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Coalition concerned with loss of trees on North Saanich property

Rosborough Road property owner gains approval to remove trees from agricultural land
Former North Saanich councillor Jack Thornburn, local property owner Renate Herberger and Jim Cuthbert, a registered professional biologist, belong to a coalition concerned about the potential loss of trees on a Rosborough Road property. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

A coalition consisting of local neighbours and environmental experts fear the potential loss of greenspace in North Saanich.

Rosborough Road resident Renate Herberger is among 100 or so residents who have signed a petition asking the new owner of the property in the 11000-block of Rosborough Road to retain as much of the standing forest as possible.

Other members of the coalition include former North Saanich councillor Jack Thornburn and Jim Cuthbert, a registered professional biologist.

Herberger said North Saanich along with the rest of the region finds itself in what she called catastrophic climate change that would lead to more severe climate impacts.

“Do we as a human species have the moral, ethical rights to destroy a vibrant ecosystem, so we have our cute little desires taken care of?” she asked. Much of the area was cut down 100 years ago before re-emerging as a second-growth ecosystem for various plants and animals, she said. This eco-system would be lost once again in the case of development, she added.

The property lies entirely in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) with a zoning of rural-agricultural.

The new property owner, who did not return several calls from Black Press Media seeking comment, signed an affidavit in early July to verify that his purpose for cutting or removing trees is of an agricultural nature, according to North Saanich staff.

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“As such, the property owner is now legally entitled to remove trees from the property without any permits from the (municipality),” said Dawn Gould, acting communications and engagement manager. “Should the property owner wish to build on the property they will, however, need to obtain the necessary permits from the (municipality) to ensure compliance with the (municipality’s building and zoning bylaws).”

So why Herberger is questioning the right of the property owner to do with the property as he wishes within the letter of the law?

‘To me, it shows that the ultimate god now is private property,” she said.

Herberger said she would buy the property herself if she could. Thornburn said the group has also been in touch with WSANEC Leadership Council about potentially buying the property under an agreement that would also see Herberger gift her property on the condition that she would be allowed to stay there until her death. “It’s a two-for-one deal,” she said. “If you find money to buy this property, this (Herberger’s property) comes in as a gift,” she said.

Kim Grout, chief executive officer, said earlier that nothing in the legislation governing the Agricultural Land Reserve prevents the removal of trees as part of agricultural use. “We don’t get involved in tree removal,” she said. “The commission has no jurisdiction around trees. If somebody owns a piece of property and they wish to do something other than farming, i.e. develop it as a residential subdivision, they need to apply to the commission for approval.”

Legislation allows a principal residence provided it is less than 500 square-metres in total floor area and its total footprint is less than 1,000 square-metres, Grout added. She later pointed out that some municipalities — which in this case includes North Saanich — have tree bylaws. “But it does not involve the commission,” she said.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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