Protesters march to city hall.

Protesters march to city hall.

White Rock residents to get say on tree majority

A suggestion that White Rock require 80 per cent of neighbours be in favour of trimming or removing a city tree before any such work can occur does not have the support of some city councillors.

A suggestion that White Rock require 80 per cent of neighbours be in favour of trimming or removing a city tree before any such work can occur does not have the support of some city councillors.

In a lengthy discussion of proposed revisions to the city’s tree-management policy Monday, Couns. Al Campbell and Lynne Sinclair agreed the standard should be lower.

“Would two-thirds not be more appropriate?” Campbell said Monday. “I would like to certainly see that 65 (per cent) thrown out there, as part of that process.”

Sinclair said the 80 per cent figure “almost stacks the deck one way.”

“I do agree it should be substantial,” she said. “I guess we’ll hear from the public on that.”

Council gave unanimous support to putting the draft revisions out for public perusal, a process that’s anticipated to get underway late next month.

The original Policy 611 was approved in June 2010, and was intended to give staff and council guidance in dealing with applications to trim, prune or remove trees on city lands. It became a source of contention earlier this year, after council granted an appeal that resulted in the removal of two trees in the 15100-block of Royal Avenue. The applicant said the trees were blocking views.

In a report to council, the city’s director of engineering and municipal operations writes the suggested revisions recognize the value put on views in White Rock, but limit the role view alone can play in a decision to prune or remove a tree.

“The city will consider an application to re-establish a view that has been obscured by tree growth, but will not consider a request to prune or remove a tree on city land to establish a new view,” writes Rob Thompson.

In response to a question from Coun. Doug McLean, Thompson confirmed property owners could potentially apply to have a tree pruned or removed to restore a view of 50 years ago, if they had evidence their original view had been lost.

Thompson told council the 80 per cent figure was chosen “to indicate a clear majority of support for removal of the tree.”

But ultimately, it’ll be up to citizens to make the call, he said. “It’s really up to White Rock to generate their own percentage for what indicates clear support.”

Commending the revisions, Coun. Helen Fathers said she would prefer applications have 100 per cent of neighbour support, but suggested all three figures – 65, 80 and 100 per cent – be put to the public.

Coun. Grant Meyer said White Rock needs a policy “that doesn’t cause the sideshow that happened here in winter and spring.”

Other revisions suggested include that applications only be considered from White Rock property owners who have lived at their property for at least two years; and that such owners be allowed to apply no more than once every two years.

Requests to prune or remove trees in city parks should not be considered, Thompson suggests. And, all decisions would be final.