White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers speaks at the Dec. 15 council meeting.

White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers speaks at the Dec. 15 council meeting.

Tree-cutting rules branch out in White Rock

Citywide rules take effect after 4-3 council vote

White Rock tree-preservation proponents can breathe easier, after city leaders voted last week to approve bylaw amendments that would require all residents to apply for a permit before taking down a tree.

However, not all councillors were in favour of the amendments, which put a moratorium on tree removal in the city until a 20-year Urban Forest Management Plan for future tree removal on private and public lands receives public consultation in the new year.

Coun. Megan Knight, who voted against the amendments Thursday evening at a special council meeting, said that her concerns focused on the timeline of the amendments.

She noted that the turnaround was quick and that residents should have more “time and transparency” before the amendments went through.

By a 4-3 vote, council voted to amend its tree-management bylaw, 1831, to include “protected trees within the municipal boundaries of the City of White Rock” in place of “designated areas” as per a map.

According to the bylaw, protected trees include those that have a trunk diameter at breast height (DBH) greater than 30 centimetres, or has a combined DBH of its three largest trunks greater than 30 centimetres.

According to Coun. Helen Fathers, prior to the amendments, neighbours could have different rules for removing trees.

“You and I could live on the same street and you could live on the east side and I would live on the west side of the street, and you would have to apply for a permit and I can just do what I like,” she explained.

“Now, that violates the principles of equity. We have to make it fair across the board.”

The amendments are the first step in proposed changes to tree management in the city, which is set to take centre stage in 2015.

The permit moratorium is intended to prevent a mass cutting of trees before the public consultation can be implemented.

“We’ve had significant tree loss throughout the year – for the last two years, at least – one would only have to stand and look at the hillside to see what’s going on. We are at a very important crossroads,” Fathers said.

Coun. Grant Meyer, who with Coun. Lynne Sinclair also voted against the amendments, echoed Knight’s concerns.

“(I’m) not, per se, against the bylaw,” Meyer said. “I’m open to reviewing it and getting public consultation. I wasn’t in favour of having it go through so quickly without putting it out there to the public and getting their opinion first.”