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Updated: council votes against tree-cutting ban in Brookswood
A temporary ban on clear-cutting trees in Brookswood was rejected by Langley Township council Monday and so was beginning the process of drafting a permanent tree protection bylaw.
One week after a 7-2 majority voted to prepare an “Interim Tree Preservation Bylaw,” the draft regulation was turned down.
The vote was 5-4, with Mayor Jack Froese and Councillor Grant Ward, who originally were the only members of council to oppose the proposed temporary restrictions, joined by Councillors Bob Long, Bev Dornan and Charlie Fox to defeat it.
Councillor Kim Richter, who proposed the temporary prohibition, was in the minority, supported by Councillors David Davis, Steve Ferguson and Michelle Sparrow.
By the same 5-4 margin, council later voted against beginning work on a permanent bylaw to provide pre-development protection to trees in Brookswood.
The 75-day ban proposed by Richter was to allow time to develop a more comprehensive tree protection bylaw.
During the discussion leading up to the Monday votes on tree cutting limits more than one member of council referred to the last time the Township tried to draft a Brookswood tree protection bylaw, in 2007.
It was an effort that generated controversy and ended with the unanimous rejection of a proposed set of regulations by council.
“There was such an uproar,” Councillor Grant Ward said.
“We went through this before.”
The 2007 bylaw would only have applied to quarter-acre lots in Brookswood and would have required neighbours to approve tree-cutting or pruning.
An April 27, 2007 Times report on the decision showed 54 of 55 respondents complained it would interfere with property owners’ rights and should be scrapped.
Shortly before the Monday afternoon vote, the same issue was raised by Fernridge resident Gloria Dreyer, who appeared before council to say the proposed temporary ban and permanent tree cutting bylaw should be voted down.
“These laws are an attack against property owner’s rights,” Dreyer said.
“When did cutting trees on private property become an act of aggression?”
Dreyer went on to say that the push for a tree-cutting ban was the work of a “vocal minority” of people, some of them people who don’t live in the area.
Dornan echoed the Dreyer position, saying the ban would interfere with owners’ rights.
Fox said the Township lacks resources to enforce a ban.
“We’ve got three bylaw [enforcement] officers who are run ragged right now,” Fox said.
Long said the attempt at a ban would have the opposite effect of accelerating tree-cutting.
“Every time you talk about a bylaw, out comes another chainsaw,” Long said.
Mayor Jack Froese agreed, saying “without that motion [a temporary ban] in place, we are perhaps jeopardizing more trees than we are saving,” adding “I really believe in property owner rights.”
Sparrow said the temporary ban would have allowed time for public consultation about a permanent ban.
Ferguson said the fact a different bylaw drew opposition in 2007 doesn’t mean a 2014 bylaw couldn’t win support.
“Things change over time,” Ferguson said.
Richter said it was “somewhat hypocritical” to vote down a temporary ban and then use that as an argument against drafting a permanent tree protection bylaw.
Richter served notice she will be seeking to have the issue put on the ballot in the Nov. 15 municipal election, filing a hand-written notice that calls for a referendum on a tree protection bylaw.
It says Langley Township is “one of the few municipalities in the Lower Mainland that doesn’t have a tree protection bylaw” and there has been “considerable concern” expressed about clear-cutting.
The defeat of the proposed interim prohibition comes one week after Brookswood residents crowded into council chambers to complain that wholesale tree-cutting they said has denuded many acres of the semi-rural neighbourhood.
Some suggested the tree-cutting was being carried out by developers who expected council would approve a revised community plan that would allow multi-family housing in Brookswood, a neighbourhood that is 99.7 per cent single-family homes.
Even though the controversial community plan was voted down, the cutting is continuing, some residents said.