In a last-minute addition to Monday’s special council meeting agenda, Langford councillors passed first, second and third readings on a restrictive tree protection bylaw.
As of Monday morning (Dec. 19), the council meeting agenda only had one item on it, calling for an in-camera meeting for the “receipt of advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose.”
But prior to the meeting’s 1 p.m. start date, an extra item was added that prohibits tree cutting.
“Bylaw 2115 prohibits the cutting down of any tree (with a trunk diameter greater than 20 centimeters measured at a height of 1.4 meters above the undisturbed grade of the land), anywhere within Langford,” reads the bylaw.
“As is often the case, news that council may be contemplating tree protection can accelerate actual tree cutting in advance of the adoption of a policy or bylaw,” read a staff report attached to the tree protection bylaw.
Staff added that currently the city has limited enforcement power outside the development permit process when it comes to tree protection, recommending the self-proclaimed “very restrictive” rules as a temporary measure to stop unpermitted tree cutting.
“Bylaws 2115 and 2116 provide for significant financial penalties,” reads a statement from the city. “Under the Offenses Act and as referenced in in Bylaw 2115, Council can seek financial compensation through the courts of a minimum of $5000 per violation (or per tree). Under the Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw, staff can also impose a fine of $1000 per violation (or per tree), which is the maximum allowed under that bylaw.”
The measures have a six-month expiration date, by which point the city will have looked to adopt a tree management policy.
Exceptions to the rule include dangerous trees, trees cut down in relation to sidewalks, trees cut down by British Columbia land surveyors or pursuant to provincial legislation, or trees that have been approved to be cut as part of the development permit process.
In a previous interview with Black Press, Ryan Smith, owner of Ocean West Tree Services said they’re fully booked for the next year, with things set to be particularly busy for the next few weeks as a number of projects in Langford look to complete work before a tree protection bylaw potentially comes before council.
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