Langley Township councillors will let next council carve out tree protection bylaw

A Brookswood resident says an emergency interim tree protection bylaw must be created.

Langley Township council agreed that the next council can finish the work it started on a tree protection bylaw.

Councillor Charlie Fox made motion to defer the matter because the next election is in October and there are only nine meetings remaining for this council.

He argued that with the limited time left, the Township must take the time to create a bylaw. One of the first steps is the creation of a tree protection bylaw committee.

But Coun. Kim Richter called the motion out of order and said this council can’t bind the next council with such a motion.

“This is just plain and simple politicking in the silly season,” she commented.

Coun. Bob Long said he also considered Fox’s motion out of order because at the last council meeting, the decision was made to refer the matter and the formation of a committee to staff.

Fox said a key consideration will be the cost of a tree protection bylaw. He noted that Richmond has three people responsible for tree protection bylaw enforcement only.

“We have none,” he said.

The cost for staff alone to enforce a bylaw would be more than $300,000 or a 0.36 per cent tax increase. Fox noted that taxpayers face a 0.5 per cent increase this year and a 1.5 per cent increase next year just to pay for the MSP changes so additional staffing would have to be discussed during the budget process.

“This needs to be carefully thought out,” Fox said.

Richter was critical of council for passing an OCP with a tree bylaw that only covers the undeveloped areas of Brookswood/Fernridge.

“What were we thinking,” she commented.

She also said much of the groundwork has been laid since the Township has had an interim bylaw and is no stranger to the issue.

Coun. Petrina Arnason said there is no way to get a tree protection bylaw complete and in place before the fall election.

She did not support the deferral but said the council and administration need more information before a bylaw can be created.

“We currently have not valid empirical information on our tree inventory,” she noted.

The council voted 5-4 to defer the matter.

Before Monday’s council meeting, Michelle Connerty was trying to rally residents to attend the meeting dressed in green and email all the councillors and administration about the need for a bylaw.

She wanted an interim bylaw “while we wait for this mayor and council or the next (October 2018), to implement a more permanent, comprehensive tree cutting Township-wide bylaw in the future.”

Langley Township is one of the few Metro Vancouver municipalities that doesn’t have a tree cutting bylaw, she noted. About 75 per cent of the Township falls within the Agricultural Land Reserve so any bylaw created by the Township would not apply to those lands.

Brookswood/Fernridge was covered by a temporary tree bylaw until November 2017 but the rest of the Township has never had protections.

After the meeting, she told the Langley Advance that she’s disappointed with the deferral.

“They may not complete the bylaw prior to end of their term, however they can get the work started,” she said.

Since the Township won’t get to work on this issue anytime soon, Connerty said an emergency interim tree protection bylaw is needed.

“Trees are coming down all over the TOL – mostly clear cuts – at an alarming rate. We are just on the edge of nesting season, this cannot wait,” she said.

• Letter: Charlie Fox responds to critics

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