Q5 for a Better Langley: TREE PROTECTION

BETTER LANGLEY: In the past term, the Township adopted a new Tree Protection Bylaw in 2019, which was further updated in 2021 following recommendations from the Tree Protection Advisory Committee. Do you believe that Langley is going too far or not far enough in protecting our trees?


A note about highlighted answers: Better Langley favourites are selected based on progressive principles of economic and environmental sustainability as researched through the works of Jeff Speck, Charles Marohn, Charles Montgomery, Donald Shoup, Melissa & Chris Bruntley, Charles Schwartz, Ken Greenberg and many others. Additionally, my academic background in political science, philosophy, religious studies, and real estate all provide both knowledge base, process of critical thought, and, yes, biases. In order to reduce personal bias, answers were read anonymously, separate from the candidate before selecting a “favourite” to highlight. Non-highlighted answers are not necessarily “bad” answers – sometimes more explanation was desired.


SPARROW (Independent): I believe the new Tree Protection Bylaw misses the mark. A focus on individual homeowners’ trees and an exemption for land which is the subject of a development application is in my opinion a blatant disregard to addressing the real protection of our tree canopy.  I believe we need to look at ways to not only demand greater tree retention but also incentivize their retention. While also adequately penalizing those who disregard the requirements or whose applications look to significantly remove them.  Our community is growing, the changes are obvious to those of us who are like myself and have lived here my whole life and can remember the rural life we all had here 40 years ago. The reality is we will see the look of our developable lands change as homes are built but we can demand better and more unique measures to ensure that development occurs in such a way that incorporates and protects more of our existing tree canopy. 

WHITMARSH (Independent): I support most of the 2021 updates to the Tree Protection Bylaw. The updated bylaw is more stringent and will lead to an increase in tree canopy in the developed areas of our community. I support efforts to increase our tree canopy but I do see a few challenges with the current bylaw. First, it is expensive to manage and does require us to hire additional bylaw officers. Second, I have always supported the idea that a person could remove one tree every 24 months from their private property for any reason. This would have little impact on the tree canopy but would allow better use of property for some property owners. Third, we will need to review how we manage trees in all areas of the Township since the Tree Protection Bylaw only covers the already developed areas of our community (not ALR).

WOODWARD (Contract with Langley): The Tree Protection Bylaw needs to be reformed to find a better balance between private property rights of residents that want to build a deck, a garage or a pool and mature tree protection.

We also need to update the Subdivision and Development Serving Bylaw to better plan for tree preservation along with development, especially for the Fernridge, Booth and Rinn draft neighbourhood plans.

COLEMAN (Elevate Langley): Yes, The Township is NOT going far enough.

Yes, the Township is going too far.

Increasing tree canopy is a worthwhile goal that should be pursued for a variety of important reasons. On the other hand, the Tree Protection Bylaw is going against another important goal – affordable housing. This is a situation that needs some common sense. We can work towards both objectives together. It is possible.


GARDNER (Independent): The Tree Protection Bylaw has proven to be little more than a political pat on the back, as it has certainly done nothing to protect Langley’s tree canopy. In effect, the bylaw has burdened a minority of individual homeowners with the collective responsibility for our tree canopy, while clear-cutting on development sites and ALR land (which makes up 75 percent of our land base in the Township,) continues unabated.

Our recently adopted Forest Management Strategy outlines the steps we need to take to increase our shrinking tree canopy, and it’s important that we all share in the collective responsibility for this, as it is essential for a liveable future in the Township of Langley.

If elected, I will be a strong voice for fully implementing our Forest Management Strategy, and ensuring the burden of protecting our trees, forests, and environment is not externalized by the development process.

ELEVATE LANGLEY (Group Response): Yes, The Township is NOT going far enough.

Yes, the Township is going too far.

Increasing tree canopy is a worthwhile goal that should be pursued for a variety of important reasons. On the other hand, the Tree Protection Bylaw is going against another important goal – affordable housing. This is a situation that needs some common sense. We can work towards both objectives together. It is possible.

