EDITORIAL: Trees spared from chopping block

Like U.S. President George Washington, in the tale of his being asked as a youth whether he chopped down his father’s prize cherry tree, Parksville councillors couldn’t tell a lie.

Council made its mea culpa Monday when it voted unanimously to pull a subdivision bylaw vote from its meeting agenda and reconsider the bylaw’s provisions, one of which is a potential elimination of street trees in new subdivisions.

After receiving an engineering report on the draft bylaw in December, council directed staff to prepare the bylaw for a vote. But well before the subdivison appeared on the agenda for three readings at this week’s council meeting, the public had cast its own votes through calls to the city, messages to councillors and letters to this newspaper.

Final totals are not available, but it’s safe to say the trees won in a landslide.

Before Monday’s meeting in council chambers had a chance to take root, Coun. Kirk Oates pruned the subdivision bylaw from the agenda with a motion that council was quick to support, citing the need to dig deeper into the bylaw’s details.

Before any of us come down on council with a righteous “Gotcha!”, there’s nothing in the record to suggest any of the current councillors actually hate trees.

Before the pollen had settled on council’s vote to reconsider the subdivision bylaw, Ronda Murdock took the microphone on behalf of the Mid-Island chapter of the Wilderness Committe, to share its appreciation for council’s aquisition last fall of the 97-acre “Ermineskin” lands, to be maintained in perpetuity as parkland.

Likewise, December’s council decision to forward the subdivision bylaw was closely followed by a development proposal by Radcliffe Development that included planting its own urban forest where none currently exists. Nobody at the council table suggested Radcliffe scrap the forest idea.

We understand the concern of those who have watched trees coming down on private land, or who have frowned while driving past timber company slash piles each fall. This bylaw probably looked like the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

But municipalities have to walk a fine line between development and urban forestation,and there is a real cost to city-owned trees on city-owned land. Which is to say, a taxpayer cost.

If tree planting is restored in a revised version of this bylaw, we’ll be putting our money where our mouths are. — Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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