Opinion

COLUMN: Let’s just say ‘no’ to tree protection bylaw

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Located within a city advertisement in this edition is announcement of an information-seeking forum on Abbotsford’s notorious Tree Protection Bylaw.

Regular readers of this column are probably now groaning that “he’s back on that again” but, without making an issue of this senseless regulation, it may have remained unchanged within the laws of this city.

So as an effort to grease the squeaky wheel, city council is now reconsidering the tree bylaw, and seeking your input Thursday, May 24, from 6-9 p.m. in Matsqui Centennial Auditorium (aka the city council chamber).

If you believe this bylaw is pointless, punitive and unnecessary, I urge you to attend, as the ad requests, to provide your input and/or opinion.

I’ll be there, though it won’t be amendments I’ll be suggesting, rather the complete repeal, abolition, rejection, rescindment or any one of a hundred other words you can find in a Thesaurus to get rid of this bylaw.

Twenty years or so ago, I was given a series of aerial photographs of my property and the surrounding area. The photos were taken in winter, when snow was on the ground, and in comparison to today, there now are literally hundreds more trees in the area. We aren’t clear-cutting, we aren’t logging and we aren’t devastating the environment.

In fact, as the photos prove, we are “reforesting” it. Noteworthy is that this bylaw really doesn’t affect me, because virtually all of my property is in lawn or pasture. What does affect me is that I have a government body telling me what I can, or can’t do with something I not only own, but pay taxes on.

I have no problem with the city protecting trees in parks and public places, but not on private land because they already have regulations in place to regulate clear-cutting for development.

Additionally, the tree “protection” law only protects (read that as “demands money from you” to cut or trim your own tree) in the existing and future development areas. It does not apply to three-quarters of the city, most of which is designated Agricultural Land Reserve but also includes large wooded areas and major gravel removal operations.

It also does not apply to thousands of acres of Crown land on Sumas Mountain that is designated, and currently being used for, clear-cut logging.

Let’s make something else very clear: This bylaw with its “tree police” is discretionary and arbitrary. If you have a little “power” or are nice to them, they approve your tree trimming, probably at no cost. Make them mad and they whack you with large fees. Or, after the fact of trimming or cutting trees without their permission, they levy huge fines or reprimands.

An elderly neighbour who, being environmentally friendly, uses a clothesline instead of an electric dryer, recently received a letter of reprimand because she had someone trim a few branches, off only two trees, that interfered with the clothesline she has been using for 30 years.

Or another who gets “attacked” for clearing a fence line so he can keep his cows in; a condo complex whose grounds-keeping strata fees have risen markedly just to meet city-imposed costs.

Or a woman downtown whose neighbour complained about the sap from her tree that coats his car. She understood, didn’t really want the tree anyway and applied for permission to have it removed. Denied! In my opinion the guy next door should now send his car-cleanup bills to the city.

Got a huge tree that threatens your house, or those of the neighbours? If the tree police determine the tree isn’t “a danger,” what are the chances you’ll get a letter that the city assumes liability for it?

No, this bylaw doesn’t need amending. It needs to be rescinded, repealed, quashed.

I would also like to know just how much this unnecessary “protection” policy is costing Abbotsford taxpayers in the way of staffing and processing.

On Thursday evening, make your views known!

markrushton@abbynews.com

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