Saturday, April 26, 2014

Vancouver Is Right to End Chainsaw Massacres of 1,800 Healthy Trees Each Year

Tree with roses in Kitsilano - Bill Tieleman photo
Cutting down Vancouver’s healthy trees for better view or "monster homes" is selfish and not neighbourly

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday April 22, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

"For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver."  
- Martin Luther

The City of Vancouver has done the right thing by banning landowners and developers from committing chainsaw massacres of healthy trees.
Putting a stop to chopping down trees just to improve the view or build "monster" homes is a victory for common sense.
But the loud defenders of "private property rights" are in full cry, chainsaws forced to idle when City Council unanimously passed amendments last week that now bring Vancouver into line with rules in most other municipalities in the region, including Surrey and Richmond.
Previously -- and amazingly considering Vancouver's propensity for green space and environmental activism -- homeowners could remove one healthy, mature tree with a trunk diameter over 20 centimeters [8 inches] per year for any reason.
In 2013, that amounted to 1,805 trees being chopped down, or nearly five a day.
Multiply that clear cutting frenzy by 18 years and Vancouver's tree canopy coverage dropped from 22 per cent in 1996 to just 18 per cent today.
Chopping down 23,500 mature trees that provide cleaner air and a more pleasant city was just wrong. Vancouver's trees absorb 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, the city says.
Many of those trees were felled to build ridiculously large "monster homes" that also in many cases meant destroying heritage houses too.
How many mini-mansions built with appalling design and barely a tree to be seen are tolerable in Vancouver?
CKNW host's axe to grind
But those who still want to wield an axe to their alder, bulldoze their birch or mow down their maple are adamantly opposed.
It put CKNW AM 980 radio host Bill Good in a bad mood on Friday April 18:
"Stop nagging me -- I've planted more trees than I wish to remove from my private property but damn it, I don't want to have to beg permission to remove a tree in my yard but this council passed a motion unanimously yesterday which made it so," Good fumed.
And homeowner Karin Litzcke, who spoke against the change at a council hearing, matched Good's rhetoric.
"Basically people will be held in indentured servitude to large trees with no possibility of relief," Litzcke said on CKNW.
So Vancouverites are doomed to become slaves to their cedars? Good grief.
Good blasted council but saved special disdain for Non-Partisan Association councilors who voted in favour of the Vision Vancouver motion.
"George Affleck -- what were you thinking? I expect you to provide some push back, to at least speak for those of us who don't want dictated to a council consumed with making this the greenest city in the world, whatever that means," Good groused, while admitting he likes trees.
"Why can't the NPA get someone to oppose these meddlers? Do they really deserve to be so unopposed? Could someone run under the banner of: "You decide what life you want to live?" Good unhappily concluded.
Turning a new leaf
But the reality is that homeowners can still remove diseased trees, those interfering with sewer, drainage pipes or utility wires and any too close to a house, causing damage to property or hazardous.
And the city says: "Special provisions will be made for tree removal in cases where the retention of an otherwise healthy tree would cause undue hardship."
Face the facts: we live in a city where what we do affects more than just our property -- it impacts our neighbours and our community.
There already exist many rules and regulations restricting what homeowners can and cannot do on their "private" property -- including not opening a pub, height restrictions, a requirement to shovel snow off your sidewalk, not play loud music late at night or allow barking dogs to disturb the peace and many more.
Unnecessarily chopping down trees is no different. This change -- and Vancouver's plan to put 150,000 new trees in the ground by 2020 -- is overdue.

As an ancient Chinese proverb rightly says: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now."



Anonymous said...

Surrey has had this policy for a while now and it works well. Oh sure developers still dig big holes and bury trees along with the orange "do not touch" fencing. But Surry's building department pretty much has every tree catalogued so it's hard to hide them. They also co-operate with property owners who play by the rules.

e.a.f. said...

if developers and their friends/followers had their way, there wouldn't be a tree left. money and buildings trumps everything. for a city to be liveable there need to be trees, not just small ones, but great big ones. its where birds live. We need them to keep things like insects and small rodents under control. The new houses simply are too large for the lots. I'd like to see a reduction in the size of Vancouver homes, especially with the lane homes now cropping up. Where will all the rain go if it can't go into the ground. Keeping trees around makes sense. We need clean air. Just check the dust to see how dirty it is. In other areas of B.C. dust is grey, not black. We need all the help we can get from mother nature. Trees provide shade in the summer and keeps electric bills low. Good needs to retire. He may feel he owns the land and can do with what he wants, but hell you can run a whore house next to his condo or a booze can. we have by laws to make cities more liveable for everyone.

Anonymous said...

"developers and their friends/followers had their way, there wouldn't be a tree left"

Another over the top commetnary.

Maybe e.a.f should retire from blogs.

But he is right, technically the land is not his outright. He like anyone else has bought the rights to use the land subject to how the land maybe used. For example, e.a.f could not put an abattoir on his property that exists in a residential neighbourhood.