It could be a lot more difficult removing big trees in Delta.
City staff this week brought forward to a council workshop proposed amendments to the tree protection bylaw, changes that may still needed to be further ironed out before heading back for preliminary approval.
Already having directed staff to come up with a new urban forest strategy, and the city having a tree replacement policy, council this spring asked planning staff to see what further changes can be made to the bylaw in order to protect bigger trees from being removed.
The move came following increasing complaints about lots being clear cut of big trees to make way for new houses.
Some of the proposed changes include requiring more replacement trees when larger trees are cut and having more large replacement trees, where feasible. Removing a large diameter tree could result in a two-for-one replacement of big trees.
Other changes include increasing the tree security/cash-in-lieu amount to better reflect the actual cost of tree planting, doubling the current tree cutting permit fee, changes to the pruning regulations as well as stiffer penalties for unauthorized removals.
One of the biggest changes is the addition of a “significant trees” category.
They are defined as having “significant value to the community because of special characteristics such as size, age, uniqueness of species, uniqueness of ecosystem, or heritage or landmark value.”
Those trees would be more difficult to remove unless warranted by special circumstances, such as posing a danger.
Removing a large, significant tree without permission could result in a fine up to $10,000.
Additionally, staff are recommending that an interpretation guide for the bylaw be provided on the city's website and that a new arborist position for administration of the bylaw be considered, noting Delta's bylaws and development services staff do not specialize in arboriculture.
Staff reviewed tree bylaw regulations in Surrey, Langley Township, Abbotsford, Richmond, Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Maple Ridge, West Vancouver, North Vancouver District, Victoria and Duncan to make sure any changes are line with current and progressive practices.
The amendments would still need to be discussed at various advisory committees before going back to council.
Delta last updated its tree bylaw in 2015 to allow one tree to be cut without an arborist's report, or outside of an emergency, every 24 months instead of one each calendar year.
The previous revision of the tree bylaw was in 2006.
A report to council last year noted an analysis based on 2016 aerial photos showed increases in the tree canopy in all three Delta communities from a 2004 baseline.
The city said the canopy growth could be attributed to a more restrictive tree protection bylaw that was adopted in conjunction with an urban reforestation project.