From left, volunteers Neesha Desai, Daxton Desai, Ranni Desai and Kurt Roberts take part in a community tree and shrub planting event at Foster Park in Parksville last September. — NEWS file photo

Parksville council talks trees

As subdivision bylaw heads to public review, new planting OK’d

Parksville city council has set a date to offer the public its say on a contentious subdivision bylaw that would reduce the number of city-owned street trees in new developments.

It has also given preliminary approval to the planting of 1,000 new trees in the city.

Sitting in as acting mayor for the absent Marc Lefebvre during the regular council meeting on Feb. 5, Coun. Kirk Oates announced a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, to allow public comment on the draft subdivsion service bylaw first approved in December, then rescinded in January by council, pending review.

Related: Parksville subdivision bylaw eliminates street trees

Related: Parksville council backs away from tree-free bylaw

The meeting will take place in the council chambers at the Parksville Civic and Technology Forum, 100 Jensen Ave. E.

The bylaw proposal, a 300-page document, was shared with council by Rosa Telegus, city development engineer during council’s Dec. 18 meeting. It would have eliminated city street trees in new developments due to smaller verges between streets/sidewalks and private dwellings, combined with larger water supply lines and sanitary and storm sewer drains.

With all utilities mandated to run underground, planners were concerned buried pipes and utilities would be at risk from roots of maturing trees in close proximity.

To offset the loss of street trees, the proposed bylaw offered an incentive for individual property owners to plant trees, through a rebate offer.

Council initially voted to direct staff to move a draft subdivision servicing bylaw, but received negative reaction from some members of the public concerned with the elimination of street trees. When the draft bylaw appeared before council at its Jan. 15 meeting, Oates forwarded a motion for reconsideration, which was approved unanimously.

“I feel I haven’t done my due dilligence on this item,” Oates said while calling for more research and public input on the bylaw.

Residents wishing to provide comments or feedback to council are asked to submit them in writing by noon on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Comments may be emailed to administration@parksville.ca, mailed to Administration Department, City of Parksville, PO Box 1390, Parksville, BC, V9P 2H3, or dropped off in person at 100 Jensen Ave. E.

Meanwhile, council is exploring other ways to add trees to the city’s inventory.

Before Oates announced the special meeting, Coun. Kim Burden said he attended a recent quarterly meeting of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, in which the MABR announced Canada has recently committed to planting 100,000 new trees through its nationwide network of biosphere regions.

“Apparently, 75,000 of those have been gobbled up by Quebec,” Burden told council. “But I would like to request, through Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region, that Parksville plants 1,000 of the trees.”

Burden said Island Timberlands and TimberWest have jointly agreed to provide the trees, and that Vancouver Island University will “look after recruiting a group of people” to plant them.

“They’re requesting a hectare of land to plant the trees,” said Burden, adding that the land chosen for the planting must be protected for at least 50 years and that the trees must be planted by May 15.

Burden made a motion that city staff be directed to explore a location best suited for planting and prepare a report to provide council.

Coun. Leanne Salter expressed the opinion that, should the 97-acre Erminskine Lands, purchased by the city in 2017, be chosen for the site, that longtime parkland advocate and planner Christopher Stevens be included in the consultation.

“We’re not suggesting any location at this time,” Burden responded. “We’re looking at direction from staff on where we can find a location to plant 1,000 trees.”

Coun. Mary Beil then suggested the trees could be spread out among various properties, rather than be planted in a single block.

“If we’re looking to cover one hectare overall, that suggests to me the possibility the land won’t have to be owned by the city,” Beil said.

Burden did not rule out the possibility of planting on non-city owned property, while reiterating, “As long as the trees are protected for a period of 50 years.”

The motion for staff to explore locations and provide a report was approved unanimously.

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