June 15/07 - Tri City News

By Sarah Payne The Tri-City News

Jun 15 2007

Port Moody residents love their trees and there’s no need to protect them — or infringe on property owners’ rights — with a tree cutting bylaw, city council decided this week.

Tuesday, Coun. Mike Clay made a recommendation that the city should clarify its tree retention bylaw and develop a new one that would apply to private property. The current bylaw applies mainly to public land, areas subject to restrictive covenant and private land requiring development approval.

Several neighbouring municipalities regulate tree removal on private property, including Coquitlam, but Clay said the need for a tree retention bylaw in PoMo became evident recently when a Moody Centre apartment building razed nearly all the mature Douglas fir trees on its property.

“I’m hoping we can come up with something flexible and not be heavy-handed on people’s private property rights,” Clay said. “Somewhere in between there is a thin line, that maybe clearing 100% of your trees in one swoop is too many.”

He noted that the need for a tree cutting bylaw isn’t just for aesthetic purposes; in many areas of Port Moody, trees are essential for controlling run-off and erosion, and there should be clear regulations to deal with their removal.

Not all of council agreed.

“I have grave concerns any time government infringes on someone’s freehold rights for fee simple property,” said Coun. Karen Rockwell. “This is just adding another level of bureaucracy.”

Coun. Meghan Lahti agreed but acknowledged that a line must be drawn and said she would support a bylaw that “wasn’t too restrictive.”

Clay responded by saying cities already place many restrictions on homeowners that dictate the size of their homes, where they’re situated on the property, how high a fence can be and more.

Coun. Diana Dilworth added that it’s council’s responsibility to explore potential bylaws so the city can maintain its reputation as an environmental leader.

Coun. Shannon Watkins said a tree cutting bylaw would be much like protecting heritage homes, for which there are “reasonable limits” put in place.

“I don’t see a need for this,” said Mayor Joe Trasolini. “In Port Moody, we love our trees.”

In any case, he and Lahti added, public consultation is needed, as is input from the Environment Committee and Parks and Recreation Commission.

Clay’s motion to have staff draft a tree-cutting bylaw for private properties was defeated but council agreed to have staff prepare a report on similar bylaws in other municipalities and why they were developed.