Re: Policy has more bite than bark, May 20 letters.
I am writing in response to letter-writer Kelly McNamara’s question regarding how other residents feel about White Rock’s tree-replacement bylaws.
The McNamaras wanted to cut down a cherry tree in their backyard, and the City of White Rock required them to obtain a permit to do so, because the city’s tree management bylaw defines a tree greater than 30 cm in diameter as a protected tree.
To cut a protected tree requires a permit, and to obtain a permit they had to pay a $500 application fee plus hire an arborist to inspect their tree not once but twice. The permit would then allow them to cut the tree but require that they replace the tree with five new trees at least four metres tall, plus, post a $15,000 bond.
Wow, I think my head would spin at all this process and cost, if all I wanted to do was cut down a problem tree in my backyard and replace it with one that provided me with enjoyment rather than concern.
The city states that the goal of the bylaw is to ensure the provision of a sustainable, healthy urban tree canopy. I am sure council had good intentions when they passed this bylaw in 2010, however, I believe the restrictive requirements and prescriptive manner of applying of the bylaw are counter-productive.
Why require five trees to replace one? More trees will not necessarily provide a healthier canopy, especially on a small lot; one well-chosen tree may be much better than five.
Why require four-metre tall trees? Slower-growing trees that are more suitable to urban use are expensive, so the policy encourages property owners to buy fast-growing, cheaper species like pines or poplars, which will quickly become too big for small urban lots.
Why would a property owner voluntarily plant new trees and risk becoming subject to punitive bylaws?
And if a property owner owns a tree less than 30 cm, why not cut it now before it is subject to the bylaw?
There is a case to be made to regulate the replacement of trees cut for new development, but I see no rationale to apply this type of bylaw to existing residences. Requiring a private property owner to spend an outrageous amount to replace a backyard fruit tree is absurd.
We are a very small city, only 500 hectares, not that hard to manage. Surely our council and city management can come up with solutions that are more site-specific and treat every resident with respect.
Leave the bureaucratic and restrictive bylaws to the big-city guys.
R. Clinton, White Rock