An Oak Bay resident will be removing a large tree from her front yard after she won an appeal to council on Monday.
Sally Hubbard of St. Patrick Street had her original application to remove a Cedrus deodara, which is an imported Middle Eastern-style tree that is drought hardy and grows tall, denied by Oak Bay Parks Services which oversees trees.
At 21 metres high (69 feet) and nearly a metre across in diameter, the tree is covered by Oak Bay’s tree protection bylaw. Hubbard claimed that the healthy tree shed its needles at a high rate and was costing her $1,000 every two years to clean the home’s perimeter drains.
Hubbard appealed the decision, citing, among other reasons, that the current revisions to Oak Bay’s tree bylaw might have changed and permitted removal of the tree. However, revisions underway for the tree protection bylaw are, in fact, to support Oak Bay’s Urban Forest Strategy, said Parks Services manager Chris Hyde-Lay.
The new tree protection bylaw will not have a mechanism that would make this request any different, Hyde-Lay told council.
Most healthy trees lost in Oak Bay are due to development and are replaced at a two-to-one ratio.
However, in Hubbard’s case, her claims of financial hardship – she will have to pay for regular pruning on top of cutting the roots away from the perimeter drain on a near-annual basis – were recognized by council who voted to approve the permit. Only Couns. Andrew Appleton and Cairine Greene voted against the motion.
“We’re looking at a situation where urban trees will be under additional stress, they are going to be seeking water by getting into our perimeter drains, ditching branches and being less healthy than in the past,” Appleton said, adding tree roots go into the perimeter drains of his own house. “I think you’re going to find a really large percentage of tree roots into perimeter drains across Oak Bay and this could open up having to review those projects on a regular basis. I caution against that.”
Hubbard agreed to work with Oak Bay Parks in selecting a replacement for the Cedrus deodora.
That makes it 5,001 trees Oak Bay hopes to plant on private property and 1,400 on public property in the next 26 years, all medium to large. The District’s objective is to increase the current amount of tree canopy from 33 per cent to 40 per cent by 2045.
Hyde-Lay further clarified on Wednesday the challenging position Oak Bay is in due to the maturity of its urban forest, which has lost 1,500 trees since 2013 that were (over 60cm in diameter) dead, diseased or dying.
“We’re looking hard at the renewal of this forest, it’s the very reason we love to live here,” Hyde-Lay said. “It’s what creates the streetscapes.
“We hope that people begin to look at that as an integral part of the infrastructure, not just roads and sewer,” Hyde-Lay said. “Trees are the only piece of the infrastructure that increase in value and add benefit the older they get.”