(Photo: Black Press Media file)

(Photo: Black Press Media file)

Open house planned as Surrey updates its tree protection bylaw

Bylaw review launched after a request from city’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee

Residents wanting to weigh in on changes they’d like to see in the City of Surrey’s Tree Protection Bylaw will have their chance at an open house planned later this month. The open house is set for Oct. 16, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Cloverdale rec centre (6188 176th St.).

Comments can also be sent in via email until Nov. 1, to treebylaw@surrey.ca. There is also a survey.

The bylaw – which regulates the cutting, removal and damage of trees in Surrey – is being reviewed after a request from city’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee earlier this year.

Councillor Steven Pettigrew, who chairs the committee, previously told the Now-Leader that the bylaw is “a bit out of date.”

On May 1, the committee directed staff to review the bylaw to see if it could be strengthened.

SEE MORE: Surrey council has approved 50,000 trees ‘for the axes’: Pettigrew

The committee identified key recommendations for amendments, such as increasing the penalties for illegal tree removal; ensuring all fees and penalties collected under the tree protection bylaw are directed to the Green City Fund; provide additional incentives to retain trees through land development and on existing lots; and improve the visibility and display of tree-cutting permit notices.

Another key recommendation, was to “evaluate the potential for a municipal nursery to allow for tree and plant salvage.”

Councillor Steven Pettigrew has long voiced his concern over tree loss in the city, and first became involved in the political landscape in the unsuccesful fight to halt the former civic government from cutting down trees in Hawthorne Park to make way for a road.In May, Pettigrew decried the amount of tree loss the new civic government had already approved since taking office. By his tally, nearly 50,000 trees had since been removed – or approved for removal – to make way for development.

In May, Little Campbell Watershed Society’s David Riley told Black Press Media that the group is trying to interest city council in starting some kind of compensation program to deal with the loss of not only individual trees, “but essentially mature forests,” due to development.

“We’re calling this an ecological services compensation program. It’s going to be a long and difficult discussion, because, one, how do you do this without penalizing owners who have not cut all of their trees down?” Riley said at the time.

Riley said there’s “no point” in fighting individual developments, including ones that involve total clear-cuts. The focus, he said, should be on policy.

“What you want to be talking to your councillors about is, we want to be talking about this in terms of a Surrey-wide policy. As we go along, what kind of ecological services do we want to be getting from trees?”

-With files from Aaron Hinks, Lauren Collins

With files from Aaron Hinks