The trees are back in Parksville.
City council approved an amendment to remove a requirement to eliminate the planting of public street trees in new subdivision developments during a special public hearing and meeting Monday, Feb. 26, at the forum in downtown Parksville.
Council then approved the repeal and replacement of Subdivision Servicing Bylaw, 1996, No. 1261, and directed staff to prepare a new bylaw to be brought before council at its March 13 meeting.
“For me, it goes back to the requirement for the elimination of street trees on local roads,” said Coun. Kirk Oates, whose motion to reconsider an earlier approval of the bylaw proposal led to Monday’s public hearing. “That bothered me, because most of the time you hear the phrase, ‘tree-lined streets,’ it’s preceded by the word ‘beautiful.’
“I think this council is committed to keeping our city Parksville, not Cementville.”
The proposed subdivision bylaw is a wide-ranging document addressing all aspects of permitting and construction of new developments. But it was a section recommending the elimination of public street trees that drew criticism from the community and ultimately led to council’s decision to rescind the approval it initially gave on Dec. 28, 2017.
Following that approval, the draft bylaw was brought to council at its Jan. 17 meeting, but before it was read, Oates introduced a motion to reconsider and to schedule a public meeting.
“I can’t recall in recent memory when a particular item like this bylaw has been so thoroughly discussed,” Mayor Marc Lefebvre said. “Not only did we ask to postpone it and bring it back and have more consultation, also five stakeholders were consulted.”
Lefebvre cited consultation sessions involving the Parksville Downtown Business Association, the Oceanside Development Construction Association, the chamber of commerce, the Vancouver Island Construction Association and the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board, as well as six engineering consulting sessions.
Monday’s special public hearing drew an additional 21 written submissions, one delegation and six members of the public who spoke directly to council with their ideas and concerns. Most expressed support for public tree-planting, but rainwater runoff control and collection also got an extensive discussion. A small minority supported the original bylaw proposal, citing the city’s $12,000 annual tree maintenance expense and the damage caused to downtown sidewalks by maturing trees.
“For me, I moved the motion for reconsideration because of the requirement to remove street trees being removed from the bylaw,” Oates said. “That was simply what I was focused on. But when you ask for feedback, you’ve got to be prepared for scrutiny of the bylaw in its entirety.”
The proposed bylaw applies only to new development, and no trees would be removed from existing subdivisions under its terms, director of engineering and operations Vaughn Figueira said.
Following the public consultation Monday, Oates introduced the amendment to remove the language eliminating street trees from the proposed bylaw. It passed unanimously, with councillors Kim Burden and Teresa Patterson absent.
The vote to rescind the existing bylaw and prepare a new subdivision servicing bylaw also passed, 5-0.
“I want to thank council for reconsidering this; I think it takes a lot to say we need to take another look and make sure we get it right,” said Oates. “In my short time on council it’s drawn the largest outpouring from the broadest cross-section of people in the shortest amount of time.
“There’s been emails, letters to the editor, people stopping me on the street. There’s even been poems in the paper, that’s how passionate people are about this.”