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Feb 2004 (?) - The Burnaby Now

Toughen the tree bylaw says new city resident

By Julie MacLellan, Burnaby NOW reporter

The city has no plans to change its tree bylaw despite pleas from a resident to help save older trees in the city.

Wendy Balkwill wrote to council asking them to consider changing the city's tree bylaw to prevent the cutting of trees without a permit.

Balkwill, who recently moved to Burnaby from Vancouver, said one of the reasons she loves the city is the number of large trees.

But she's recently noticed a disturbing trend of citizens cutting down some of the very big trees.

"It's bad enough that our forests and ancient trees are being logged, but I believe it is criminal to kill trees in the city where we need them the most to purify our air," she said in the letter.

"The reckless disregard for these towering, living giants is unconscionable."

Balkwill urged the city to toughen its tree bylaw and prevent the cutting of trees without a permit.

Currently, the city's tree bylaw protects trees only in relation to new development. Trees greater than 20 centimetres in diameter, measured at a height of 1.3 metres above the base of the tree, are protected.

Tree-cutting permits are required to cut down any protected tree in certain circumstances: in the three months before an application for a building or demolition permit is made; if the tree is located 1.5 metres or more outside the exterior walls; and within one year following the date of occupancy of a new dwelling.

A permit isn't required to cut down trees located within 1.5 metres of the exterior walls or for any tree after the dwelling has been occupied for one year.

Basil Luk Sun, the city's assistant director of planning, told council at their Feb. 2 meeting that the city's bylaw was adopted in 1996 and tried to address two distinct opinions raised by the public. On one hand, some residents didn't want the city to have the power to interfere on their property; on the other hand, some residents wanted trees protected.

He said the bylaw attempts to find a balance between the two ideas.

Coun. Celeste Redman said the city's bylaw is working well.

"We have reached, I think, a fairly equitable compromise," she said.

Redman noted that tree protection bylaws can actually act against trees, because people wind up cutting trees down at younger ages so that they never reach the minimum protected size - people are afraid to let them grow big enough to fall under the bylaws.

"Trees will be allowed to get bigger in Burnaby," she said.

Mayor Derek Corrigan said the thought of a tree registry or other similar action makes him "cringe."

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