A homeowner in Uplands was denied an appeal to remove a pair of mature Garry oak trees (not shown in photo) at Oak Bay council on Monday. It was the third straight Oak Bay council session where an applicant applied to remove a healthy tree(s). (Black Press File Photo)

Uplands homeowner the latest to lose tree removal appeal

Oak Bay denies appeal to fall healthy tree for third straight council

For the third straight Oak Bay council meeting a homeowner appealed the municipal arborist report and asked council for permission to remove a healthy tree.

This time it was Bill Ritchie at 3260 Exeter Rd. in the Uplands seeking to remove to mature Garry oaks. Ritchie had an unique case in that he and his partner built a new home on the property a few years ago and at that time, they could have removed the two Garry oaks in question. If the municipal arborist denies a tree removal application, homeowners in Oak Bay can appeal it before council.

On Sept. 30 the homeowners at 2861 Cadboro Bay Rd. were denied the removal of two large deodara pine trees. On Oct. 15 council denied the removal of a large spruce tree that stands prominent in Fireman’s Park at the back of the 1718 Monteith St.

READ MORE: Nuisance tree will remain on permiter of Fireman’s Park

READ MORE: South Oak Bay resident wins fight to remove tree

Though council did grant an appeal in June for a resident to take down a giant but healthy deodura cedrus in her yard on St. Patrick Street, council has now denied the past three tree removal applications. Monday’s request was denied in a unanimous vote. But with a light agenda (council only lasted one hour and 28 minutes on Monday), council took some time to carefully deliberate on the matter.

Mayor Kevin Murdoch questioned why the homeowners didn’t take these two Garry oaks down during construction, when they had the chance. (They since reverted to being protected by Oak Bay’s strict tree bylaw.)

“We wanted to keep them,” Ritchie said. “The trees survived blasting for construction and we were happy. But then a big oak came down, luckily no one was hurt. Another 1.5 years ago another oak came down. Why? We don’t know.”

Ritchie pointed to increased winds due to climate change as a possible reason and a threat to the two oaks.

READ MORE: Oak Bay hosts tree appreciation day at Uplands Park

READ ALSO: Oak Bay tree removal denied due to climate crisis

However, the sentiment council expressed during the past two tree removals remained the same. Council supported the staff report despite the applicant’s argument he’s planted 40-plus trees since 2014 and 16 Japanese maples.

“I’ve unfortunately not heard anything from the experts to say that the danger you’re experiencing is any different than the danger I’m experiencing,” said Coun. Eric Zhelka. “I also have a number of old Garry oaks.”

Zhelka also noted that when the John Olmstead firm laid out the Uplands plan, plotting the house lots and roads, they were extremely careful to plan around the Garry oaks.

Last week Chris Hyde-Lay, manager of Parks Services, said that while there are generally a few appeals each year to remove trees that were deemed healthy, seeing three in a row is an anomaly.

“We had 36 [tree removal] permit applications this month,” Hyde-Lay said. “Many were refusals.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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