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Brookswood tree cutting probed

Tree-cutting was underway at this Brookswood site on 27 Avenue on Sunday, May 4. - Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times
Tree-cutting was underway at this Brookswood site on 27 Avenue on Sunday, May 4.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times

Less than 48 hours after a ban on clear-cutting took effect, Langley Township staff began investigating an alleged violation of the new regulations.

The ban in the Brookswood/Fernridge area was enacted on Tuesday night, (April 29), after council approved a bylaw that limits tree-cutting to eight trees or 20 per cent of trees on a property, whichever is less.

On Thursday, May 1, multiple complaints were made about alleged clear-cutting on a property in the 20300 block of 27 Avenue, on the south side of 27 Avenue at the end of the road.

A warning letter to the two registered owners of the property was drafted by Township staff Friday and delivered Monday.

A visit by a Times reporter after the initial complaints were made found most of the trees on the 2.15 acre site had been taken down.

There was a single-family house in the middle of the clearing, but it did not appear to be occupied.

On Monday afternoon, Township council approved an enforcement policy that will see Township staff seek court injunctions to halt clear-cutting.

The policy, drafted by Councillor Kim Richter, sets a fine of up to $500 per tree.

It says the Township will “prosecute all violations of Interim Tree Clear-Cutting Bylaw 2014 No. 5071 for which staff feel there are reasonable and probable grounds of a conviction …”

The cost of enforcement will be paid from Township “contingency accounts, reserves and surpluses … until adoption of the 2015 Budget.”

The policy eliminates the requirement for written complaints about issues involving private property to allow people to report clear-cutting by telephone “as the need for expediency is required.”

As well, it orders public notices to be issued that the Township “intends to prosecute and seek injunctions and fines for up to $10,000 for infractions against the bylaw.”

The Richter policy, seconded by Councillor Michelle Sparrow, was passed during council’s regular closed-door session held Monday afternoon (May 5).

A statement issued by the Township on Tuesday, May 6, noted the clear-cutting bylaw only affects “properties in the geographic area outlined in the Brookswood/Fernridge Community Plan and does not apply to land within the Agricultural Land Reserve or land being used as a farm operation.”

Trees can still be removed if they are blocking sight lines under the Township’s highway and traffic bylaw or if “they are in an area approved by provincial regulation for a septic field or water well.”

Trees may also be removed for construction of a building if approved by a development permit, development variance permit, or building permit issued by the Township.

Trees can also be removed if they are considered hazardous, as certified by an arborist, or in case of an emergency, if certification is provided to the Township engineering department within 30 days after the cutting.

The interim ban on clear-cutting will remain in effect until a new official community plan has been prepared for Brookswood/Fernridge or a permanent tree protection bylaw is passed.

Several residents of Brookswood have complained that some property owners have been clear-cutting their lots because they expected a proposed new official community plan would permit higher-density housing.

However, the draft community plan was rejected by council after a marathon public hearing dominated by opponents.

While many residents of Brookswood/Fernridge have supported a tree protection bylaw, many others do not, complaining that the regulation represents an unwarranted interference with private property rights.

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