WARD (Independent): I appreciate this question Brad. And it is part of my campaign to talk about the tree protection bylaw. The 2019 tree production bylaw offered numerous restrictions to tree removal and Langley Township. The further update restricted all removals with the exception where the tree is determined to be an imminent failure and high or extreme risk to the safety of persons or property as noted in 5.4. In bylaw number 5478. Virtually no trees qualify for this; at least very few do. This bylaw did nothing to restrict development as well as farms. Although perhaps ‘right hearted’, this bylaw is in my view wrong headed. Yes, we should protect trees. However, individual homeowners were hit with a bylaw that the public, by and large, anticipated would deal with wholesale clear cutting of land for development. The restriction on individual homeowners should be immediately removed and reinstated to one tree every 24 months. This makes sense. And we should adapt this bylaw with a view on protecting trees in new development. Clearly, if we are going to support development as well, some trees in new development areas will need to be removed. We need to think holistically and not just target fixate on a supposed ideal that does little to support a true Urban Forest. Farms should continue to have an exemption in order to support agriculture and to increase local food production. Additionally we need to incentivize tree planting, rather than penalize single tree removal for individual residents. The bylaw has unintended consequences as I have already seen having talked to Langley residents when knocking door to door; I have been informed by some that they have no interest in planting any trees with such an austere bylaw lest they, at some future time, regret their tree planting once it grows beyond 20 cm diameter. With the bylaw as is, gone are the days where residents plant their live Christmas tree in their backyard.

ARNASON (Independent): Not far enough. I sat on the Tree Protection Advisory Committee as a Council appointee and was part of the informed discussion with respect to amendments to the existing Bylaw. The amendments were ultimately adopted based on the recommendations of the expert TPAC task force. Despite these improvements to the Bylaw, I believe that more needs to be done in order to protect our tree canopy based on the accelerated loss of mature trees due primarily to new development. One of our largest challenges with respect to three canopy protection is that 75% of our land is in the ALR. Provincial legislation currently allows for the removal of trees on agricultural land based on the “Right to Farm Act. As a regulated community, this tree canopy is not subject to the amended Tree Protection Bylaw which only covers our tree canopy within the urban containment boundary. I therefore support the recommendation of TPAC with respect to the review of the Township’s Subdivision and Development Servicing Bylaw in order to protect more trees throughout the development process. If re-elected, I would support the creation of a committee that would be tasked with reviewing and make recommendations with respect to all aspects of tree management in the Township of Langley on an on-going basis based on the framework of our advisory committee model.

CHANG (Independent): The bylaw tries strikes a balance between the desire to preserve our tree canopy and the rights of private property owners. In the past, owners had sole discretion on how they used their property and this bylaw does place limits on the restriction to remove trees. But I would want council to advocate for property owners in a dispute where appropriate.

PRATT (Independent): While the Tree Protection Bylaw hardly does enough to protect the tree canopy on individual properties, it doesn’t apply at all to development sites. These are often clearcut with no repercussions, and often for single-family developments which are supposedly better at protecting trees. We can see that this is false, and that a strategy of higher-density clustering with protection of significant stands of trees would do a much better job of protecting our tree canopy. We have to work on and tweak our Bylaw so that is has more “teeth”, but also create a program to incentivize property owners to protect, preserve, and plant trees on their property. This could be applied to both non-ALR and ALR landowners and tenants. Now that there is a Community Forest Management Strategy, we have some clear tools in our toolbox that can be used to do a much better job of protecting this vital piece of our community.

MORAES (Independent): Yes green spaces need to be protected and trees brought into high growth neighborhoods.

CONTRACT WITH LANGLEY (Group Response): The Tree Protection Bylaw needs to be reformed to find a better balance between private property rights of residents that want to build a deck, a garage or a pool and mature tree protection.

We also need to update the Subdivision and Development Serving Bylaw to better plan for tree preservation along with development, especially for the Fernridge, Booth and Rinn draft neighbourhood plans.

RESPONDEK (Independent): I believe the protection of trees and nature is very important. However, I do not have the required knowledge and information regarding the situation to make a comment. I would defer to the Tree Protection Advisory Committee to provide information as well as best courses of action and then make a decision based on those factors.

