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Bylaw officers can now write tree-cutting tickets in Brookswood

Bylaw enforcement officers are now able to write tickets for violating a ban on clear-cutting in the Brookswood/Fernridge area of Langley Township.

The change was quietly approved by council on Monday night,  with only Councillor Grant Ward opposed.

It means that Township officers can impose fines of $500 for every tree cut over the limit without going to court.

The Township bylaw enforcement department still has the option of taking legal action, a move that increases the maximum possible fine to $10,000 per tree.

Also on Monday, council gave final approval to an slightly amended version of the clear-cutting ban that adds a two-tree minimum acceptable cut.

That way, people with small lots and fewer trees can avoid a technical violation of the bylaw that bans cutting more than eight trees or 20 per cent of the trees on a property, whichever is less.

The amended bylaw passed, with Ward again casting the only negative vote.

Ward has been an outspoken critic of the clear-cutting ban, saying it is unfair, unnecessary and interferes with the rights of property owners.

As of Monday, Township lawyers were still reviewing an alleged violation of the bylaw in the 20300 block of 27 Avenue to decide whether court action is warranted.

The alleged offence was recorded less than 48 hours after the ban on clear-cutting took effect on April 29.

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

The Township has opened a 24-hour tree cutting tip line at 604-532-7520, that asks callers to leave the address where clear-cutting is taking place, along with their name and phone number and time of the call.

The ban allows trees to be removed under certain conditions, such as construction of a well or building.

if they are blocking sight lines under the Township’s highway and traffic bylaw or for a septic field or water well.

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

And they can 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 ban on clear-cutting was imposed after several residents of Brookswood 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 that was dominated by opponents.

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

The Township has opened a 24-hour tree cutting tip line at 604-532-7520, that asks callers to leave the address where clear-cutting is taking place, along with their name and phone number and time of the call.

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