You want to cut down a tree of any significance in the capital, you better think twice.
The City of Victoria plans to expand its list of protected trees to include those with a trunk circumference of 30 cm or more at a height of 1.4 m.
In meeting on Thursday, council originally intended on passing the third reading of an amended Tree Preservation Bylaw, that among other points brought down the requirement from 80 cm to 60 cm. This reading was part of Phase One of the Tree Preservation initiative, to be followed by more changes in Phase Two.
Two members of the public spoke up about the change, saying that more restrictions were needed for tree protection due to the climate crisis. Speakers further pointed out that the Township of Esquimalt has a 30 cm policy, while the City of Vancouver has a limit to 20 cm or above.
Council agreed and voted to rescind the third reading, and re-conduct the second and third readings.
“I think speakers made it very clear that our bylaw is out of step with emerging best practices,” said Coun. Ben Isitt. “I think at minimum we should look to align our bylaws with Esquimalt’s.”
Coun. Geoff Young expressed concerns that these changes would impose too many restrictions on homeowners, especially those who may have otherwise wished to build a garden suite.
“People will be afraid that trees will be toxic to the value of their property,” Young said. “It’s not so much the tree stumps that we’re going to see that will represent the failure of this bylaw; it’s the trees that never get planted because people will know that not only is the tree bylaw restrictive now, but council has already said it will get more restrictive.”
Council asked staff about the repercussions of the change, and were told by director of parks and recreation, Thomas Soulliere, that changes would backlog staff as they reevaluate permit applications.
Soulliere further stated that staff would need two weeks of analysis to report on further affects of the changes.
Council passed the third reading of the amended bylaw seven-to-one. It will be presented along with a staff report on Nov. 14.