City considers target numbers for tree protection bylaw

  • Sep. 28, 2016 11:00 a.m.

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

Research has shown that green infrastructure — otherwise known as trees — serves a number of purposes in urban settings, such as carbon absorption and reduced stormwater runoff. Shade from trees can increase the lifespan of pavement.

In terms of economic benefits, they can boost property values, and attract a greater number of shoppers in commercial areas.

The City of Courtenay has drafted a new tree protection and management bylaw that will set a target number of trees on properties. Staff feel 50 per hectare is reasonable.

While it agrees the tree/lot ratio is fair, the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy feels there are gaps in the existing bylaw in terms of tree protection on large, undeveloped greenfield sites.

“The only thing we’re concerned about is applying the same tree density to areas that haven’t been developed that are greenfield sites, that are already treed,” project manager David Stapley said. “There’s an opportunity there to retain trees. It’s been lost where we’ve already developed. We’re thinking into the future now.”

Science recommends a tree canopy cover target of 40 per cent for urban areas in the Pacific Northwest. Courtenay’s canopy covers about 37 per cent of the city.

About one-third exists on greenfield sites such as Block 71 near Seal Bay Park. This site consists of older, second growth forest and a wetland ecosystem, containing about 30 per cent of Courtenay’s urban forest.

“It’s the future area that’s going to be developed,” Stapley said. “There’s an opportunity to keep the development footprint as small as possible. We still need to have areas for growth — we recognize that. Trees are going to have to come down, but what we’re suggesting is, can we do this with the minimum footprint?”