White Rock has a new policy for the management of trees on city land.
But support for the revised legislation – voted on during Monday night’s council meeting – was not unanimous.
Couns. Larry Robinson and Al Campbell both opposed the policy, with Campbell voicing several concerns.
Campbell didn’t agree with the removal of an avenue for residents to appeal decisions; that only the director of engineering and municipal operations can approve or deny applications for tree removal; and, that at least 65 per cent of respondents within 30 metres of a tree under application for removal must be in support.
“Sixty-five (per cent) – I don’t know where you got that,” Campbell said of the recommended support rating.
He noted residents suggested in September figures of 100 per cent, 60 per cent or 50-plus-one would be more appropriate.
Campbell motioned to amend the policy to include the 50-plus-one option, but was defeated, with Couns. Helen Fathers, Louise Hutchinson and Mayor Wayne Baldwin opposed.
Revisions presented Monday are the result of a process that was initiated after controversy erupted early last year following approval of an application to remove trees from city land in the 15100-block of Royal Avenue. The applicant’s request – made on the basis that the trees were blocking views – was initially denied, but was granted by council on appeal.
In explaining revisions, municipal operations manager Rob Thompson said the goal was to transform Policy 611 from something that considers unwanted trees, to guidelines that recognize their inherent value to the community.
He noted applications to remove significant trees, ravine trees and park trees will not be considered. Applications regarding trees blocking views will only be considered if the applicant can prove the tree or trees in question has grown to obscure an established view.
“If the tree has always been there and obstructs the view, that is not enough,” he said.
Applications involving trees that are part of a development will be considered separately.
Two key changes to the draft presented in the summer were the decrease in the necessary support rating to 65 per cent; and clarification of provincial policies regarding tree-pruning or removal during bird nesting season.
Hutchinson and Fathers both commended the revised document, with Hutchinson calling it a “good solution to a really difficult problem.”
“Dogs and trees will forever be the Achilles heel in White Rock,” she said.
Fathers, whose two vehicles were vandalized last February in the heat of increasing tensions over the tree policy, described the process leading up to it as “traumatic at times.”
She questioned how the policy applied to significant trees in the city. Thompson said it doesn’t, but noted a separate policy for such trees is in the works and expected to come to council in about a month.
While Campbell opposed the revised policy, he did say gains have been made since council came under fire a year ago.
“We have come a long way,” he said. “At least we’re accepting now that property owners in White Rock have a right to a view.”
Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson was not at the meeting due to illness.