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Arborist admits errors, but says tree-cutting at Aldergrove forest is acceptable

Councillor Petrina Arnason says an independent review of trees on Township-owned property is needed.
Angela Wonitowy was one of several Aldergrove residents concerned about proposed residential development of a forested area alongside Bertrand Creek.

The company responsible for an arborist’s report that confused the types of trees in a proposed Aldergrove subdivision has admitted the mistakes, but insists the errors aren’t enough to justify saving more than a single tree.

Sanderson Planning, a Vancouver company, made a written presentation to the council priorities committee meeting on Monday, Feb. 2 that defended the previous report as a “fair and accurate assessment of the conditions” on property near 28 Avenue and 276 Street.

The firm was hired by the Township to help design a 61-lot neighbourhood on the proposed Bertrand Creek Trails Estate development.

The 2012 assessment determined there were no trees worth preserving on the property.

It called for cutting down the existing 165 trees and replacing them with 303 replacement trees, arranged to fit around the detached houses planned for the property.

The report was condemned by opponents of the development, who want the Township-owned site preserved as an urban forest.

They argued the decision by council to approve the sale was based on an error-riddled assessment that confused the types of trees.

The critics included another arborist, Celeste Paley, who said that among other things the report confused cedar trees with maple trees and alders.

Paley said the “discrepancies” and “misidentifications” were “worrisome.”

In December, council put the project on hold to sort out the issue.

At the Monday committee meeting, Sanderson filed an updated arborist’s report that aimed to correct the errors of the first.

The new report said only “one tree in the stand of trees is thought to be a suitable candidate to be retained” and went to say that “correctly identifying tree species is not typically an issue” when assessing how trees deserve preservation.

“This has never before occurred on numerous projects that we have been associated with the Township of Langley over the past 25 years,” the report said.

It added the mistakes happened during “the transfer of data from field notes into the final report” and went on to say that “there was no intent to falsify information, there was simply a human error made during the drafting of our report.”

However, Paley, the arborist who pointed out the errors in the first report, appeared before the Monday committee meeting to advise that the second report was still not error-free.

Paley identified a smaller number of errors, but the fact there were any was termed “problematic” by Councillor Petrina Arnason.

At the evening council meeting, Arnason said the delegation from Sanderson Planning at the council priorities committee had “failed to address to council’s satisfaction  tree inventory discrepancies” and because of that, she will be asking the next meeting of council to approve “an independent third party review of the inventory with a report back.”

If approved, the Arnason proposal would further postpone any sale of the land until the review is finished.

The property in question was the former site of the Aldergrove sewage treatment plant, which operated from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s when it was decommissioned and the area was hooked up to the Abbotsford treatment plant.

The property was clear-cut for a farm many years ago, but over the years second-growth trees took over the southern, unused portion of the acreage.

The property was never included in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) for protected farmland.

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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