By DAN FERGUSON
A call for an outside consultant to review an arborist’s report that confused the types of trees in a proposed Aldergrove subdivision failed to win support from a majority of Township council Monday (Feb. 16).
Councillor Petrina Arnason made the proposal after Sanderson Planning, a Vancouver company, admitted mistakes were made while reviewing the trees on the property near 28 Avenue and 276 Street.
In a written presentation to the Council Priorities Committee meeting, Sanderson defended the 2012 report that determined there were no trees worth preserving on the property as a “fair and accurate assessment of the conditions.”
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 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.
Opponents of the development, who want the site preserved as an urban forest, said the decision by council to approve the development 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 committee meeting, Sanderson filed an updated arborist’s report that aimed to correct the errors of the first, but Paley told the committee 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.
Arnason tried to get the rest of council to agree that Sanderson Planning had “failed to address to Council’s satisfaction tree inventory discrepancies” and order “an independent third party review of the inventory.”
At Monday’s council meeting, after hearing staff estimated hiring an outsider to review the trees would cost between $3,000 and $5,000, a majority voted against the Arnason proposal.
Councillor Bob Long said the whole issue was “kind of moot” because most of the trees will have to come down to make room for houses.
Councillor Angie Quaale, noting the Township has already sent $800,000 to $1 million on the project, said council should simply “get on with it.”
“The greater good will be served for Aldergrove,” Quaale said.
Councillor Blair Whitmarsh said the errors amounted to only a few trees.
“It’s a two per cent error,” Whitmarsh said.
“I don’t need a third party.”
Arnason said it was a question of principle, of council making decisions based on accurate information.
“I think it calls into question who it is we have doing reports,” Arnason said.
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.