A bylaw aimed at protecting trees in Sooke is a good idea, says district council, but more public opinion is needed.
A staff report Monday asked for council’s input and to further refine a proposed tree management bylaw.
“I don’t think it looks at the problem the people of Sooke want us to look at, and that was the wholesale slaughter of trees on an entire hillside,” said Coun. Al Beddows.
The bylaw aims to protect “significant trees” and animal habitation areas. Additionally, concerns were raised for the urban forest, which provides the community’s identity and large-scale tree removals on private property and development sites.
Many private property owners believe new tree regulations would be unfairly punitive to them, as they are surrounded by forests that need to be maintained.
Numerous councillors said the bylaw was too confusing and cumbersome in its current state, and many expressed feeling overwhelmed.
“This needs to go back to the public for some clarity,” Coun. Tony St-Pierre said. “I think we have to be very clear about our purpose.”
In November, the district conducted a public consultation. The consultation included nearly 1,500 comments, with the results divided almost evenly.
The staff brought the bylaw to council to have councillors provide more direction before more public engagement is sought.
Coun. Jeff Bateman said tree management should be concise and fair and lean towards the protection of trees during land development while, at the same time, not create a barrier to development.
“We do need a starting point, and this is it,” Coun. Ebony Logins said.
Staff is expected to report back to council n the new year with alternative suggestions regarding administrative tools for tree protection and “purpose-based” engagement aimed at the bylaw’s overreaching intention.