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Oak Bay council backs staff decision to deny Garry oak tree removal

School worries tree or limbs will fall, cause harm
Glenlyon Norfolk School in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)

A Garry oak towering over the junior campus of Glenlyon Norfolk School is a concern, school representatives told Oak Bay council Monday night as part of an appeal to remove the tree.

In September, the school applied to remove Garry oak No. 472, at the northwest corner of the campus property at 1701 Beach Dr. The district denied the school the permit required to remove the tree – a decision upheld by council after discussion Nov. 28.

The school cites concerns over a limb that looms over a heritage building holding a classroom, and that it stands near the area where staff and students congregate during pickup and drop-off times, as well as the bus loading area. The school also noted a healthy Garry oak adjacent to the school fell during a June wind storm.

An arborist report prepared for the school by Bartlett Tree Service deemed the tree is a moderate risk and assessed options. Those include pruning to significantly reduce end weight on stems overhanging the road and other targets, which would reduce but not eliminate risk. The other option presented was to remove the tree and cut the stump as low as possible, then eliminate all tripping hazards, leaving no risk.

READ ALSO: Fallen limb sparks sudden drop talk

Chris Hyde-Lay, manager of parks services, said from the departments perspective the tree didn’t meet the threshold for removal, preferring the pruning option. Pruning would take the weight from the crown and reduce the chance of incidence of failure and improve growing conditions.

“It’s really impossible to maintain any tree free of risk. It doesn’t matter what type of tree or what size of tree it is,” Hyde-Lay said. He estimates the tree at about 150 years old.

All of council agreed they faced a challenging situation, with some noting it’s near impossible to eliminate any risk in the municipality, from vehicle dangers to trees on other school and institutional sites.

“I am loathed to have council enter into a process of adjudicating the relative health of individual trees within the community. We rely on our professionals to help us do that,” Coun. Andrew Appleton said.

Coun. Carrie Smart recused herself from the discussion due to perceived pecuniary conflict as her employer has business interest with the applicant.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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