Langford is set for a quick turnaround on its new and “very restrictive” tree protection bylaw, with council set to vote on adoption Wednesday (Dec. 21) in a special meeting at 2:30 p.m.
The meeting comes just two days after the bylaw was first brought forward during another special meeting on Monday in a last-minute addition to the agenda.
If approved, the bylaw would come into immediate effect.
“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.
There are several exceptions in the bylaw, but also stiff penalties.
“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.”
In Monday’s meeting, Langford councillors passed first, second and third readings on the bylaw after it was added to the meeting as an extra item. Initially, the 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, the extra item was added.
“Council has heard from the public that too many trees are coming down due to development,” Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson said in a statement. “This bylaw will allow council time to review all options and consult with the public. This bylaw implementation is the direct result of some property owners not adhering to the existing process around tree removal in Langford.
“It is unfortunate that council had to bring this bylaw into place to respond to multiple property owners who have acted outside of the existing development process that allows for the removal of trees. Those actions resulted in the need for this bylaw to be implemented so that the system is respected and adhered to.”
Langford resident Wendy Hobbs, who ran for city council in the past municipal election, says she supported the move, adding that council was listening to concerns residents have long had over tree removal.
“I believe that with any council, there are last-minute emergent things that happen and to say they haven’t had a lot of public input is not the truth at all,” she said. “They’ve had lots of public input in the previous council about all the trees being cut down. During the election, there were lots of comments about it. They did have a conversation regarding the tree bylaw. So I don’t believe that this is just come out of nowhere.”
Hobbs hopes the bylaw is enforced properly, saying she has heard from neighbours and friends that it feels like complaints filed under the construction noise bylaw can fall on deaf ears.