White Rock OKs tree trade

City of White Rock staff are to remove eight trees from the 1100-block of Balsam Street this week, after neighbours appealed to have the boulevard cleaned up. - Tracy Holmes photo
City of White Rock staff are to remove eight trees from the 1100-block of Balsam Street this week, after neighbours appealed to have the boulevard cleaned up.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

Eight trees are to be removed from city property in the 1100-block of Balsam Street in White Rock this week, following an appeal by neighbours to restore their views and have the boulevard cleaned up.

The decision – made last week during a special meeting of council –  followed a motion by Coun. Larry Robinson to accept a solution proposed by area residents.

The residents committed to putting $30,000 towards the project, which they suggested should include clearing undergrowth in the area, infilling a ditch and replanting limited-growth trees.

“The boulevard in its current state violates three city bylaws or policies,” Balsam Street resident John Bower told council.

In addition to restoring views that many of the residents moved to the area for, “the solution will provide privacy and noise buffering,” he said.

Bower submitted a 15-name petition in support of removing the trees, and several neighbours voiced their agreement with the plan – many highlighting the fact that the trees were not planted by the city in the first place.

The issue of how to deal with trees on city land has been a contentious one in recent years and led to officials redrafting the tree-management policy.

The new rules, which eliminate the opportunity to appeal denied tree-removal requests, were adopted by council in January – after the appeal regarding the Balsam Street trees was filed.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin described the July 16 hearing as “not a normal procedure for us.”

“We’re only doing it because we have an application (that) got in before the policy was changed,” he told attendees.

The application to remove the Balsam Street trees was received on July 19, 2011; notice that it had been denied was sent out weeks later, on the basis residents within 25 metres had objected.

While Baldwin had predicted council would reserve decision on the matter until July 23, they voted unanimously – Couns. Helen Fathers and Louise Hutchinson were both absent – to remove the trees after hearing from residents on both sides.

Heather Baldwin (no relation to the mayor) was the only person to speak against their removal.

Noting the trees are healthy, she said they provide shade, privacy and noise protection.

The senior, who has lived immediately adjacent to the trees since 1982, said they were mature when she bought her house and that the view for those complaining is no different now than it was then.

“I would rather not see any more trees destroyed for view.”

Neighbour Greg Fraser said concern for views is only one aspect that led to the application. The unkept city boulevard attracts garbage, rodents and weeds, he said, all of which are contributing to deteriorating values.

Fraser described the plan as “an upgrade and remediation” that will benefit the neighbourhood.

In discussing support for Robinson’s motion, Coun. Grant Meyer noted council is not “anti-tree.”

“I think some of us were labelled that before,” he said, referring to backlash that came from council’s January 2011 approval of an appeal to remove trees on Royal Avenue. “I think having trees that mature at (a limited height), I think that’s reasonable.”

In addition to approving removal of the trees and undergrowth, council directed staff to do a detailed review and prepare a report on the trees’ replacement.

Discussion of a second tree appeal that night was shorter.

Council heard from residents concerned about a honey locust growing on city land adjacent to 15210 Pacific Ave. An application to transplant the tree – which is one in a row of trees along the boulevard – was received on Aug. 25, 2011; a letter denying the request was sent out last month.

Gaylene Leask told council the tree in question had grown to obscure views over the course of her 11 years in the building.

Neighbour Bruce Watkins spoke in support of removing the tree, citing sightline concerns for traffic and loss of view.

“We had a beautiful view and it’s gone,” he said.

While no one spoke against the tree’s removal, the city received a number of letters of opposition; concerns included that approval of the request would only set a precedent for future requests.

Council instructed staff to look at the possibility of replacing the entire row of trees.


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