Motorists cruise past street trees planted in a median strip on Highway 19A near the Alberni Highway intersection in downtown Parksville. — J.R. Rardon photo

Parksville council backs away from tree-free bylaw

Motion to postpone vote on subdivision bylaw passes unanimously

A proposed new subdivision servicing bylaw was scheduled to be given three readings by Parksville city council at its regular meeting Monday, Jan. 15.

It didn’t even make it to first reading.

The bylaw, crafted by city staff after being granted the go-ahead by council in its Dec. 18 meeting, was withdrawn after a reconsideration motion by Coun. Kirk Oates was approved unanimously.

The subdivision bylaw would have, among other things, eliminated the planting of street trees in new subdivision construction, a provision that drew prompt and vigorous opposition from many residents in the community.

“I feel I haven’t done my due diligence on this item,” Oates said at the start of the meeting, while asking to amend the agenda by removing City of Parksville Subdivision Servicing Bylaw, 2017, No. 1540 from consideration. “Various concerns have been raised that have caused me to realize we need to do more research on this and have more of these concerns addressed.”

The draft subdivision bylaw was shared with council in a report by city development engineer Rosa Telegus during the Dec. 18 meeting, after which council requested staff draft the statutory bylaw for consideration.

Related: Parksville subdivision bylaw eliminates street trees

“I would like to reconsider debate on this bylaw,” said Oates. “The report given to council last time referenced the removal of trees. I looked everywhere I could in my previous agenda packet and I can’t find the appendix where I assume all those details are addressed.”

Oates was not alone in his concern. Coun. Leanne Salter reminded fellow councillors that she said during the December meeting she had not had enough time to read fully the supporting documentation.

“In our last meeting, we received a USB (computer drive) and a 300-page document,” Salter said. “It was physically impossible for me to do all that work. Nevertheless, we made the decision. We realize it was the wrong decision, and the reason was we didn’t have time to go through it.”

That concern over time to review documents prompted another motion by Oates during the new business period later in the meeting, calling on staff to provide councillors their agenda packets “no fewer than” seven days prior to its scheduled meetings.

Currently, councillors typically receive their agendas on the Friday before their Monday evening meetings.

Debbie Comis, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the creation and release of agendas is part of a city procedural bylaw established in 2012. For council to change the schedule for agenda completion and delivery, it would need to request a change to that bylaw and go through the public process.

Oates then withdrew his initial motion and submitted a new motion calling on staff to begin the process of amending the procedural bylaw in question.

Council then debated the need for the earlier delivery of agendas, with alternate time frames offered as a possibility.

“I look forward to finding out what staff can do,” Coun. Mary Beil said. “I don’t necessarily feel it has to be seven (days) but there’s been times I’d dearly love to have the agenda earlier.”

Coun. Sue Powell dissented, saying that in 13 years on council, she has been comfortable with the time provided to research and ask questions after getting the agenda on Fridays. But she was in the minority.

“I would like more time, whether it’s five days or seven days,” Coun. Kim Burden added. “As has been pointed out, our last agenda was significantly more material than we’re used to. Any time we have more time to make a decision, it’s a gift.”

The motion passed 5-2, with Powell and Coun. Teresa Patterson voting against it.

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