All present: Mayor Maja Tait and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath, Brenda Parkinson and Tony St-Pierre.
Among the many contentious items discussed at the most recent Regular Council meeting was a motion brought forward by Councillor Brenda Parkinson, requesting staff to prepare a report regarding a Tree Protection Bylaw. The motion was seconded by Councillor Jeff Bateman.
Motion: “That the District of Sooke Parking Bylaw/Policy be brought forward to the next Committee of the Whole so that Council may have a fulsome discussion on how to improve the situation taking place in so many of the Districts subdivisions.”
As presented by Parkinson:
“I would like to see the District of Sooke implement a Tree Preservation/Protection Bylaw in an effort to protect trees, particularly trees that are native, heritage, home to different species and of landmark value.
“Thousands of trees make up our ‘urban forest’ and provide abundant environmental, health, esthetic and property-value benefits to our community. Regardless of whether trees grow on private or public land, the removal or damage to trees should be monitored.
“Each year, many trees on private property are destroyed or damaged due to construction, disease and irresponsible acts. The District of Sooke needs to implement a Tree Preservation/Protection Bylaw in an effort to protect trees.
“This past year (including this month) acres of trees have been clear-cut from properties for no apparent reason. Truly a bad time of year to be doing this as the local animals and birds now have to look for new habitats.
“Trees are a public health issue, trees clean and cool the air, create oxygen and as well as decrease carbon dioxide.
“Many of our neighbouring communities have Tree Protection Bylaws including Metchosin, Langford, Victoria and Oak Bay.
“We of all communities should be creating a Bylaw and protecting our trees.”
Passionately opposed was Councillor Al Beddows. He argued that staff has more pressing things to do than to monitor trees. This would be an intrusion in people’s homes and lives. With a bylaw, taking down a tree becomes a big process, and who decides what trees are to be protected, and which can come down? Who will enforce this? What about liability? If we say no to a tree removal and then the wind blows it down, are we liable? It would require a new hire, at about $65K per year.
Matching the emotion of the passionate opposition was Councillor Ebony Logins. This is a “fantastic request,” she emphatically said, saying it was urgently needed, and a legitimate contemporary concern. Victoria didn’t do this at the right time, and now they are struggling with this. The tree bylaw would require additional work, she acknowledged, but a certified arbourist can be contracted. There’s actual science to this, and it’s a professional career. Sooke is one of the few municipalities that doesn’t have such a bylaw, and we need to get on it.
Bateman added that one of Sooke’s parks employers is on their way to becoming a local tree specialist, so an expert resource would be on hand. He strongly supported the positions taken by Parkinson and Logins.
Attempting to keep the conversation on point was Mayor Maja Tait, who noted the motion was for a report, not a bylaw. The debate on the merits of a bylaw would come later, depending on the staff report, their recommendations, and Council’s decisions.
Councillor Tony St-Pierre noted that trees are actually very important in terms of climate change, adding that regulations are important and that laws exist for the greater good.
Councillor Megan McMath originally stated that she likes the idea in principle but that she wouldn’t support it, saying it was not the most pressing bylaw in front of them today. That said, she was ultimately swayed and voted in favour of the report.
Adding to his objection, Beddows, clarified that he was objected to the additional burden such a bylaw would put on the individual home owner. This was this very thing he wants to avoid, having a home owner spent hundreds of dollars to remove a tree. It’s a messy proposal, and his inclination was to stay away from it.
In response, Logins suggested that Council educate themselves before they make such comments. She said that the OCP clearly says that the environment is a priority, and added that students like the trees and it’s one of the things that anchors in their memories and brings them back to Sooke. Our bylaws, she argued, have to be constantly evolving.
Defending her motion, Parkinson stated that such a bylaw was not a massive undertaking. There are many, many existing bylaws that Sooke can draw from. They won’t be re-inventing it, but taking from what exists and customizing it for a Sooke solution.
Ultimately the motion request staff to prepare a report carried, with Beddows opposed.
At the next meeting, Council will consider another notice of Motion put forward by Parkinson, that a parking bylaw and policy be brought forward.
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- After heated debate, a tree protection bylaw will be considered by Sooke Council
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- Sooke appoints more District Council liaison to various committees
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