GUEST COMMENT: Saving trees a taxing issue

An aerial survey by Habitat Acquisition Trust indicating a declining tree canopy has become an issue in our region.

An aerial survey by Habitat Acquisition Trust indicating a declining tree canopy has become an issue in our region. As in any urban environment, new housing is considered a factor.

Saanich is proposing a new tree replacement bylaw that includes requiring builders to provide two trees for each protected tree removed for site servicing. If there is no room to plant trees, they must pay into a tree fund. This new bylaw will increase fees for permits, tree surveys, arborists, etcetera, costing thousands of dollars, eventually paid by new homebuyers.

However, there are other factors contributing to a declining tree canopy.

In 2007, the B.C. Assessment Authority reassessed farm land in Saanich, requiring owners to pay higher taxes in treed portions of land not being used for agriculture.

Approximately 204 properties outside the agricultural land reserve (ALR) were reassessed, 97 homes received split classifications, and 22 were disqualified as farms.

Subsequently, Saanich received requests from landowners to clear land to qualify for the farm classification and lower their taxes.

The B.C. government made some changes to the criteria, but the lower tax rate for agriculture continues to create a financial incentive for removing trees and putting land into production.

In addition, Saanich’s new proposed bylaw does not require replacement trees or tree fund contributions from land zoned for agriculture. Clearly, this proposed bylaw and the lower tax classification create unintended consequences impacting the tree canopy.

New homebuyers have been targeted to pay for the consequences at a rate of two for one.

Targeting new homebuyers to pay for a public benefit has become common practice. It is easier to charge additional fees on developments and homes yet-to-be-built where there is less fear of backlash from existing property owners.

However, this practice may be contrary to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling indicating there are limits to using new housing as a means to pay for a public benefit. In a recent case, a resident wishing to build a new home paid an enormous sum for collecting archeological artifacts on her property as required by the B.C. government.

However, the judge ruled, “In my opinion, the arbitrator failed to consider the relevant factors in this case, such as whether it is reasonable to require the petitioner to pay more than her fair share of the costs associated with providing a public benefit, being the collection and preservation of artifacts on the site.”

It’s easy to see how this court ruling may also apply to developers, builders and new homebuyers paying for amenities providing a public benefit. Certainly the tree canopy falls squarely in the category of a public benefit for all members of the community.

The purpose of taxing the general population is to pay for amenities benefiting the public. By charging a disproportionate cost to new homebuyers, fairness is undermined and governments expose themselves and taxpayers to judgments addressing this inequity.

Also, when costs are added to the development of housing, they are passed on to the purchaser. This is true of any product manufactured for consumers. Since most consumers take out significant mortgages to pay for homes, the added costs may double over 25 years. So $5,000 may become $10,000 depending on the homebuyer’s interest rate and mortgage term.

Saanich’s proposed bylaw is under review and now is the time to achieve fair and equitable treatment for new homebuyers, farmers and residents.

The responsibility and cost of protecting the region’s tree canopy should be fairly distributed throughout the community via property taxes, tree-planting incentives and credits and other means.

Certainly the discussion presents an opportunity to establish a new approach to financing and protecting public amenities enjoyed by all.

Casey Edge is the executive director of the Victoria Home Builders Association.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A decade into the 100-year blueprint for restoring the Bowker Creek watershed, Soren Henrich, director of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society, feels positive about the future of conservation and daylighting of the creek. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Ten years in, Greater Victoria’s 100-year Bowker Creek blueprint gets a boost

Victoria council passes several restoration recommendations

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

A resurfacing of the tennis court in Metchosin is being eyed for the community. However, funding opportunities still need to be solidified for the project. (Michelle Cabana/Black Press Media)
Renewed surface eyed for Metchosin tennis court

Funding source must first be solidified in order for project to happen

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Most Read