At the Sept. 19 meeting of Courtenay council, the proposed tree bylaw was put off until Nov. 7. Rumour has it that it was primarily to give the Comox Valley Development and Construction Association time to respond. I contacted the mayor and council members to say that any opinions offered by the association are irrelevant because they’re in a conflict of interest. That is, developers and builders stand to benefit financially from a weaker bylaw because it is easier and cheaper for them to remove all trees on construction projects and not to replace any of them. In my correspondence with Mayor Jangula, he pointed out that developers will be passing on any costs they incur as the result of a new tree bylaw to their consumers. It seems to me that that’s a business decision for them and not a reason to allow them to influence municipal law. In addition, should a developer decide not to build because they don’t want to pay whatever additional costs arise from conserving trees, someone else will no doubt fill that void.
The economic benefits of trees should be enough to remove any resistance developers have to maintaining them. A study of urban forests shows that for each $1 invested in urban forest management, up to $3 in benefits is returned to residents through increased property values, removal of air pollutants, and energy savings through shade.
Trees also mitigate the effects of climate change. We’ve been experiencing those effects in the Comox Valley over the last number of years: drought in the summer and flooding in the winter that translate into water restrictions, boil water advisories and a black water-filled sausage (aqua dam) in the area around the Rec Centre. Trees reduce atmospheric carbon, reduce flooding risks and retain water to buffer the effects of drought. The benefits are too numerous to mention but residents who support a strong tree bylaw and a healthy urban forest in the Comox Valley should contact the mayor and council before Nov. 7. Their contact information is on the city’s website.