A large sequoia tree has been saved along Benhomer Drive in Colwood after council voted to reduce the width of an under-construction sidewalk.
Council debated the urgent written request from resident Reem Schewczyk during its Monday (March 13) regular council meeting, ultimately voting 6-1 in favour – with Coun. Kim Jordison in opposition – of one of the options presented by staff, which was to reduce the sidewalk width in the area of the tree from its original two metres to around 1.7 metres, or as wide as physically possible.
Introducing the agenda item, Mayor Doug Kobayashi explained the reason for the urgency of the matter was the fact the concrete for the sidewalk was scheduled to be poured on Thursday (March 16), so any decision to change those plans had to be made on Monday.
During debate, staff informed council both the tree and an adjacent retaining wall were within the city’s right of way and not on the homeowner’s property. They said an arborist had been called to inspect the tree on behalf of the city as part of the sidewalk project and determined the unpermitted retaining wall had started to provide structural support to the tree. They were unsure if the tree would be able to survive is the wall was removed, one of the other options presented to council by staff.
Staff also noted the tree itself would likely die anyway even if council decided to attempt to save it by narrowing the sidewalk.
Despite this, the majority of council spoke in favour of attempting to save the tree, given its age, believed to be more than 40 years old, and size, making it “significant” to the community as a whole.
Responding to questions from council, staff said they believe there would be no schedule or cost impacts on the project should council decide to make changes to save the tree.
In opposing the motion made by Coun. Dean Jantzen to narrow the sidewalk, preserving both the tree and the retaining wall, Jordison said she was concerned making such an exception for one resident would set a precedent which would compel council to change construction plans to meet the personal will of residents moving forward.
Her colleagues countered by saying they felt this particular case was a justified exception to the norm, and would not set a negative precedent.
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