During a special meeting Monday, Langford council voted unanimously in support of a temporary tree protection bylaw in response to several trees that have been cut down throughout the district.
Without a permit, the new bylaws ban the cutting down of any tree with a trunk diameter greater than 20 cm, as measured at a height of 1.4 metres above the ground.
“Bylaw 2115 prohibits the cutting down of any tree (with a trunk diameter greater than 20 centimetres measured at a height of 1.4 meters above the undisturbed grade of the land), anywhere within Langford,” reads the bylaw.
Exceptions include the cutting down of trees for city walkways and trails and those authorized under a development permit.
Residents addressing the council said up until now they’ve been concerned by the number of trees being removed in the municipality.
In order to discourage this from happening, those in favour agreed existing tree-protection measures were previously inadequate and fines should be significant enough to prevent residential owners from cutting.
The new bylaw, which is now in effect, is set to last for six months, with minimum fines set at $5,000 and go as high as $10,000 for those found violating the new rules.
The bylaw is the city’s response to several property owners removing trees that could have been retained through existing city processes, without seeking the required approvals.
Dozens of Langford residents took part in the two-hour meeting and stepped up to the podium on Wednesday, December 12th to share their opinions on the new bylaw.
As the majority were happy to see the council enforcing measures to preserve the trees in Langford, those opposing the bylaws expressed concern about how the enforcement will affect taxpayers while others fear the large fees required to obtain arborist reports if a property owner wishes to remove a tree.
Others expressed their concern that the policy would affect jobs and development, especially during an economic downturn. However, the city clarified that trees can still be removed through the permit process.
Mayor Scott Goodmanson said the bylaw protects trees in the 25-30% of the district not covered by development permit policies.
“There is vast tracts between downtown and forested areas that already have a process to remove any trees, whether it’s a single tree, a dozen trees or a thousand trees,” said Goodmanson.
“When people are asking or suggesting that this is going to kill jobs and so on, this isn’t changing those existing rules that are already there. Those are the same rules that have been used by businesses and development previously.”