Nov 8,2006 - The Now News
City looks at protecting trees
By Leneen Robb - Staff Reporter
Should homeowners and developers in Coquitlam be prevented from removing certain trees from their property, as they would be in many other Lower Mainland municipalities?
Council narrowly agreed Monday that they should, although the specifics will need to be determined by city staff, who have been given the green light to draft Coquitlam's first tree protection bylaw.
Council split 5-4 on the issue, with Couns. Richard Stewart, Brent Asmundson, Doug Macdonell and Lou Sekora voting against the drafting of such a bylaw.
Couns. Fin Donnelly, Louella Hollington, Barrie Lynch, Mae Reid and Mayor Maxine Wilson voted in favour.
While Coquitlam already has a "tree cutting permit bylaw," it deals mainly with trees on slopes, and is designed to ensure that proposed cutting will not create a danger due to flooding or erosion, according to a report from the city's general manager of planning and development. That bylaw was drafted in 1990 and since then, many Lower Mainland municipalities have passed bylaws designed primarily to preserve or protect trees. Port Moody, Burnaby, Surrey, Richmond, Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver all have such bylaws, according to the report.
At Monday's meeting, however, those opposed to such a bylaw repeatedly raised concerns that it would be too onerous and would intrude on the rights of private property owners.
Council shouldn't "dictate to people" what they can and cannot do on their private property, Asmundson said, adding that in order to develop, it's necessary to cut down trees.
"It never looks good when you have just plain dirt and no trees anymore," he said, adding that when the land is developed and landscaped, it's more visually appealing.
Stewart said it's "wrong" to interfere with private property and in Vancouver, homeowners cut down trees before they reach eight inches in diameter - the size they have to be before the city is concerned about their welfare.
"I don't want to penalize anyone who planted a tree 20 years ago," he said.
Macdonell said homeowners should be able to cut down trees to, for example, build a swimming pool, while Sekora said, "I would like to save trees, but to a certain extent."
Those in favour of giving the city's tree bylaw some teeth, however, disagreed.
Hollington called the current bylaw "sadly lacking."
Wilson said residents from three neighbourhoods - in the areas of Austin and Sydney avenues, Robinson and Foster streets and along the northern portion of Blue Mountain Street - have spoken to council recently over concerns that "the character of the neighbourhood is being destroyed" by tree cutting.
"It's not a time to fearmonger," she said, adding that the public will be able to have input into any tree protection bylaw.
Lynch said such bylaws work well in other communities, while Reid said that densification is coming and, "I just particularly don't want to see developers clear cut our city."
Any tree protection bylaw drafted by staff will be subject to council approval.
published on 11/08/2006