North Cowichan’s council has been asked, once again, to establish a tree-protection bylaw in the municipality.
In a presentation to council at its meeting on April 21, Cynthia Montgomery, a board member with the Quamichan Lake Neighbourhood Association, pointed out that an environmental report recently prepared for North Cowichan by Diamond Head Consulting recommended, among other suggestions, that the municipality develop a tree-protection bylaw.
She said that many neighbouring jurisdictions to North Cowichan currently have such bylaws, and maybe it’s time for the municipality to consider having one as well.
“Our intent is not to stymie development, but to protect and enhance the many benefits that [mature trees] bestow on the community and people’s well being,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery pointed out that the many benefits of trees include sequestering carbon and providing clean air; tree roots protect against erosion and landslides and mitigate flooding; and they provide comfort in outdoor areas, which goes a long way to make communities more walkable and livable.
“Our Garry oak ecosystems are also in danger, and there are just slivers of them left, including a last stand in the Quamichan Lake neighbourhood,” she said.
Montgomery suggested a number of ways trees in North Cowichan can be protected through the establishment of a tree-protection bylaw, including requiring property owners to obtain a permit from the municipality to remove trees or face fines, and providing tax credits to property owners who have areas of tree canopies.
“There are so many reasons to preserve our mature native trees,” she said.
“The Quamichan Lake Neighbourhood Association requests that council consider the recommendations made in Diamond Head Consulting’s environmental report and implement a tree-protection bylaw.”
Coun. Christopher Justice acknowledged that Montgomery and the association had made a presentation to council on the issue, as well as providing a petition with more than 500 names asking for a tree bylaw, in 2019.
“One reason council may be slow in developing a tree-protection bylaw is that there are huge forest reserves surrounding us with lots of trees, but your presentation made the point that there are all sorts of [tree issues] outside those reserves and in the community, and the many benefits that trees provide,” he said.
Coun. Rosalie Sawrie also said that council had a conversation about enacting a tree bylaw earlier in its term, and many pros and cons were discussed.
“I’d like to see a tree-protection bylaw, but I’m curious to see staff recommendations on how we would continue this conversation, and whether it should follow the adoption of the [updated] official community plan,” she said.
CAO Ted Swabey said staff intend to discuss the issue, including the pros and cons, as part of its ongoing business planning, and will present plans on ways to move forward to council as part of the ongoing OCP review process.
It was also pointed out in the meeting that the current local area plans in North Cowichan also already include guidance regarding planning and trees.