Crews, here seen working on April 15, took down the Monterey cypress tree that stood at 9717 Second St. Council voted 4-3 to approval the removal of the tree. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Crews, here seen working on April 15, took down the Monterey cypress tree that stood at 9717 Second St. Council voted 4-3 to approval the removal of the tree. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney residents angry about removal of downtown tree

‘Shame On You’ sign aimed at councillors appears on logs

The removal of a tree in downtown Sidney estimated to be 18 metres tall and several decades old has sparked outrage from some nearby residents.

A since-removed sign reading ‘Shame On You’ with the names of Sidney council underneath appeared last week on the remains of a Monterey cypress that stood at 9717 Second St. after crews had taken the tree down over the course of several days.

“Numerous folks stood and watched as the last cut toppled the base and shook the ground under our homes,” said Peter Dolezal in a letter to the municipality shared with the Peninsula News Review.

“Many were in tears. This was a truly disgraceful decision on the part of four Sidney (councillors) who voted for this outcome,” he said, in praising Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith as well as Couns. Sara Duncan and Peter Wainwright for opposing the removal of the tree.

Dolezal feels there was “absolutely no reason for this Sidney landmark to be destroyed” and expressed hope that this move will not be repeated elsewhere in Sidney.

McNeil-Smith, who voted against removing the tree, told the Review, that among other points, the municipality has received several letters from residents expressing disappointment with the removal. “We will continue to appreciate and share the value the community places on trees, and to decide on the unique factors with each tree removal application that comes before us,” he said. Tree removal applications only come to council if staff recommend denying removal and the owner wants council to review their application.

Council voted 4-3 on March 22 to issue a tree removal permit it had received an application for on March 1 from Michele Holmes, according to a staff report.

Holmes said in an email to council dated March 8 that the tree has become an “issue of frequent concern” for her neighbours because large parts of its branches overhang the neighbouring property.

“Heavy storms and snow have, over the last years, broken off and damaged part of the neighbour’s roof and eavestroughs.”

The letter also described the tree as a hazard to pedestrians and parked cars, adding that firefighters closed parts of Second Street to pedestrians and vehicles following a snowstorm in which a large broken branch was hanging over the street. “The roots of the trees have also caused damage to the drainage system,” her email reads.

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Sidney staff had recommended council deny the permit. However, Couns. Barbara Fallot, Scott Garnett, Terri O’Keeffe and Chad Rintoul voted in favour of issuing the permit.

The permit request included reports from two certified arborists. Both reports noted the tree had a history of multiple limb failures while warning future failures were very probable and could result in structural damage to the house or neighbouring buildings, damage to municipal power line infrastructure and potential injury to pedestrians and vehicles.

“Given the location, again, in a busy part of downtown in close proximity to powerlines, and sidewalks where people are walking, and property, I think it is unfortunate that it has to come down,” O’Keeffe said.

Coun. Barbara Fallot had earlier also raised the possibility that the tree might come down anyway as the site faces the prospect of redevelopment. (The public heard that the property on which the tree stood is zoned C-1 downtown commercial).

Wainwright, meanwhile, pointed to the staff report. “If a development might happen on that site at some time in the future, and I’ll concede it’s even likely, the developer then can deal with removing the tree if that is an appropriate thing to do,” he said.

Staff acknowledged last month that the tree has had a history of limb failure during snow events, similar to many other trees of its kind, while noting “that this tree is healthy and not an imminent hazard.” Staff also recommended that 20 per cent of its foliage be trimmed.

RELATED: Saanich residents want to bring down CRD plans to cut down trees

Staff added that limb failure during snowstorms is, unfortunately, a characteristic of the trees because they originated in California.

“If this tree removal permit is approved, (council) should consider whether other Monterey cypress trees in Sidney should also be removed,” said Jenny Clary, Sidney’s director of engineering. Council, for its part, signalled that it would consider the larger question of whether to remove Monterey cypress trees on a case-by-case basis.

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