A new tree-management bylaw was axed by Mission councillors at their Nov. 16 meeting, after a public consultation brought many smaller property owners out of the woodwork to voice their opposition.
The draft has been sent back to staff for a rework, and will be brought back to the public after a workshop with council in the new year.
“We kind of missed the mark when it comes to the simplicity aspect,” said Coun. Mark Davies. “It needs to have an educational plan … We’re going to have to slow walk that process.
The bylaw aimed to stop developers from clear cutting land prior to submitting a development application, which has been an issue in recent years.
But many rural owners, particularly from the Steelhead and Stave Falls areas, felt that new rules would end up being unfairly punitive to them, as they are surrounded by forests which need to be maintained.
“It became very clear to me that more work and additional discussion are warranted … Our community is divided with urban and rural perspectives,” said Coun. Ken Herar, who added the bylaw needs to be streamlined.
The consultation brought 830 responses and 2,500 comments made, of which 72 per cent were in disagreement.
The biggest concerns were the costs of permit fees, replacement trees and professional reports; property owners not wanting to lose control over their landscapes or wait on cutting permits; and rural property owners being significantly impacted.
Staff brought back three variations of the draft in an attempt to address some of the public’s concern, but ultimately council decided to take it back to the drawing board.
“It’s important to have a tree bylaw, it’s important to have it and do it right,” said Coun. Daniel Plecas. “Ideally the more stringent it is, the better it is, but at the same time the community is not ready for that.”
Numerous councillors said the bylaw was too confusing and cumbersome in its current state, and many expressed feeling overwhelmed.
“It’s a very complicated subject and I’m feeling overwhelmed myself, I know the public are too. I would really like to entertain a workshop on the his before I made any final decision.”
Coun. Jag Gill said he thinks they “dropped the ball” on the educational aspect, and agreed with reworking the bylaw, but cautioned against waiting too long.
“I think as we are talking about tree bylaws, people are cutting down trees as we speak,” Gill said. “My only concern is if we table it too long, there will be no trees left.”