Saanich residents seeking permits to cut down trees will now need to contend with increased requirements and costs.
Council unanimously approved amendments to Saanich tree protection bylaw during a committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 16.
In March, council endorsed four recommendations to strengthen the bylaw, two of which have been addressed in the recent amendments – increasing tree replacements, security deposits to ensure the trees are planted and other administrative updates.
Coun. Ned Taylor explained that council members felt that proposed adjustments to the bylaw would have a positive impact on the District. When tackling tree replacement in a “case-by-case” fashion, it’s tougher to make change, he explained.
With a blanket adjustment that will affect all future tree cutting permit applicants, Saanich can “ensure the protection of our urban forests,” Taylor said. He noted that there District must strike a balance between protecting trees and allowing development to contend with the housing crisis.
For each tree to be altered or cut, the amended bylaw outlines the number and size of trees required to replace it.
One replacement tree is required if a permit applicant proves a tree is hazardous, impedes the operation of utilities, may affect a building’s foundation walls, is on rural lands or has been deemed inappropriate for its location by an arborist. A security deposit of $300 per tree will now be required under these circumstances. Security deposits will be returned once bylaw officers confirm the replacement tree is in good health.
For trees cut down because they were growing within a building’s blueprints or because the tree was impeding the construction of a driveway, parking area, septic tank or utility corridor, two replacement trees will be required. Three trees will be required for trees removed because they’re in the way of construction of a road, access route or service of a bare land strata subdivision as approved by the Director of Engineering. A security deposit of $700 per tree will be required in situations where two or three replacement trees are needed.
The Director of Parks and Recreation can waive the replacement tree requirements depending on the situation. No replacement trees are required for protected trees permitted for removal if they are in the Interface Fire Development Area and have been deemed a fire hazard or are on the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Taylor pointed out that one of the District’s responses to declaring a climate emergency was to pledge to plant 10,000 trees by 2025 – requiring that the municipality plant double the number of trees typically planted annually. He feels the updated Tree Protection Bylaw will ensure that residents and developers are also adding trees to the area.
Council will be presented with further potential adjustments to the bylaw in 2020.