YOU ARE HERE : Home / City Issues / Current Issues / Tree Cutting / In The News / Nov 18,2005 - Richmond News 
Nov 18,2005 - Richmond News

Councillors agree to save trees

By Nelson Bennett

Property owners and developers be warned: come springtime, if you cut down a tree in Richmond without permission, you could face penalties.

One of the last acts of the current council was approving a new tree protection bylaw Monday. The motion to adopt a bylaw passed unanimously.

It may be spring before the bylaw comes back to council for formal adoption, however.

Doug Louth, who has been lobbying council for more than two years for a tree bylaw, is happy to see council finally taking action.

But he says the bylaw probably never would have passed had there not been an election underway.

"I'm convinced it would not have happened if we didn't have an election," he said.

Options for a tree bylaw came to council in August, but were referred back to staff for refinement, and would not have come back to council for consideration until after the Nov. 19 election.

Meanwhile, Richmond First came out with a campaign brochure stating its candidates support a strong tree protection bylaw.

Coun. Harold Steves used his position as chairman of the parks, recreation and culture committee to force the issue to a vote.

On Oct. 25, Steves put forward a motion - passed unanimously by the committee - that recommended to city council that the adoption of a tree bylaw be approved.

That motion came before council Monday - the last such meeting before tomorrow's election.

"Some councillors were telling us that they support a very strong tree bylaw," Steves said Monday. "Well, just so we have truth in advertising, I thought I would just bring this back to give somebody that put that brochure (out) an opportunity to vote for a tree bylaw."

"It was in their brochure, and they have to carry out what they have in their brochure," Louth later said.

Despite some reservations expressed by Coun. Rob Howard, council unanimously approved the adoption of a tree protection bylaw.

Howard wanted assurances that the bylaw will contain the following principles, which had been earlier established by council:

z a provision making it illegal to cut down a tree prior to development;

z a requirement for replanting, in the event a significant trees is cut down;

z minimizing the unnecessary removal of significant trees;

z reducing the willful damage of significant trees.

The motion passed Monday includes those four provisions.

City councillors are also concerned that the maximum fine for illegally cutting down a tree is not a sufficient deterrent. Staff have therefore been asked to come up with recommendations for getting actual replacement value for trees that are illegally cut.

The bylaw will cost up to $250,000 per year to hire three new staff members to implement and enforce it.

Ironically, it doesn't cover trees on city property, like the tree that was badly damaged on Clematis Drive in September.

The tree was not planted by the city, but is on city property. The owner of a house on Clematis Drive hired a landscaper to trim the tree.

The job was so badly done, the tree will probably die, said Gord Barstow, parks operation manager for the city.

"It more than likely won't come back," Barstow said.

Lynn Davis said she was outraged when she saw how badly the tree was "butchered."

"It just looks horrible," she said. "And it just stabs you to the heart, if you care about living things."

Barstow said the incident was investigated by the city, and he believes the property owner made an honest mistake.

Many property owners are not aware that the city owns the property 14 feet in from the curb, he said. He suspects the property owner thought the tree was on his property, and hired someone who didn't know what he was doing to trim the tree.

"This is an honest mistake that someone is going to have to live with," Barstow said.

Even if the damage was a deliberate attempt to kill the tree, the new bylaw being considered by the city would not apply, since the tree was on city property.

published on 11/18/2005

Print View   Site Map   Login