Rossland city council is poised to close a loophole that allowed clearcutting of some private properties.
The updated tree management bylaw also clarifies how and when residents can cut down trees on their own land.
The city’s current bylaw is “challenging to interpret, implement, and enforce,” planning manager Stacey Lightbourne said in a memo to city council this week.
Some aspects of the bylaw don’t meet the intent of the regulations and others could use clearer guidelines, she said.
In an email, Lightbourne added that the old bylaw, adopted in 2008, is complicated, whereas “the new bylaw hopefully makes it clear to everyone when they are exempt from the bylaw and then what is required when they are not.”
In general, removing trees from average residential lots does not require a permit, nor do removals from lots that have received subdivision or building permit approval, so long as the work is done to allow safe occupancy, construction of a building, or installation of roads and services.
While the revised bylaw originally called for parcels of 6,450 square feet (600 square meters) or smaller to be exempt, city councillor Janis Nightingale asked that it be increased to 10,000 square feet (929 square metres), as a number of lots in the city measure 100 by 100 feet. Council agreed to the amendment with only Mayor Kathy Moore opposed.
Nightingale also asked that more consideration be given to the types of replacement trees that are prescribed or prohibited before the bylaw is adopted. As written, it only says that replacements shall not be cottonwood or poplars.
The bylaw says parcels smaller than five hectares can have no more than 10 per cent of their trees harvested in any one year and parcels over five hectares can have no more than five per cent. In both cases, no more than half the trees can be cut down over a 10-year period.
For each tree cut down, two more must be planted, or else a cash payment made to the city at $300 for each replacement tree not planted. The funds would be earmarked for the city’s climate action reserve fund.
The tree management bylaw recently received attention when Warren Hamm applied to log several private properties near his Rock Cut Pub. Council ultimately turned him down, while lamenting that the tree bylaw didn’t have more teeth.
Lightbourne told the Rossland News the bylaw redo is “somewhat related” to that proposal.
“The tree bylaw has been on the list for a while for some updates but that application made it more of a high priority for council,” she said.
The revised bylaw would have had some bearing on Hamm’s proposal, had it been in place sooner. The old bylaw contains an exemption if the owner provides a plan prepared by a professional forester along with a written promise to use “best practices” and replant the site within four years.
The new bylaw removes this exception, which means applicants have to comply with the other regulations around allowable harvest and replacement trees.