When you own land in the City of Vancouver, nothing is simple. In the most recent example of excessive government control over private land, I am planning to remove a tree from my property to make way for my new house. I am not talking about some beautiful old growth tree, nor am I a talking about a luscious producing fruit tree. I am talking about a dead cherry stump and a 50+ year old pear tree that, according to the previous owner, “hasn’t produced a pear in 10 years and is all diseased as covered in moss.”
Here are some pictures of the 2 trees:
In order to remove a tree in Vancouver you must first consult the City of Vancouver By-Law No. 9958: A By-law to provide for the protection of trees.
This By-Law is 11 sections, 4 amendments and an appendix totalling 46 pages! That’s right, before I remove a tree from the land I own and pay property taxes on, I have to read a 46 page by-law to make sure I am in compliance. Don’t worry, you don’t have to read the whole thing, I’ve done it for you.
Here are the highlights:
Despite popular belief that you can remove one tree per year, you can actually no longer remove one tree per year without a permit. That part of the by-law was amended in April 2014. All trees need a permit to be removed.
A tree, for the purposes of the by-law is defined as having a diameter (width) of 20cm or greater, measured at 1.4M above ground. Here is a screen shot from www.Vancouver.ca outlining what that looks like.
You’ll notice that once again, the measurements get confusing. The by-law is written in centimetres/metres and the example is provided in inches.
I was talking with a friend today and he asked me to clarify the definition of a tree. Based on the fact that the stump from my backyard that you see in the picture above counts as a tree, we decided that I could tie some 2 x 4s together, dig a hole in the ground and make sure they are at least 4’5 high. The 2 x 4s have about as much life in them as the stump I am going to have to pay to remove.
In what can only be an effort designed to kill the very trees the bylaw purports to be saving, I was surprised to find that a bunch of the pages of the by-law are actually entirely blank, save a header and footer. Above are are some screen shots of Schedule C2, Section 8 – Page 2 and Section 6 – Page 2. All of them, blank. There are more empty pages throughout the by-law, but you get the point.
Section 4.4 says that in order to apply for a permit you need a tree plan, a permit application, an arborist report, possibly a plumbers report and a non refundable application fee of $65 for the first tree and $186 for each subsequent tree in a 12 month period.
According to Section 4.5, a permit can only be issued in these circumstances. If you’d rather not read the whole thing, it basically says, you need an arborist report by someone certified with the ISA – the International Society of Arborists. The tree needs to be dead, dying or attacking some part of a building.
Section 8 of the by-law speaks to the care and maintenance of trees. Basically it says you need to take better care of your trees than you do of your animals. Well, not quite, but according the by-law you can’t climb a tree with gaffs, spurs or spikes. So parents, don’t let your kids climb trees after a round of golf or soccer practice.
Ok, so what does this all mean for me and my new house??
It means that my stump and my almost dead pear tree deserve the same protection as the thriving fig tree in my neighbours yard AND the powerful tall maple trees that adorn lots around the city.
I looked on the city of Vancouver website for a list of Arborists that would know what to do and was bounced off to the ISA website, which has a list of arborists. I made a few phone calls and some didn’t even know they were listed on this website. After talking to a few arborists, I requested two proposals.
Daisy’s Landscaping sent me a quote for $380 ($399 with GST) to write the report on the 2 trees and I can submit the application and pay for the permit myself.
Bartlett Tree Experts sent me a quote for $155 to write the report and $380 for an application fee and permit. Total with tax: $561.75
The City of Vancouver cost for the 2 tree removal permits is $251 – which I assume doesn’t have tax on it. (But who knows?? – It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve paid tax on tax. Think Translink parking tax.)
So, my all in numbers look like this to submit my application to remove a stump and a dead tree:
Daisy’s Landscaping: $399 + $65 + $186 = $650
Bartlett Tree Experts: $561.75
That’s right – it is going to cost me between $561 – $650 to get permission to remove a stump and a dead pear tree from the land that I own.
I want to clarify this. This is not the cost of removing the trees. That is a separate bill. This is just the permission to remove the trees. There will also be tree replacement requirements, which again will cost more money. But, that money I am happy to spend as part of my landscaping budget.
But wait! There’s more….
Both arborists I talked to said that they would prepare the report and once the applications were submitted someone from the City would need access to the property. The Bartlett quote says, “A representative from the City of Vancouver will conduct a site visit to assess the tree, they will require access to the property”.
WHAT?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?! I have had to read a 46 page tree by-law, meet with 2 separate arborists to get quotes, fill out a 2 page permit application, pay $561 – $650 in non-refundable fees to arborists and the City of Vancouver and THE CITY IS STILL GOING TO SEND SOMEONE OUT TO MY PROPERTY!
Why not just charge me $300 and have someone from the city come and look the first time. I’m sure the city would be better off with their own Park Board Arborists driving around looking at trees and collecting $300 instead of putting me through all these hoops, especially if they’re going to come and do a site visit anyways.
I haven’t applied for my permits yet, but when I do, I’ll be sure to keep you informed. In the meantime, leave a comment below with your thoughts on, or experiences with, Vancouver’s tree protection by-law.