Township-wide tree bylaw to be determined by future council

Council votes 5-4 in favour of motion by Charlie Fox

It will be up to the next council to form a standing committee on a Township-wide tree protection bylaw.

On March 19, council voted 5-4 in favour of Coun. Charlie Fox’s motion to request that the tree bylaw issue be discussed at the council planning and priority workshop after the next municipal election on Oct. 20.The motion also calls for related funding to be part of the 2019 budget discussion.

Coun. Kim Richter, who voted against the motion with Councillors Petrina Arnason, David Davis and Bob Long, said it was out of order, as it would “handicap” a future council.

Mayor Jack Froese ruled the motion was in order, and asked Fox to amend the wording.

“It’s still not appropriate, this is just plain and simple politicking in the silly season,” Richter replied.

“We’ve had a very serious request come forward from the public to deal with the matter now. Pushing it off to the next council is not right.”

Coun. Michelle Sparrow said that council does not have enough time to tackle a tree protection bylaw before their term ends.

“I’m not quite sure how we would be able to create a tree protection bylaw for the whole Township with nine council meetings left. I think that’s making it become an election issue, versus actually looking at what we can actually accomplish,” she said.

Long said he also thought the motion was out of order, but for a different reason. He noted that council already sent the issue to staff for a report on March 5, after hearing a delegation from resident Hanae Sakurai.

READ MORE: Township-wide tree protection bylaw ‘long overdue’ say residents

“The motion was to refer the issue to staff. So how can we have another motion that says now don’t refer it to staff, refer it to somewhere else,” he said. “Isn’t the motion to refer it to staff good enough? It doesn’t say when they have to come back (with the report).”

Froese once again ruled that Fox’s motion was in order.

Fox said his motion does respond to Sakurai’s delegation by acknowledging that council should take action on this issue, and put a committee together. “The delegate requested exactly what I’m putting forth here,” Fox said.

“And to say that I’m trying to stall it — not at all. In fact, I’m trying to bring some structure to it and some value to it. Make an interim tree bylaw to go into effect — fine with me. But at least there’s some structure to this.”

Whitmarsh said the tree bylaw will be an expensive undertaking, and agreed that it should be addressed in the 2019 budget.

“I think this motion is a positive response to the delegation we had last meeting,” he said. “There was a request for us to put together a standing committee and to put together a tree bylaw. I think it requires a lot of consideration and discussion, and I think that’s important to have.”

Arnason, however, thought council should wait for the staff report.

“I don’t think that the nature of the request that we supported (on March 5) was to make sure that we had signed, sealed and delivered a tree protection bylaw for the entire Township of Langley by the time the next election rolled around,” she said.

“When there is political will for certain things to transpire, I know council could potentially move heaven and earth. And I don’t think it is unreasonable, under the circumstances, to consider that the community interests would be best served if we just allow staff to come back with their report, and not put the parameters on it to say, ‘Oh well, that’s for next council to decide on.’ I just don’t support that.”

Davis said he’s concerned by the timeline.

“This says, OK, we’re not going to do anything until Oct. 20, and I think that’s wrong. Things can creep up, look at Tara (Farms),” he said.

READ MORE: Owner of Tara Farms applies for ALR exclusion

“I think we need to get started at it and carry on. It’s very important.”

Richter moved deferral on Fox’s motion until after the staff report comes back, but that motion was defeated in a 5-4 vote.

“We’re not starting from zero. We have had an interim tree bylaw, we’ve currently got a tree bylaw for the undeveloped parts of Brookswood,” Richter said. “It’s not going to take forever and a day to review and strengthen — if strengthening is needed — those two bylaws. I mean, this could be done in a period of three months. We shouldn’t even be passing this motion. It’s destructive, it’s not progressive.”

Froese had the last comments before council voted on the motion, and he said he agreed with Fox.

“I believe that by putting this motion forward, yes it becomes an election issue in a way. It becomes an election issue in that I certainly support having fulsome discussion and getting a group together that can work towards this tree protection bylaw,” he said.

“We need the community input, we need to find out what the best practices are, and the success and failures from other jurisdictions … At least this council has said this is important to move forward, and there is no time in the next nine meetings to do this.”

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