Tree protection bylaw proposed for North Cowichan

A tree protection bylaw is being considered by the Municipality of North Cowichan.

A tree protection bylaw is being considered by the Municipality of North Cowichan.

Staff have been instructed to prepare a report on the feasibility of a tree protection bylaw after Wednesday’s council meeting.

The move by council comes on the heels of the controversial decision last month to take down an old maple tree in front of the Island Savings Centre on James Street on land owned by the municipality.

Coun. Joyce Behnsen, who was an advocate of saving the maple tree, introduced the notice of motion for the new bylaw at council’s last meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 17.

She said she wanted staff to prepare a report on the tree protection bylaw before an official delegation is scheduled to appear before council to advocate for the bylaw in October.

Behnsen said a willow tree located in the front yard of Cowichan Secondary School, planted by the graduating class of 1958, is a prime example of why a tree protection bylaw, similar to ones in place in Duncan, Victoria and Nanaimo, is needed in North Cowichan.

She said plans are in place that could see the tree being cut down to make way for a new roundabout on James Street.

“I’d like to see North Cowichan set up a tree-management register in which trees with value in the community are identified,” Behnsen said.

“We should look at tree bylaws in other communities so we can be prepared for that delegation in October. There are some significant heritage trees in the community that mean a lot to people.”

Coun. Tom Walker said he’s unsure of the object and purpose of the proposed bylaw.

He said if the intent of the bylaw is just to stop some specific trees from being taken down, it may not succeed.

“I don’t know how farms would be created without the removal of trees,” Walker said.

“I’d like to understand it a little better [before a decision is made].”

Coun. Kate Marsh said the intent of the report is to answer such questions.

“The report will present us with some options so we’ll see what’s there when it’s completed,” she said.

CAO Dave Devana agreed that a staff report should be prepared on the issue.

“There are a number of different approaches that can be taken and we’ll be analyzing the bylaws in Duncan, Victoria and Nanaimo and present a number of options to council,” Devana said.

“If council likes some of the ideas, we can form our own tree protection bylaw.”