Saanich’s newly strengthened tree protection bylaw could cost the District up to $50,000 more per year as it won’t just apply to residents and developers.
Amendments to the bylaw – including security deposits and increased replacement tree requirements – were given three readings at a council meeting on Dec. 16.
The District will align itself with the replacement tree requirements listed in the amended bylaw and this will have financial implications for the municipality.
Technically, because of the way the bylaw was written, the District doesn’t need to comply with the bylaw, noted Coun. Rebecca Mersereau, who pushed for the amendments in February as her first initiative on council.
However, council agreed that municipal staff should follow the same rules as residents to set an example, she explained. The District also set itself a goal of planting 10,000 trees by 2025 in response to the climate emergency so Saanich was already planning to add more trees, she emphasized.
The District won’t, however, need to pay the replacement tree security deposits in the same way as residents, explained Eva Riccius, senior manager of parks. The municipality will be using the highest replacement tree standard of three trees replanted for each one cut down for municipal projects, Riccius noted. In spots where there isn’t room to plant three replacement trees – such as areas where road work has been done – a security deposit will be held until the trees can be planted in parks or during other projects.
Based on a five-year average – typically the longest staff will care for trees – of costs to replace and care for trees and the increased replacement requirements, municipal staff expect to spend between $40,000 and $50,000 more annually. The money will come from the parks department’s small tree maintenance budget, Riccius noted.
The expense increase is largely due to the price of maintenance for the replacement trees – the extra staff time, the irrigation and care for the new trees will add up, Riccius explained.
According to a staff report, the bylaw amendments will increase tree permit fee revenue by about $1,000. The report also noted that the parks department will request that council grant an increase in resources during the 2020 budget cycle. The request includes adding a Bylaw Enforcement Lead position, a Tree Bylaw Clerk position and an Arboriculture Inspector position.
The amended bylaw has a final reading at a council meeting in January and staff will then update the website so residents can get informed, Riccius said.