The days of cutting down significant trees with no penalties in the Township of Langley could be limited.
On March 5, Langley resident Hanae Sakurai called on council to form a standing committee to review a comprehensive tree protection bylaw for the entire Township.
Sakurai, a professional arborist and tree protection official with the City of Richmond, spoke on behalf of a group residents who believe a tree protection bylaw is “long overdue.” Many showed their support at council chambers by wearing green, and holding signs that read “trees have feelings too!”
The Township is one of the only jurisdictions in the Lower Mainland without a municipal-wide tree bylaw, and its current provisions in the subdivision and developing service bylaw — which come into effect only on properties being developed — is lacking, Sakurai said.
“Trees are a viable community resource that benefit all of us. As a result of not having a comprehensive tree bylaw, there is no enforcement or penalties for tree damage or removal. There aren’t any designated staff to oversee proper tree protection during construction,” Sakurai told council.
“We seek a bylaw with room for common sense, where qualified staff can exercise some judgment based on industry best practices, professional skills, and knowledge to maintain and improve the urban forest in Langley. The goal of the bylaw should be preserving healthy trees where possible, based on their long-term viability, permitting the removal of those trees that are either in poor condition or in conflict with development, and requiring the planting of new trees.”
When it comes to farmland, Sakurai suggests following the models of communities like Delta or Surrey, which face similar challenges.
These include having no permit process fees for one-tree removal applications, differentiating between urban and rural areas, or creating exemptions for farmers.
Coun. Charlie Fox asked how this bylaw would fit in with the ALR, where tree cutting is permitted for farming purposes.
He said the last time a tree bylaw was mentioned, the push back they received was substantial, and that since Sakurai’s delegation was published on the council agenda, they have already received concerns from ALR property owners.
Sakurai said their intent is not to stop these residents from clearing their land for farming.
“I do want to point out that we have seen clearing of trees on ALR land and then the property owners asking for an exclusion of the ALR for the purpose of development. So my hope is that (with) this standing committee, that some of those topics can be discussed,” she said.
Coun. Bob Long asked why there should be a standing committee formed when there is already a new tree bylaw in Brookswood-Fernridge.
Sakurai said that in her opinion, that bylaw isn’t restrictive enough as, depending on lot size, residents can remove some trees with no permit. She believes that will lead property owners to potentially remove the best trees, because they don’t like them, and then apply for a permit to remove trees that are in poor condition afterward.
“We’re not protecting the most valuable trees that are suitable for retention for long term viability,” Sakurai said.
At the end of the meeting, council unanimously voted to refer Sakurai’s delegation to staff for a report. Coun. David Davis was absent.