Jessie Joy and her father Allen Lees are disappointed the municipality cut so much from a hedge along Laity Street

Jessie Joy and her father Allen Lees are disappointed the municipality cut so much from a hedge along Laity Street

Maple Ridge tree bylaw still a work in progress

New council will deal with proposed changes.

Allen Lees and his daughter Jessie Joy made another plea to Maple Ridge council Monday, asking it to improve the city’s tree bylaw.

But they’re going to have to wait a few months to see the words that will preserve the verdure around Maple Ridge.

The Lees appeared at council in February, seeking changes to the bylaw after his neighbours cut down large trees, causing drainage problems on his property.

Monday, he presented some ideas to staff that can be incorporated into a new tree bylaw, which would bring Maple Ridge up to date with surrounding cities. In Abbotsford, 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.

Lees said Maple Ridge has to require anyone who wants to cut a tree to obtain a permit and inform neighbours first, and to take safety measures to ensure trees, branches or logs don’t fall on to public property. The city could be liable for any injuries or damage that could result if there were no regulations in place, added Lees, a lawyer.

“It’s definitely dangerous, unless there’s a bylaw in place. There’s a huge liability issue.”

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

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

“They haven’t changed any of that,” Lees said.

He’d also like Maple Ridge to adopt a Whistler-style approach to protecting trees where development takes place.

“Developers will still make money, probably more.”

While it may be cheaper to build new suburbs by flattening all trees, preserving them can enhance property values. Trees also save the city money by helping with drainage and erosion control and improving air quality.

Following Whistler practices, in which suburbs are built within stands of trees, could add to Maple Ridge’s attractiveness as a natural area where people come to enjoy the rivers, forests, parks and mountains.

“It has to happen while we still have trees.”

Lees has been trying to get the current council, at the end of its term, to update the tree bylaw since 2011.

“We’ve been dealing with council for almost three years and council has been aware of that for the whole term.”

However, there isn’t enough time to pass a bylaw, which would require public input, before council dissolves and is replaced by the new council, elected Nov. 15.

Lees said a shortage of staff in city hall is one reason for the delay.

Coun. Corisa Bell wasn’t happy with the delay.

“I can see that you’re disappointed,” Bell said to Lees. “This really shouldn’t be taking this long.”

She added: “We’re literally copying and pasting from other cities’ bylaws and it’s taken three years.”