Preservation of trees became an issue at Sylvan Lake council last Tuesday when Rod English applied for a demolition permit to remove a house and garage at 5048 52nd Street.
Following lengthy debate, councillors approved the demolition permit for buildings on the property only.
Then they unanimously approved a motion asking administration to prepare a report on existing regulations in the Land Use Bylaw regarding preservation of trees and provide recommendations on how to strengthen the regulations.
There was no indication in the application that trees were going to be cut down, but councillors wanted to be proactive on the issue.
“I’m in favour of the demolition as long as the trees are not part of it,” said Councillor Matt Prete. “This town gets its character as a result of its trees. I think we should do as much as we can to keep them. We need to give direction to the developer that some of those trees need to stay there.”
He was concerned that the area is zoned for multi-residential development and the property could be clearcut in preparation for construction.
“I think we need to aggressively protect trees in these areas. We need to make it very clear they’re an important part of development.”
Prete added it’s important to get the message to the developer before the architectural process is started. “If we give them parameters, they will work with them. If we wait until architectural plans come in, then we’ve got a fight on our hands.”
Councillor Jas Payne said he’d looked at the site and some of the trees need to go. “I think we have the ability in the development plan phase to say we have this desire as a community. There is an opportunity to have development that comes with character. At an early stage of development this is going to be an easy fix.”
The town’s Municipal Sustainability Plan (MSP) also talks about preservation of existing trees under its environmental pillar, indicated Payne.
Earlier in their meeting, councillors had accepted for information a recommendation from the Community Services Committee to review the MSP which was created in 2010 and included 168 action items within five pillars. To date 30 items have been completed, 59 are ongoing and 19 in progress. Councillors will discuss whether or not to proceed with the MSP review in conjunction with budget deliberations.