Tree bylaw passes final hurdle

Homeowners with trees causing problems on their property will get a sympathetic ear at city hall if they apply to chop them down under provisions of the new bylaw protecting Burnaby’s trees.

That’s the assurance of Mayor Derek Corrigan as council approved the implementation of the bylaw with some minor amendments.

The bylaw to protect the removal of trees now extends to every private property in the city, not just those slated for development. Permits would be required to cut down any coniferous tree greater than 12 inches in diameter and any deciduous tree bigger than 18 inches. Properties subject to a development application would require a permit to remove any tree greater than eight inches in diameter.

Permits to remove trees on property not being redeveloped will cost $70 per tree to a maximum of $500 while fines for cutting down trees without a permit increase to $500 from $300. Serious infractions could be fined up to $10,000. Owners of properties being redeveloped will pay $150 per tree up to $1,000 to remove them.

Every protected tree that’s smaller than 12 inches in diameter must be replaced by another tree when it’s cut down, and two new trees must be planted when a protected tree larger than 12 inches is removed. All other protected trees will need to be replaced by three new trees.

Only Coun. Sav Dhaliwal opposed the final approval of the bylaw. He said it infringes on the rights of property owners to use their discretion when removing trees and may even discourage them from planting new ones out of fear they could be a problem to remove later.

He said educating owners about the importance of preserving trees would be a better option.

But Corrigan said diseased or problem trees can still be cut down, as long as property owners follow the right procedures.

“We’ve taken away the ability to do a cavalier method of doing away with trees,” said Corrigan, who added the new bylaw was crafted by researching the ways neighbouring communities protect their trees.

Coun. Dan Johnston said the new rules might even create opportunities for residents to work together to get trees planted in their neighbourhoods, for instance along boulevards.

“There’s no intent to make this onerous,” said Johnston.

Coun. Pietro Calendino echoed that sentiment, asking city staff to use common sense when people apply to remove trees.

“Let’s not be too harsh on people with problem trees,” he said.

“We hope that discretion will be employed.”

And if the new bylaw proves too onerous, said Corrigan, it can always be revisited later.

“Bylaws aren’t written in stone,” he said.


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