Nine honey locust trees have their roots planted firmly adjacent to Pacific Avenue and, after this week’s White Rock council meeting, that’s where they will stay, despite complaints of view obstruction.
Two councillors expressed confusion as to how the request to remove one tree at the cost of an applicant who says the tree has grown to obscure her ocean view at 15210 Pacific Ave., turned into a suggestion to remove an entire row of trees, with the city footing the bill for eight of the nine.
The suggestion, recommended by city manager Dan Bottrill and arborist Aelicia Otto, was a result of a special meeting in July, when council instructed staff to look into the possibility of replacing all of the trees.
Couns. Helen Fathers and Louise Hutchinson, who were not present at the special meeting, expressed disapproval about the cost – estimated between $6,000 and $27,500 – to taxpayers.
“That just doesn’t make sense to me, one person coming forward and then we say no, we’re going to turn it around and my tax dollars are going to pay for this. It just doesn’t make sense at all to me. I’m not going to be in support of it,” Fathers said.
Hutchinson said the more viable option would be to prune the trees.
“One person has asked for one tree and now, all of a sudden, we’re considering nine. I agree with Coun. Fathers. Why are we doing this? Those trees can be pruned. I remember when they were selected for the beach, that the idea was for them to be pruned and trimmed and to maintain them,” Hutchinson said, noting she has three honey locusts in front of her home.
“We’re going to get honey-locust haters all over the city wanting their honey locusts gone, and I just don’t see why we are entertaining this.”
The request came to council after an initial application was denied by the director of engineering and municipal operations in June. Under the former policy 611, the applicant could appeal to council if they disagreed with the staff’s decision.
Council was given three options: do nothing to the trees; remove the one tree at the cost of the owner; or remove and relocate all nine trees and replace them with a suitable species that would grow no higher than six metres.
“The species of trees placed on the property are expected to grow up to 75 feet and, unfortunately, I don’t think we had a process in place at the time that made sure landscaping plans for development projects like this were being looked after from the perspective of ensuring the species of trees was appropriate for the area,” Bottrill said. “We have an opportunity to replace trees with something that would grow only six metres, making more sense in terms of trying to preserve views and still have a nice corridor.”
Couns. Grant Meyer and Larry Robinson said they would support the third option, as long as the city was not stuck with the bill. However, Robinson also noted the removal of trees could be a “legal nightmare,” as the strata management had expressed their disapproval at removing the trees.
In a letter to council, the representatives of the strata had stated that the application for removal should not be allowed, as a majority of owners in the 60-unit building did not approve.
“They’re writing us a letter and saying don’t do it. For us to go and do it at the behest of one owner, we’re walking into a mess, therefore I have to go against it,” Robinson said.
Council voted unanimously to uphold the original decision to not remove any trees.