The Comox Valley Development and Construction Association feels Courtenay council is trying to push through an updated tree protection/management bylaw before properly consulting with the community. It would first like to see an Urban Forest Management Strategy in place to develop a framework to manage the city’s tree canopy cover and its green space. Such a strategy would take about a year to develop, according to city staff.
The CVDCA feels the proposed bylaw prioritizes tree retention without considering financial impacts on property owners with different levels of native tree cover.
“That’s clearly the risk,” Richard Cook, of Jorden Cook Associates, said on behalf of the CVDCA at Monday’s meeting before an overflowing crowd at council chambers. “We are very concerned about those costs to homeowners.”
The association also takes issue with a proposed 50 stems per hectare per property, which it considers “aggressive” compared to other jurisdictions.
“We fear, as is the case with affordable housing, the onus of fixing this community issue will be placed squarely, and very unfairly, on new development,” CVDCA chair Murray Presley states in a letter.
He implores council to fund the initiative through taxation.
Science recommends a canopy cover target of 40 per cent for urban areas in the Pacific Northwest, according to the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy. The CVCS estimates the tree canopy covers about 37 per cent of Courtenay’s area, with about a third on undeveloped greenfield sites.
“I don’t believe anyone will question the long-term value that trees provide our community,” Mayor Larry Jangula said.
The question, he feels, is whether the short- and long-term impacts of the bylaw — in terms of housing affordability, and residential, business, commercial and economic growth — are clearly understood. He prefers to consult with stakeholders, “rather than rush the approval of such an important bylaw.”
Coun. Doug Hillian questioned why the association didn’t come forward earlier.
“There’s been widespread consultation,” he said.
Cook suggested the bylaw was amended over the weekend without enough consultation. He asked council to consider forming a liaison committee to enhance dialogue on this and other development issues. The City notes it has previously solicited feedback from the CVDCA and the CVCS.
In a 4-3 vote, council approved a motion from Bob Wells to postpone third reading of the amended bylaw. Jangula, Manno Theos and Erik Eriksson were in favour. Hillian, David Frisch and Rebecca Lennox opposed the motion.