Harrison votes to keep current tree preservation bylaw

Split vote keeps bylaw for now in Harrison Hot Springs

After voting all in favour at a previous meeting, Harrison Hot Springs Council has narrowly voted against repealing the tree management and preservation bylaw.

The bylaw, enacted in 2012, regulates cutting, trimming or removal of trees larger than 12 inches and at least 25 feet high. Under the bylaw, applicants must have a horticulturalist inspect the tree then obtain a permit from the Village to cut, trim or remove a tree on their private property.

Council had discussed getting rid of the bylaw at the April 7 Council meeting and passed three readings. Then at the April 20 meeting, Councillors John Buckley, John Hansen and Samantha Piper voted against repealing the bylaw, while Councillor Sonja Reyerse and Mayor Leo Facio voted to repeal it.

Facio feels the bylaw is not necessary because most of Harrison’s citizens are responsible and will not just cut down trees left and right.

“The public at large, they know when they have to prune a tree or when it has to come down,” remarks Facio.

He adds that policing of the bylaw is also a challenge and, as with most bylaws, there will be those who break the bylaw and only the law-abiding citizens are stuck paying for the permit.

Reyerse voted to repeal the bylaw because she feels it doesn’t serve the community well.

“We have conscientious residents. People won’t go crazy,” Reyerse commented.

Hansen says he voted to keep the bylaw because, after giving it some more thought, he wanted to see something still in place even if the current bylaw is not perfect.

“The whole idea was to reduce fees for residents,” says Hansen.

But he is concerned that having no bylaw would open up the possibility of abuse.

Piper also expressed a desire to see the bylaw come back to the table for further evaluation and review.

“It’s balancing the needs of the community’s responsible residents, with the responsibility of preserving a community that sustains a realistic tree inventory,” she states.

While Buckley says he has no problem with people taking down trees that need to be taken down, he is concerned that having no bylaw could lead to clear cutting.

“This stops anyone from coming in a bulldozer and clearing out a whole parcel,” says Buckley. “What I’m looking for is to preserve the natural beauty of this community.”

However, Facio is not concerned about wholesale clear cutting by developers because companies still must approach the Village with any plans for a property, including tree management.

“When you apply for a subdivision or development, you have to come forward with a plan for what trees stay and what will be replaced,” says Facio. “The development permit will address the issue of clear cutting.”

Janne Perrin is a Harrison resident and passionate environmentalist. She provided input on the current tree management and preservation bylaw and agrees the bylaw does need to be upgraded, but not repealed. If it is removed, it could open up mass tree removal.

“My concern is that we could lose a lot of our urban forest which is so vital,” says Perrin. “Most people consider trees a nuisance. They don’t understand the importance of keeping our environment healthy.”