As part of their ongoing effort to tidy and update old bylaws, Parksville city council advanced an updated tree management bylaw at their Aug. 8 committee of the whole meeting.
The update would broaden the definition of protected trees and the classification of damage to trees and increase the fee for a tree-cutting permit from $50 to $75 per tree.
The increased fee still doesn’t cover the actual cost of administering the bylaw, points out the report from staff.
“Trees are an integral part of the environmental sustainability of our community and as such there are severe, long term implications to their unregulated destruction,” the report says.
And mayor Chris Burger acknowledged that anything invoking tree management is likely to get a lot of attention.
Director of administrative services Debbie Comis said the bylaw provides clarity that will ultimately save the city money if they ever have to defend it in court.
Among the changes the new bylaw clarifies definitions like a “protected tree” being any with a diameter over 50 cm at 1.4 meters (4.5 feet) above the ground, including all eagle or great blue heron nesting trees, trees within 30 metres of a watercourse, or the top of a slope of 30 per cent or more.
It also includes any specific trees or plants that the city has named as “covenant trees” in development or subdivision plans. But it specifically excludes populus sp. (poplar) and alder trees.
Other than a few very specific exemptions like emergency removal of trees in dangerous positions from storm damage, protected trees can not be cut without a permit.
Burger said there are no exemptions for large or agricultural land reserve properties.
The bylaw doesn’t impact construction projects which have to go through a permitting process and BC Hydro is exempt when working on their utility infrastructure, which they almost always coordinate with the city said director of operations Alan Metcalf.
The penalty for violating the bylaw is a maximum of $10,000 per tree, with no minimum specified.
The bylaw was advanced to the Sept. 5 council meeting for the required readings.