Sooke council is delaying a plan for a tree-protection bylaw in favour of developing an education and support program focused on promoting an urban tree canopy in Sooke based on species, safety and location.
Eleven communities in the Capital Regional District have specific bylaws governing the protection of trees. The exceptions are Sooke and Langford.
Coun. Tony St-Pierre said the plan would meet the community’s needs while moving plans forward to create either a tree bylaw or policy in the future.
“The community needs time to look at all the options in what they’d prefer to see,” he said.
A staff report said the district has worked on a tree management strategy since December 2020, including receiving extensive feedback from stakeholders and the public while exploring how other municipalities manage trees. Further public input was curtailed due to the pandemic.
Staff wanted to develop a purpose-based engagement strategy this spring.
“(Purposed-based engagement) will determine what values are most important – what’s in, what is out,” the report stated. It also allows staff to manage community expectations by asking questions.
“We need to determine what the community wants and whether it be a policy, bylaw or perhaps nothing at all. Perhaps they just want education,” said Laura Hooper, Parks and Environmental Services manager.
The engagement plan received push-back from some members of council.
St-Pierre said a tree bylaw would do nothing except protect trees and doesn’t consider other actions such as climate change.
“I don’t believe we need a tree bylaw. We certainly need some policy,” said Coun. Al Beddows.
There is no tree protection in Sooke, unless in a municipal right-of-way, park or riparian area.
Sooke’s draft OCP calls for a tree protection bylaw.
Beddows said further input is needed on tree protection, but now isn’t the time as council hopes to push through the OCP, an open house is planned for the Sooke Lions Club’s John Phillips Memorial Park project and the municipal election is this fall.
Council abandoned the plan for the purpose-based engagement for tree management and urged the next council to take it up but agreed to an education program.
“It’s a wonderful compromise solution,” Coun. Jeff Bateman said.