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Delta tree clear cutting described as "becoming critical"

Planning staff are conducting reviews of other municipal bylaws
delta tree cutting concerns
Delta council was previously told that, despite tree bylaws, local governments have limitations when it comes to impacting a private property owner’s right to build a new house that meets zoning regulations.

Delta city staff are reviewing what other measures can be implemented to strengthen tree protection in the city.

That was the answer from planning staff during council’s discussion at its June 27 meeting on several development applications involving the removal of a significant number of trees from the properties, all abiding by the current zoning bylaw.

Frustration was expressed when it came to a letter from a resident expressing dismay over the recent removal of 10 large trees from a property in Beach Grove to make way for a new larger home, a removal that received the appropriate tree removal permit from Delta. The letter writer noted that the 20 replacement trees would take decades to grow.

Noting she has a lot of empathy for area residents after having viewed before-and-after photos, Coun. Lois Jackson said, “I can’t help but feel sad that we have a totally denuded site here and obviously it’s resonating with some of the people in the neighbourhood. I just wanted to say that these are the rules that we allowed and maybe at some point in time we can review those rules.”

Coun. Jeannie Kanakos said council has been struggling with the clear-cutting of lots, wondering if other measures such as incentives should be explored.

“The tree bylaw just isn’t doing it and maybe that’s not the tool that should be used,” she said. “It’s becoming critical, it’s becoming really alarming.”

Community Planning Director Marcy Sangret said staff are aware of the concerns about the removal of trees for new developments and had previously given council information on the legislated limitations when it comes to tree bylaws.

Changes to Delta’s tree bylaw were approved last December, requiring additional tree replacements for large-diameter trees. Sangret said staff at the time were asked to come back with more ideas on what can be done when it comes to development sites and that work is currently underway.

Coun. Bruce McDonald said one problem is that trees on property lines often have to be cleared due to regulations, but there are building solutions that builders are already starting to use.

McDonald said he also experienced the problem with two trees that had to be removed within his own property line. That was due to a development next door creating a foundation dig that would have damaged the trees.

“That’s something we should be looking at now. There are building systems now, without even restricting the size of the house that could have less impact on a property. I think we should be looking at stuff like that,” said McDonald.

Jackson added that the face of Delta is changing and there has to be a better way to move forward.

“It may be that we have to get more creative with our planning and our plans that are on a specific lot that require that the trees be retained,” she said. “If this community is going to continue to dig 12-foot basements, and they have to be a lot wider and a lot deeper in order to get around them to construct them, then we are going to see a continuation of what we have here today…What we’re doing today, with the cutting down of all these trees, the big ones, and replanting little tiny trees is not helping solve the environmental problems.”

Staff will report back with options for heightened protection of significant trees and whether additional measures could be used to address tree removal in connection with building applications, particularly proposed accessory buildings and structures.

The review is also taking into account legal issues when it comes to the interaction between municipal zoning, which permits homes to be built to a specific size, and tree bylaws.

Staff are also conducting reviews of other municipal bylaws.