Taking down trees on the West Shore is not as simple as breaking out the chainsaw.

HOMEFINDER: Tree removal tricky on the West Shore

Keep local tree protection bylaws in mind, as well the effect of tree roots, before buying a home

Greater Victoria is a community rich with trees, creating picturesque drives and luscious neighbourhoods to attract new home buyers.

In some waterfront areas of the West Shore, such as View Royal,  groves of Garry oaks and seaside slopes are held together by the roots of arbutus outcrops. There’s no doubt trees can be one of the most defining features in a municipality’s landscape, but removal of trees can sometimes lead to headaches down the road.

The West Shore’s five municipalities have varying tree protection bylaws, with the key differences being the species of trees on the protected list.

View Royal has 11 species of trees listed under its ‘protected tree’ section. As well, any tree greater than 30 centimetres in diameter and those protected by a restrictive covenant are also protected. Permits must be obtained before cutting down or altering any protected, significant or replacement tree.

Residents must also get a permit before altering or cutting down a tree on a steep slope, removing stumps and roots on a steep slope, or cutting down or altering a tree within 15 metres of a waterway.

Highlands, a comparatively more rural municipality, has less restrictive rules, the “any tree” cutting minimum diameter being 80 cm. It also has different species included on its protected list.

In Langford, there is no tree cutting bylaw as such, but it requires people to consult with the city before removing trees in designated environmentally sensitive areas or hazardous Development Permit areas contained in the official community plan.

Metchosin requires a permit to cut down any tree, on top of specific rules prohibiting the removal of certain species.

Colwood, which has many unique trees, has no specific bylaw around the cutting of trees on its website.

If you’re looking at purchasing a home with established trees on the West Shore and have ideas around changing the yard or say, creating a better view by cutting some down, it’s always a good idea to contact your municipality first to find out what is required, or whether removal is even an option.

Most municipalities are used to dealing with queries around tree trimming and removal.

Another smart idea is to have a local arborist visit the potential home and assess the trees and their root systems before you buy.

If you’ve already bought, it’s important to be proactive: catch that Garry oak or Pacific yew sapling before it reaches two metres in height to avoid an unwanted growth. Even if the tree is on a municipal property line or threatening essential features, such as a water line or power pole, the cost and time of acquiring a permit for removal can subsequently be avoided.

Keep an eye out for encroaching roots near man-made structures as well. Root damage is an expensive fix for foundations, pipes, paved patios and driveways.

For a full list of tree bylaws, visit your municipality’s website or call the local bylaw enforcement department.

– with files from Travis Paterson and Angela Cowan

Q: HOW MUCH VALUE CAN TREES ADD TO MY PROPERTY?

According to Canadian financial journal MoneySense, trees can raise the average home’s value by more than $19,000.

Curb appeal: A property with healthy, mature trees could easily sell for in excess of five per cent more — $19,350 on average — and that’s a conservative figure.

Not just any tree: The value of a tree can plummet by as much as 50 per cent if the species isn’t desirable for a specific area. Balsam fir, for example, does poorly in urban environments.

But slower growing trees, such as oaks, usually offer the most value as they provide more shade and stay healthier longer.

Placement counts: Plant needle-bearing trees on the north and west side of your home to block winter winds. For shade in the summer, plant deciduous varieties on the south end of your lot.

Handle with care: Much of a tree’s ability to enhance property value depends on how it’s maintained. Trees with dead branches and missing bark are considered a risk to your property and will actually decrease your home’s value.

GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » AS OF SEPT. 29/14 COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD

» 511/487 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES / TOTAL,  SEPT. 2013

» 1,034/1,106 –NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL,  SEPT. 2013

» 4,261/4,547 — ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / TOTAL,  SEPT. 2013