British Columbia

West Vancouver tree bylaw deadline leads to dozens of large trees felled

The smell of fresh wood was in the air at several West Vancouver properties this week, as arborists rushed to cut down trees for customers looking to beat a new bylaw that came into effect on Wednesday.

Arborists rushed to bring down trees over 75 cm before interim bylaw came into effect on Wednesday

Several large trees were felled on an undeveloped property at Marine Drive and Pitcairn Place before the new interim bylaw came into effect. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The smell of fresh wood was in the air at several West Vancouver properties this week, as arborists rushed to cut down trees for customers looking to beat a new bylaw that came into effect on Wednesday.

On Monday, municipal council gave first, second, and third readings to the interim bylaw, which prohibits the cutting of trees larger than 75 centimetres in diameter, but couldn't bring the bylaw into effect until Wednesday night.

"In that intervening period, there were some people in the community who decided to remove trees prior to the bylaw being enacted," said West Vancouver director of planning and development services Jim Bailey.

"You know, that's unfortunate, I think we've seen some really nice trees come down and that's, I think, seen a pretty emotional response from some people in the community about that. But I think that really highlights why council has taken the steps to protect those important trees."

Jim Bailey, West Vancouver director of planning and development services, says the interim bylaw is meant to protect vulnerable older trees until a permanent bylaw can be introduced after more study. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

One property in the 2900-block of Marine Drive saw more than 30 large trees cut down as the deadline loomed.

The owner, who declined to give her name, indicated she was worried about the trees during storms, but said it was her four neighbours above the property that urged her to rush to get them cut down.

She said she intends to plant 30 small trees and a garden in the new clearing.

'A big loss'

Ace Dano, who has worked as a nanny in the same neighbourhood for a year, said it was quite noisy this week as the trees came down.

"Yes, it's quite disturbing, especially when they chop a big piece of tree," she said. "I'm not used to seeing the view without the big trees there, so I think it's a big loss."

"When the trees are still there, it's so beautiful," Dano said.

Arborist Erik Helssen with Burley Boys said his company didn't clear the property in the 2900-block of Marine Drive, but crews were very busy in the lead up to the deadline, putting in extra shifts.

'Come back to clean it up later'

"The city announced it a couple of weeks ago and so everybody was trying to get their trees down — get them down and come back to clean it up later," he said.

"Up until yesterday people were still phoning us and asking us to take the big trees down," Helssen said on Friday. "At this point it's too late."

A large tree, which exceeds 75 cm in diameter, was quickly felled before a new bylaw came into effect Wednesday that prohibits such tree removal. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

He said the work Burley Boys usually does in West Vancouver is 75 per cent for views, but in this rush, it was developers getting lots cleared to avoid trouble later.

"Most of the jobs were future developments, future home builds," said Helssen, adding that crews were just taking down the bigger trees and leaving the smaller ones for later.

The city says a long-term plan for the law is underway.

"We wanted to get something in place, again, that protected some of the largest, most vulnerable trees and I think council has taken some really positive steps in that direction," said Bailey.

"We're going to be reaching out to make sure we get all the details right on that and report back this summer — this July — on a more permanent bylaw."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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