After years of discussing the issue, Langley Township council voted in favour of a tree protection bylaw Monday evening.
The bylaw was approved unanimously, but only after the council batted around a pair of amendments proposed by Councillor Eric Woodward.
The bylaw bans the removal of trees from rural and residential property without a permit, but it was the exemptions that had council debating for some time.
One exemption allows removal of trees less than 30 centimetres in diameter at about chest-height without a permit.
Woodward wanted to reduce that to 20 centimetres, based on comments from the public hearing earlier this month, he said.
He noted that the bylaw also allows landowners to remove one tree every two years without giving any reason, and permit fees are waived for that exception.
“I think it should remain at 30,” said Coun. Blair Whitmarsh.
But the council, which was sitting with Mayor Jack Froese absent for the evening, passed that amendment on a five to three vote.
Later in the evening, Coun. Kim Richter called for reconsideration of the amendment, to bring the rule into line with existing Township guidelines about the size of significant trees at 30 cm.
The second vote saw the amendment fail on a seven to one vote. This means the exemption on tree cutting will still extend to any tree below 30 centimetres in diameter.
Woodward’s second amendment, which passed, removed a “species exclusion” that allowed a few types of trees, including cottonwoods, to be cut down regardless of size.
Despite the debate, the council was broadly in favour of some form of tree protection bylaw.
“All I can tell you is give trees a chance,” quipped Coun. Petrina Arnason.
Several councillors, including Woodward and Coun. Steve Ferguson, mentioned that reviewing the bylaw again in a year might be a good idea.
Trees can still be cut down for a wide variety of reasons, including for farming purposes, to install a building or septic tank, or if there is any hazard from the tree.
The bylaw must be given one final approval from council before becoming official.