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Proposed tree bylaw shows shades of Big Brother: resident
A Burnaby man says he loves trees and has several in his backyard but should be allowed to cut them down if he ever wants to without interference from city hall.
Walter Hallam appeared at Monday's council meeting to oppose proposed changes to Burnaby's tree bylaw.
"I think it goes without saying that fewer and less restrictive bylaws are preferable," Hallam said.
Homeowners normally trim trees on their properties and remove them when they're diseased, dangerous or not in a suitable location, he said.
"Why does Big Brother, in the name of Burnaby city council, have to involve itself in this normal and innocent way of living our lives?"
Currently, the tree bylaw only applies to single-family and duplex properties in the process of being redeveloped. Under the proposed revised bylaw it would apply to all private land, under development or not, and all city-owned land being developed, according to a city staff report. The new rules would only affect significant trees of a certain size.
In over 40 years of living in Burnaby, Hallam said he has removed two large alders, one large maple, and at least four evergreens from his yard while three significant evergreens have fallen during windstorms. His neighbour's Douglas fir also fell, causing about $25,000 in damage to Hallam's roof.
He has about eight trees left on his land and if he wants to remove some because he's worried they're in danger of falling, he wants more sunlight or an increased view, they're diseased, "or I'm just tired of looking at them,"
he believes he should be allowed to without having to get the city's permission, pay a permit fee for each tree and plant replacements.
"It's on the city's part to show we're somehow losing trees, that there's a shortage," Hallam said. "I look around and I don't see that shortage."
In fact, he said, the bylaw changes could result in people taking down more trees to avoid having no choice at all when the trees get large enough that greater restrictions take effect, something that happened to his daughter's family in North Vancouver district.
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal was sympathetic to Hallam, saying the restrictions could discourage people from planting trees in the first place.
But there was a good reason for the proposed revisions, said Coun. Colleen Jordan, who noted several large delegations of residents brought a petition indicating a need to save significant trees that are disappearing from neighbourhoods.
There have been cases where homeowners have removed large, healthy trees and replaced their yards with pavement as part of a remodelling or rebuild of their homes, she said. The city gets a lot of complaints when significant trees are taken down.
Mayor Derek Corrigan said part of the reason people are concerned about losing trees is that they've become a less dominant feature in neighbourhoods as houses have become larger and there is less tendency to have gardens than in decades past.
Corrigan said the city is trying to strike a balance between property rights and neighbourhood interests.
"Even though you own a piece of property, you live amongst neighbours."
Following the public consultation process, city staff will report back to council with any suggested changes to the bylaw proposals before seeking final approval.