Saanich trees may be getting a bit more protection, depending on the outcome of an upcoming review of one of the district’s environmental bylaws.
At Monday’s meeting, Saanich council approved a recommendation for the environment and natural areas committee to review the district’s tree protection bylaw. The review was spurred by residents who spoke to various applications and identified improvements that would potentially help the retention of protected trees in the development process.
Coun. Judy Brownoff, who submitted the report to council, said the review is an attempt to address issues that residents have raised around tree protection during the last few years.
“This month, I was approached by a resident who said that a property behind her had sold to a developer and there were protected trees removed without a permit,” recalled Brownoff. “The developer paid the fine and planted the replacement trees. The developer then flipped or sold the property and the new owner didn’t maintain the trees and they’re dead.
“She spoke to Saanich and was told because of a new owner, there was no real position we could take, and she wanted us to look at a bylaw to see if there was something we could do.”
Brownoff and other councillors noted the tree bylaw is distinct from Saanich’s EDPA bylaw and that the two should be treated independently.
“The tree bylaw is, to start with, a general bylaw that applies to all properties in Saanich for specific protection of trees,” said Coun. Vic Derman. “The EDPA applies to some properties for the protection of existing ecosystems or remnants of ecosystems and possible restoration.”
Derman added that it’s not uncommon to look at bylaws for potential improvements, and that any recommendations from the committee would trigger a staff report, followed by a bylaw amendment process, which would allow for adequate opportunity for public comment.
“Anything we do with the protection of trees and urban forest… will involve a multi-pronged attack,” he said. “We will need to plant lots of trees, and we will need to involve the public in doing that.”
Brownoff also said she’s heard from concerned residents about climate change and whether or not the district’s climate action lens applies to trees on the preferred tree list for plantings.
“My motion really is to have our environment and natural areas advisory committee have a look at the bylaw to see if these items I’ve raised can be addressed or should be addressed, and any other items that council may see going to them,” she said. “I expect that a report of motion will come back to this council, and it could be nothing will change or it could be a change would be appropriate.”
Coun. Dean Murdock echoed Brownoff’s sentiments, saying that a review may do a lot to address any shortcomings within the current bylaw.
“The committee may ultimately find that this bylaw is working as it should,” Murdock noted. “We really are not in a position to judge it at this point. I’m quite happy to see the committee take a look at it.
“This is actually part of an urban forest strategy, and I view that as the larger initiative of protecting and improving our tree cover in Saanich.”