Maple Ridge could be a beautiful place

Jessie Joy and her father Allen Lees are disappointed the municipality cut so much from a hedge along Laity Street, across from Ridge Meadows Hospital. No current bylaw can stop trees from being chopped.  - Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS
Jessie Joy and her father Allen Lees are disappointed the municipality cut so much from a hedge along Laity Street, across from Ridge Meadows Hospital. No current bylaw can stop trees from being chopped.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS

With a few changes, Maple Ridge could look like Whistler.

It’s possible by changing Maple Ridge’s tree bylaw and changing how development takes place, says Allen Lees

“There’s some urgency to this, because when spring arrives, out come the people with the chain saws,” he told council Monday.

Lees learned firsthand about the bylaw’s flaws when his neighbour removed some hedging and a cottonwood tree. Then another neighbour took down a big fir tree.

“That just did it.”

Now, anytime it rains, his yard floods and it’s going to cost him $8,000 to fix.

“We didn’t cut anything.”

One tree can absorb up to 1,000 gallons of water a day.

Lees and his daughter, Jessie Joy, told Maple Ridge council that the tree protection bylaw should require residents to get approval from neighbours before cutting.

The district should also look at following Vancouver or Abbotsford, where, in the latter, a permit is required when a tree of more than 20 centimetres wide is cut. That applies to all properties within the city, except in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

They showed council a scrapbook of pictures of sites where trees had been removed. One included a hedge on Laity Street, near Ridge Meadows Hospital, that took a severe trim by municipal crews.

“They don’t trim the trees properly,” Lees said.

“They just butcher it, just butcher it.

“That sets an example for homeowners.”

Under Maple Ridge’s current tree protection bylaw, homeowners can chop down three trees of any size, every year, without a permit.

“The bylaw, as it exists, provides virtually no protection for trees.”

Outside the urban area, trees can be mowed down, subject to watercourse or slope protection, at the owner’s discretion.

Lees said one lot near his home on 229th Street was cleared by a developer, only to have the project not proceed, turning the land into a mosquito bog.

In a four-block area near their home, the pair noted that 20 per cent of the mature trees have been cut down in the last two years.

Changing development procedures to require trees be preserved until construction starts would make a difference.

The district could also require builders to preserve major stands of trees and build their projects around them.

“It’s not that much more expensive. There are lots of ways of doing it other than just cutting everything off and build,” Lees added.

“These types of developments are more attractive to people.

“People want to live there as opposed to a row houses. What makes Maple Ridge so beautiful is the forest and the trees. We want that preserved. We can still develop within it.

“It works for Abbotsford. It works for Vancouver. It works for Whistler.”

Ron Antalek, a realtor, says Whistler-style development is already in Maple Ridge, with eco-friendly development taking place in Silver Valley.

That will become more apparent as the area grows and the Silver Valley area plan is fulfilled.

“So what is happening is the clear-cut development in Silver Valley is not occurring,” Antelak said.

“That essentially is the concept of the Whistler-style development.”

Depending on topography, that could be transplanted throughout the district.

Such a model is economically viable if higher densities are possible to pay for higher servicing or infrastructure costs.

Maple Ridge’s manager of development and environmental services Chuck Goddard said a revised tree bylaw is a staff priority.

But that will have to wait until the environmental management strategy is completed in a few months.

“It’s not a tree protection bylaw. It’s almost a regulation of how to cut trees.”

Goddard said Vancouver and the resort Municipality of Whistler have more power than most municipalities do under the Local Government Act.

That’s produced, in Whistler, intensive development with minimal visual impact on the alpine environment.

But a balanced approach is required to tree preservation. If the district protects tree,s it could be liable if they fall and cause damage, Goddard said.

Nevertheless, some trees are protected in Maple Ridge, such as those along Shady Lane (124th Avenue) in west Maple Ridge.

It’s also difficult to require trees be preserved on small lots, on which most homes now are built, he said.


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