Let’s Talk Trees
Enhancing How We Promote, Protect and Manage Trees
Following extensive community consultation, Port Coquitlam is proposing new policies and regulations to promote the planting of new trees and to better protect trees on public and private property.
More than 500 people provided their opinion in 2017 about how the City should protect, promote and manage trees. There was a high level of support for taking steps to achieve greater tree protection, including planting more trees and enhancing the management of our urban forest.
Based on this input, best practices and review of tree management bylaws in other Metro Vancouver municipalities, the City is proposing changes to its policies and tree regulations.
Why Are We Updating our Tree Policies and Regulations?
Trees provide important benefits. They have environmental value, provide shade, improve our quality of life, and enhance the community’s natural beauty – an enduring source of PoCo Pride.
Port Coquitlam’s current tree canopy (the area covered by trees) is 23.8% – but that will decline if we don’t change how we manage our trees.
Did you know?
- Port Coquitlam’s “urban forest” includes about 5.6 million trees on all private and public property, including streets, parks and conservation areas.
- About 45% of Port Coquitlam’s urban forest is on public land, and 55% is on private land.
What Changes Are Being Proposed?
We are proposing changes to current policies, regulations and implementation practices that would apply to trees on both public and private properties. These changes include enhancements to the policies in our Official Community Plan (OCP) and changes to current regulations in our Tree Bylaw to promote planting, protection and management of trees.
Proposed changes to OCP policies would set the stage for the City to better manage trees:
- Enhance retention of existing trees in development approval processes by allowing variances to building setback, parking and other requirements.
- Allow for more planting of trees through road design, and encourage additional and diverse trees as part of development approvals.
- Develop programs to identify and celebrate significant trees, identify and register trees with heritage value, establish a City-wide tree data base, and manage wildfire risk.
Proposed changes to the Tree Bylaw would help the community promote planting and protection of trees:
- Requiring one replacement tree to be planted for each tree cut, or two replacement trees if the tree cut is a significant (i.e. very large) tree.
- Providing for the City to accept $500 cash-in-lieu when a property owner is unable to plant a replacement tree. These funds would be used to plant trees on boulevards and in City parks.
- Increase tree permit fee to $100 per tree and stop waiving permit fees for one tree per year, with funds directed to City tree planting.
- Reducing the minimum size of trees regulated the Tree Bylaw to a diameter of 15 cm (6 inches) or a height of 5 m (16 ft).
- Expanding the definition of significant trees to include all trees with a diameter of 60 cm (approx. 2 ft) or greater, trees of locally rare or threatened species, and wildlife or listed heritage trees.
- Requiring tree permits to be posted in a visible place on site while tree work is underway.
- Allowing the removal of trees posing an immediate hazard. A tree permit would need to be obtained from the City within two days of the removal, free of charge.
- Requiring protective barriers around all retained trees during development.
- Increase penalties for contravening the bylaw.
How Would the Proposed Regulations Change the Process for Removing a Tree?
- A permit will now apply to all trees greater than 15 cm (6 inches) across, or taller than 5 m (16 ft).
- The City would no longer provide one “free” tree cutting permit per year.
- A replacement plan showing the location and type of replacement tree will be required.
What Kind of Replacement Tree Would Be Required?
- The City will produce a set of guidelines to help residents choose the right replacement tree.
- Residents will be required to submit a replacement plan which will be reviewed by the City to ensure it is appropriate for the site.
How Will Permit Fees and Cash-in-Lieu Payments Be Used?
Permit fees and cash-in-lieu funds would be used to plant trees in public spaces, such as in parks and on boulevards.
Would I Still Be Able to Cut Down a Dangerous Tree?
Yes. Community safety is the City’s top priority.
- For trees that pose an immediate hazard:
- A property owner would be able to cut down a tree that poses a real and immediate hazard, but not remove it from the site. The owner would then need to apply for a free retroactive permit within two days of cutting the tree. The City’s arborists will need to confirm the tree was a hazard before issuing the permit.
- For trees not posing an immediate hazard:
- A permit would be acquired through the normal process.
What is a Significant Tree and What Does it Mean if I Have One in my Yard?
Public consultation revealed a strong desire to retain healthy old trees in our community. Under the proposed amendments, significant trees would include:
- Trees with a diameter of 60 cm or greater (approx. 2 ft)
- Trees of locally rare or threatened species
- Wildlife trees
- Listed heritage trees
A permit to remove a significant tree would be issued if the tree is hazardous, or is deemed necessary for redevelopment of a site. If the permit is approved, the planting of two replacement trees would be required.
If Someone Is Cutting a Tree, How Do I Know it is Allowed?
Under the proposed bylaw, a tree permit would need to be publicly visible during cutting. This would make it easier for the community to understand the conditions of a permit, and let the City know if a permit has not been acquired.
What Would the Penalties Be for Breaking the Tree Bylaw?
Penalties for contravening the bylaw would range from $200 for failure to display a permit, to $1,000 for removing a tree without a permit, and up to $4,000 for late payment of a fine for removing a significant tree without a permit. In addition, three replacement trees would need to be planted for each tree removed without a permit.
These penalties are intended to deter contraventionand would be in line with tree bylaw penalties in other Metro Vancouver municipalities.
- August-September 2017: Online survey, displays at City events and facilities, public outreach and public workshop
- October 2017: Stakeholder workshop
- Spring 2018: Draft updated policy and bylaw changes
- Summer 2018: Public Open House and report to Council
- Fall 2018: Staff review of Committee input on proposed policy and bylaw amendments
- Winter 2018/2019: Review of revised proposals by Committee
Planning Division, Development Services
Location and Mailing Address
City Hall Annex, (beside City Hall)
200 – 2564 Shaughnessy Street
Port Coquitlam, BC
8:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding statutory holidays)