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Idaho Capitol Christmas tree was moved from Boise home without required city approval

The Idaho Dept. of Administration said the process involved in removing a tree from a historic district "took us by surprise."

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: The video above originally aired Nov. 22, 2021.

The Idaho Dept. of Administration and City of Boise are smoothing out some wrinkles related to this year's Idaho Capitol Christmas Tree.

The tree, donated by the Beale family, was moved on Nov. 22 to the statehouse from outside the Beales' home on Harrison Boulevard, which is a historic district. The Beales said the tree was growing too close to their house, and they agreed to give the tree to the state.

For certain projects within a historic district, including removal of a tree, the City of Boise requires an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness. Neither the Beales nor the Idaho Dept. of Administration had applied for a certificate before the tree was removed.

The tree is now on display in front of the Idaho State Capitol. Plans for a public lighting celebration were called off earlier this fall because of concerns about COVID-19.

A member of the Beale family contacted the Dept. of Administration "after learning about some fervor online regarding removal of the tree," said Kimberly Rau, executive assistant and program specialist for the department, who also said the department was made aware of the issue on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

"Our intent has been, and will continue to be, to adhere to all required permitting necessary to bring the state tree to the Capitol. Unfortunately, the process this year took us by surprise," Rau said.

Rau on Friday said the department has contacted the City of Boise, and is currently gathering the information required for the application for a Certificate of Appropriateness. The information includes detailed photos, an explanation from an arborist about why the tree should be removed, and a signed statement of legal interest.

City of Boise communications director Justin Corr said for the city to take action on a code violation, a Code Enforcement complaint needs to be filed. 

"Typically, these are community-driven," he said.

If evidence of a violation is found, Corr said, the city can issue a Notice of Violation with a prescribed amount of time to apply for a certificate of appropriateness to determine appropriate mitigation.

Corr said once a tree is already cut down, mitigation can happen through payment to the city's Tree Mitigation Fund or by replacement of trees on-site.

"If they go the replacement route, they'd need to match the caliper inches to the extent possible," Corr said.

For example, a tree with a trunk that's two feet in diameter could be replaced with eight trees with trunk diameters of three inches each.

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