A Saanich councillor wants the municipality to improve Saanich’s tree protection bylaw.
Coun. Rebecca Mersereau has brought forward a notice of motion that asks staff to bring forward “specific, short-term opportunities” to help improve Saanich’s tree protection bylaw.
In recent months, questions have been raised about the effectiveness Saanich’s tree protection bylaw.
Last month, municipal crews cut down six Garry oak trees on Finnerty Road as part of an infrastructure project, despite protests from residents. Residents on Kings Road have also spoken out against the loss of trees in their neighbourhood as a result of a townhouse project near Royal Jubilee Hospital.
Mersereau said loss in both urban and rural areas of Saanich appears “inevitable.” Citing provincial legislation, Saanich’s tree municipal bylaw can regulate, but must not prevent the removal of trees found in building footprints, she said. Agricultural activities and routine municipal activities also require the removal of trees.
“This is particularly true in Saanich, where narrow road widths and undeveloped boulevards often constrain space available to service, renew or enhance underground or above ground infrastructure without impacting the landscape,” she said.
Mersereau would like to see the municipality “maximize opportunities” that mitigate impacts on trees. She also wants to see staff raise the current tree-replacement ratio of two new trees for every lost one; create more incentives for tree care and replacement; and improve the monitoring of Saanich’s urban forests.
Mersereau acknowledges that a “substantive update” of Saanich’s tree protection bylaw would be premature and could preempt the process underway to create a biodiversity strategy within a broader environmental program framework.
Even so, opportunities exist to update “very specific [bylaw] provisions” in support of a viable urban forest in Saanich.
“Recent correspondence with Saanich residents has emphasized the value of trees to our communities, and the results of the statistically significant [citizens survey] also indicate that the environment continues to be a high priority for for our residents,” she said. ‘
Council will debate Mersereau’s notice of motion at its next regular meeting March 11.