A local arborist is demanding the City of Colwood speed up the process and finalize its interim tree bylaw before more homeowners are put at risk.
Tim Winship, owner and operator of the Langford-based Custom Falling Tree Service, said he has multiple customers who want to take down hazardous trees, but have been told by the City that they cannot do so until the urban forest bylaw has been finalized and approved.
“How long is this going to go on? Meanwhile these people have legitimate tree problems,” he said. “It’s not about not having a bylaw, the bylaw is fine, it’s just they’re not doing anything about it. Everything is at a standstill and people are suffering.”
One homeowner on Willowdale Road has a fir tree on her property, but its roots have grown up and pose a tripping hazard. A poplar tree is causing problems for another homeowner on Anchorage Avenue. The trees roots have destroyed her walkway and are heading towards the home’s foundation.
Winship was told the bylaw would be finalized by May, which has now been pushed back to September, leaving homeowners in limbo.
“That’s not good enough, this needs to be finalized,” he said. “They need to speed up the process.”
A task force has since been formed to review the bylaw. The task force, which includes nine professionals and local residents, has met 10 times since January of this year and recently wrapped up. According to Coun. Jason Nault, who sits on the task force, a number of changes were made to the bylaw, which will go to committee of the whole in August and to council likely in September for approval.
As part of the bylaw, which protects trees from unnecessary removal and preserves urban forests, a permit is required to remove any protected tree on private or public property and replacement trees must be planted.
Trees protected under the bylaw include those with a diameter of 60 centimetres or greater when measured at chest height, arbutus, Garry Oak, Pacific Dogwood and Pacific View that are two metres or higher and/or four centimetres or more in diametre, trees with evidence of nesting birds, and all trees identified as a retained or replacement tree in a tree management plan.
When removing between one to five trees, a permit is still required, but a security deposit is not and the trees must be replaced at a ratio of 1:1. Anyone wishing to remove more than five trees will require a permit and must put down a security deposit to ensure trees at a ratio of 2:1 are replaced.
When it come to hazardous trees, if an arborist deems a tree to be hazardous, residents must notify the City and are allowed to take it down without a permit. Property owners who remove a protected tree illegally could be subject to a $1,000 fine.
“I’m quite happy with the way the bylaw turned out. I think we should have done one of these years and years ago, we might have saved a few more trees,” Nault said.
“The thing that triggered this was the input we received to the new official community plan. One of the things that really came off big was the preservation of natural areas, trees and slopes. The tree bylaw was the first step in that.”