Ribbons and signs were seen on Royal Avenue after White Rock council authorized tree removal and replacement.

Ribbons and signs were seen on Royal Avenue after White Rock council authorized tree removal and replacement.

Silly season

Editor:

Re: Council has ‘obligation to preserve ocean views,’ Jan. 28.

Council has absolutely no obligation to preserve views – not of the ocean, the mountains or anything else – by cutting down trees on public property.

This is about as blatant a job of vote counting as you will ever see.

Trees on boulevards have the same status as trees in parks. They are in the public domain and should be preserved to the greatest possible degree.

Sure, people get antsy about their views,  understandably so. Before White Rock’s new tree bylaw, people had the option of getting trees on the public road allowance trimmed, topped or thinned using the services of a qualified arbourist, at their own expense. The trick was you had to get some buy-in from your neighbours first. But, to allow trees that were not diseased or a public hazard to be taken down – never!

In this case, council was dealing with a couple of relatively small trees that amount to not much more than a privacy screen and probably have to be topped regularly to stop them from growing into hydro wires.

Having  OK’d their removal, how is this council going to cope with the requests that are sure to follow, now that the floodgates are open?

Adding insult to injury is the suggestion from Coun. Doug McLean that the taxpayers should pay for some of the cost. Where did that come from? Since when has public money been paid out to improve an individual’s view?   

All municipalities experience what is called the “silly season” in the months leading up to an election. During this period, the decisions made by the politicians grow increasingly erratic as their desire to win votes trumps any decision-making based on principles, values or common sense.

The less confident a council is about getting re-elected – and the more politicians scramble for votes – the earlier silly season will start.

Usually it doesn’t begin in earnest until July or August. Occasionally, you might see early signs in April. This council is starting in January!

Since the quality of decision-making will deteriorate the closer we get to the November elections, we should be in for some real beauties in the coming months.

Under the community charter, the mayor has the authority to direct council to reconsider a resolution provided that it is within 30 days of the original decision. Maybe the mayor should exercise some authority and give council the gift of sober second thought.

Wayne Baldwin, White Rock

Views over environment?

“Council has an obligation to preserve ocean views” will definitely make it into my top 100 irrational-thinking list, right after my head stops spinning.

As a White Rock resident of eight years, I am still waiting to enjoy a nice walk around town in the shade of some luscious mature, healthy tree – any tree, somewhere, anywhere.

I would think my right to enjoy the beauty and shelter of trees on city property would be part of my quality-of-life right, and it would precede that of those who want to live in a concrete basket.

I don’t know quite where to begin to argue the negative aspect of the above statement, as it takes a particularly skewed mind set to arrive at such conviction.

One thing I am sure of, it is unacceptable for any community council to set views above the need to provide a healthy overall environment to all its citizens. Without trees, there in not much life.

Alicia M.B. Ballard, White Rock

Not theirs to give away

White Rock never had a city tree policy. In fact, our city historically has never cared responsibly for trees on city property – too expensive.

Policy 611 is the city’s way of making citizens assume the cost of unwanted tree removal and infrastructural upgrading.

An overzealous citizen estate agent suggested that $200,000 of increased value would be added to each of the properties on Royal Avenue. I hear the city doing the more-property-tax dance – the administrative tarantella – only they are providing the music while the citizens dance to their collapse and loss.

 What does this policy really achieve? In short, it perpetuates inequitability amongst White Rock citizens. Only those with the ready cash can afford to preserve their views and have a city tree removed.

The only recourse to challenge council’s decision is a lawyer.

This policy creates dissension and neighbourhood discord, over which council has unwittingly placed themselves in the role of judge/hierophant. The injured party is three times judged: once by neighbours, once by city staff and last but not least, by council – with limited opportunity to be heard.

How can anything ethical emerge from this policy? To make matters worse, the applicant is seen as the party whose interest needs representing, not the citizens who wishes to retain trees next to their properties – though you wouldn’t be able to figure any of this out by reading the policy. It boldly claims to be about tree preservation. It uses the concept of view preservation as one of its main criteria.

I have found nothing defensible to this end in the community charter. What is the difference between view preservation and view creation; view preservation privileged over privacy or aesthetic expression?

The Supreme Court of Canada will not like that. I don’t, either.

City trees are exactly that – owned by White Rock citizens. They are not council’s, nor are they staff’s. City trees belong to us and the policy should reflect that fact.

Perhaps a citizen committee should be appointed for preliminary evaluation – anything to get the hierarchy right and level their status to any but economic boons.

With these increases in property value, where will there be room for all that affordable housing we are led to believe we are morally obliged to supply; on the east side, or maybe on the hillside road ends on Balsam, between Victoria and Columbia?

Curiously, five council members have view property. I wonder how that affects their voting?

Barry Belec, White Rock