LETTERS: Link zoning, tree bylaws for better canopy protection

Editor: Science-based evidence points towards the importance of maintaining our mature tree canopy.

Editor:

Increasingly, more science-based evidence points towards the importance of maintaining our mature tree canopy, particularly in the face of climate change.

Research presented by UBC’s Dr. Lorien Nesbitt (‘The Value of Mature Trees and Community Health,’ Sept. 7, Ocean Park Community Hall) confirms the many benefits of trees and their importance to our well-being. Although the City of Surrey is recognized as being a leader in tree protection, its trees continue to fall at an alarming rate. Why is this?

One key reason is that there are some fundamental weaknesses with the existing tree-protection bylaw, particularly as it relates to the existing zoning bylaw.

Here is just one example – in my neighbourhood, the city now allows a 3,000-square-foot house to be built on a 5,000-square-foot lot. My neighbours recently built a house and workshop, covered half the front lot with a concrete driveway and the entire back lot with a concrete patio. This is all in keeping with the existing legislation.

What my neighbours are left with is a small pocket of uncovered land in the front and a thin edge along one side of the property line; space that is completely inadequate for planting trees of any significance. The city’s current two-for-one tree-replacement rule has resulted in two trees being planted that will never provide any significant canopy or other benefits.

If the city is serious about protecting our environment, they need to amend their zoning bylaw and directly tie the tree-protection bylaw to it.

There also needs to be incentives (tax breaks) for property owners to protect their permeable surfaces and trees. There is existing provincial legislation that allows for this, but local governments worry about lost revenue. I think that concern can be countered by increasing the taxes on properties that have paved over their land and removed trees.

Let’s get creative – it really is not that difficult to make positive changes that keep us living in healthy communities.

The more we talk about options for change, the more likely they will happen.

Karen Thomas, Surrey

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