News Local

Vancouver to grow tree bylaw

By Stefania Seccia

Work crews prepare to clean up a tree that fell on a home in Vancouver after a wind storm.
File photo

Work crews prepare to clean up a tree that fell on a home in Vancouver after a wind storm. File photo

Vancouver is looking into stiffer rules around knocking down trees on private property in an effort to save its dwindling canopy tree stock.

Last year, the city stripped the provision allowing the right to remove one tree per year to “better protect trees on private property and the urban forest canopy.”

However, there were still requests for “compassionate relief” by property owners, a provision that allows owners and developers to remove trees if they’re diseased, dying, hazardous and in direct conflict with proposed construction.

The Vancouver urban forest is comprised of more than 140,000 street trees, 300,000 park trees, and privately owned trees make up 62%.

Despite thousands of new trees being planted in recent years, the canopy cover over the past few decades has been in decline — from 22.5% in 1995 to 18% in 2013.

Most of the loss in the past two decades is attributed to tree removals on private properties prior to the changes.

Out of about 1,200 tree permit applications reviewed in Vancouver since October 2014, only 15 requests for relief were made and granted because the tree was dead, posed a toxicity risk, or allergies. Compassionate relief request will continue to be seen on a case-by-case basis.

Other cities utilize tools such as violation tickets, collect cash security from owners, or cash-in-lieu of replacement trees with payments ranging from $300 to $3,000 per tree — depending on size. The money is often used to plant or maintain trees in other spots in the city.

Vancouver is also examining these tools, such as proposals to collect $500 for a small replacement tree or $750 for a larger one; and collecting cash-in-lieu by providing a property owner with an option to pay $1,000 a tree.

“Authority is also being sought to authorize fines greater than the $10,000 maximum currently authorized in Vancouver, and in other municipalities because in many circumstances, a $10,000 fine may not be a sufficient deterrent,” the report states.

Council will vote on the report at its Tuesday meeting.