RICHTER (Independent): I have fought for years to get a Tree Bylaw in Langley Township. We finally got one this current Council term but it was far from perfect as it required cobbling together by disparate views from Council and Staff.

I was happy that this new Bylaw was reviewed (at my request and motion) and improved by tree professionals and township residents over the past 2 years but it is still not enough as the Subdivision Servicing Bylaw is still not included (and should be).

Going forward we need to harmonize the Tree Protection Bylaw and the Subdivision Servicing Bylaw. We also need to bring ALR lands in line with it (but that will be a very long up-hill battle with the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture as the Township is a “regulated” community that requires Ministerial Approval for any change).

TOWNSLEY (Independent): I am all for protecting healthy trees, however I believe that the bylaw is going about it the wrong way. While the intentions are good, it leaves much to be desired in practice. For instance, it takes months for the permit to actually take a dead and hazardous tree down. By the time the homeowner pays the arborist, the permit fee, the deposits and purchases and plants the new tree, it can make the whole process cost prohibitive. My concern is that it means that people will not take care of hazardous trees in a timely manner.

This also does nothing to address the fact that development still appears to be able to clearcut at will without encouragement of densified development that leaves space available for trees.

Then, there is the issue of trees and farming. Properties in the ALR are not subject to this bylaw…yet many properties within the ALR are not being farmed. The same holds true for properties outside the ALR (RU1) that fall under this bylaw that are being actively used for farming. As a farmer, I leave as many trees up as I can, but I can see the frustration and confusion that this causes as farmers are protected under the “Right to farm” legistlation.

Now that we have had the bylaw in place a while, we should revisit it to strengthen it where needed and to ensure that the process is accomplishing the desired result.

I believe there is always room to strengthen the bylaw.

SUARÉZ RUBIO (Independent): Not far enough. To judge the human heart , one must come to know human financial interest. And the book of prophet Jeremiah says that the human heart is something difficult to discern and understand. I believe this is a biblical truth.

POITRAS (Independent): My feeling is currently the Tree Protection Bylaw has not satisfactory in protecting our tree canopy in the area of new development The burden is currently sitting on property owners. We need to remove the current exemption for development from the Tree Protection Bylaw. Further I would to see development codes include planning for mature sized trees around and throughout new developments so trees have a place to grow and mature. This includes to line sidewalks and around the buildings. We should be building with trees in mind. In addition to protecting the townships urban canopy we should be implementing strategies to increase tree coverage by tree planting in public spaces, and include incentives to plant new trees on private property.

DARNELL (Independent): The 2021 ByLaw must be immediately reviewed. It should not be lost to any of us that we are in the second major drought of the past two years. Our trees are dying. We need trees and other vegetation that provides a sustainable canopy to promote growth. We need trees and plants that can survive droughts and floods. In September 2022 we suffered extreme flooding from an atmospheric river which was horrific and we continue 6to live with those results. The Township Must Do Better Than This.

JOEHL (Independent): I have no desire to revisit the Tree Protection Bylaw.

VAN POPTA (Contract with Langley): I believe we have made the bylaw very cumbersome for the average homeowner to be able to deal with safety issues and dead tree removal. We have also not adequately addressed tree removal penalties when designing building footprints. Where’s the incentive to keep mature trees when the cost of replacing them with new trees in different locations is so cheap?

KUNST (Independent): We definitely need tree protection and why I voted for the tree bylaw. I also think property owners should be allowed to deal with a tree that they feel is dangerous or creating problems for them on their property without having to pay large sums of money to the TOL for permits and an arborist etc.

We are seeing lots of people VERY frustrated with this policy and asking for help in how to deal with it. I think we need to have a more balanced approach respecting that most residents in the TOL love their trees. We also need to keep and plant more trees in our developing areas, including more street trees to increase our tree canopy and allow people to enjoy what trees offer in their neighborhoods.

Do you believe in a more economically and environmentally sustainable Langley? Do you believe in the work being done here? Do you want to support the work of Better Langley?

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