Courtenay council recently approved new landscaping plans for the Crown Isle Shopping Centre development, which includes some replacement Douglas fir trees.
Seven Douglas fir trees will be planted to frame the view into the centre — which is located at Lerwick and Ryan Roads — along with some sweet gum and dogwood trees, but Barry Weih of Wensley Architecture acknowledged there won’t be as many Douglas firs as with the original plan.
“We’re are adding in more species to balance it out, but I agree they’re not Douglas fir,” Weih told council. “The Douglas fir, as it grows up, will essentially have too much of an impact on the visual sight lines through to the shopping centre avenue.”
The majority of the forested property was cleared last year to construct the new development anchored by Thrifty Foods, but developers had planned to keep a cluster of forest-grown Douglas fir trees at the corner of the development at Ryan and Lerwick Roads.
“The original intention was to retain those trees in the corner,” said Weih. “Unfortunately we were very quickly told by Hydro, in no uncertain terms, that was not acceptable.”
Late last year the cluster of trees was cut down.
As Coun. Doug Hillian pointed out, some Comox Valley residents were unimpressed.
“I’m sure you’re aware that there was huge consternation from the community when initially the site was cleared,” Hillian said to Weih. And “even more consternation when the remaining trees had to go down.
“We had criticism that why could we not have foreseen this as a problem and I’m just wondering what you may have learned from this experience that you might be able to share with us.”
Weih noted the trees were tightly packed together, making the group weak to wind without a forest around it, and added BC Hydro is firm about removal of trees in danger of falling on hydro lines. He also said these tall, thin forest-grown trees have weak root systems and are generally hard to keep when the rest of the forest is removed, adding the arborist’s original report said, “We will make effort to retain them.”
“What the arborist report said at the time was, ‘We’ll keep them, we’ll look at them after the rest of the trees are down, we’ll have a look and we’ll let you know what we think,'” said Weih, adding BC Hydro said they needed to come down before the arborist could make their report.
Besides the selection of trees, a variety of shrubs, grass, perennial plants, and ground cover will be planted. And a gravel walkway leading from the corner of Lerwick and Ryan Roads into the shopping centre, benches and an arbour are also features of the plan.