Tree Removal and Protection

The City’s Tree Bylaw has Changed

On February 26, 2019, City Council adopted a new tree bylaw, designed to better manage trees in our community and ensure a healthy urban forest for future generations. The new bylaw includes a number of changes to how trees are removed, replaced and protected.

Trees covered by the bylaw are at least 5 m tall OR larger than 15 cm across, measured 1.4 m above the ground. (There is an exception for some significant trees – see below).

During the bird nesting season (March 1 through July 31), tree permits will not be issued, unless the applicant submits a biological survey prepared by a Qualified Environmental Professional identifying any active nests and provides detailed measures to protect them in accordance with the BC Wildlife Act.

 

Bylaw Overview

What has the Bylaw Changed?

Trees are an important part of our urban environment. They provide shade, clean air and water, habitat for wildlife, help limit stormwater runoff and erosion, and connect us to nature. On average, more trees are cut than planted in Port Coquitlam, which over time would lead to decline in tree cover.

During extensive public consultation, we heard that trees are a resource that the community wants to see better protected, while making sure that homeowners have the flexibility they need to manage their property.

The changes to the tree bylaw reflect the results of two years of discussions, surveys, a stakeholder workshop and community open house regarding how we manage our urban forest.

The new tree bylaw will bring the City’s tree regulation in line with other Metro Vancouver municipalities, and better protect our existing trees, promote the planting of new trees, and help maintain a more resilient urban tree canopy.

Do I need a Tree Permit?

Tree Image with Measurements

A permit is REQUIRED to:

• Cut, remove or damage a tree at least 5 m tall OR wider than 15 cm across measured 1.4 m above the ground (10 cm across for some significant trees).

• Remove a tree that is hazardous or dead.

A permit is NOT REQUIRED to:

• Prune/remove dead or dying branches or a dead or broken stem of a multi-stemmed tree.

Fees: Permits now cost $100 (fee waived if dead or hazardous)

Replanting: One tree must now be planted for each tree cut (two if tree was significant). Replacement is not required if t he trunk is within 5 m of the trunk of  retained tree.

Exceptions and Special Circumstances

View the bylaw.

Requirements and Exceptions

Tree Permits and Fees

Tree permits are now required for the damaging, cutting, or removal of the following:

  • A tree with a diameter of 15 cm (as measured 1.4 m above ground), or a height over 5 metres
  • A tree planted to replace a tree that was cut
  • A tree planted as a landscaping requirement of a development permit
  • A tree on City-owned property, if proposed to be cut by a private individual
  • A significant tree

A copy of the tree permit must now be posted at the front of the property where the associated tree is being cut.

The fee for a tree permit has been updated to reflect the cost of processing. The permit fee is $100 per tree (waived if tree is deemed by the City to be hazardous).

Permits are not required to prune dead or dying branches, or to remove a dead or broken stem of a multi-stemmed tree.

Replacement Trees and Options

Replacement trees are now required as a condition of a tree permit:

  • One replacement tree is required for each tree cut that is not a significant tree.
  • Two replacement trees are required for each significant tree cut.
  • No replacement tree is required where the trunk of a tree cut is within 5 metres of the trunk of retained tree.

For properties not located in institutional or single family residential zones, a security deposit of $500.00 per replacement tree, in the form cash or irrevocable letter of credit, must be submitted to the City, which will be returned upon confirmation of the satisfactory planting and maintenance of the replacement tree(s).

If replacement planting is not feasible, a $500 cash-in-lieu payment may be paid to the City. The funds will be used to plant trees on City lands.

A tree replacement plan must be submitted as part of a tree permit application. Many types of trees can be planted as replacement trees in Port Coquitlam. We recommend consulting your arborist for a species recommendation, and checking with a local nursery to see what is available.

Click here for a general list of acceptable tree species.

Dealing with a Hazardous Tree

A permit is required but the fee will be waived for removal of trees deemed by the City to be a hazard. Permits are not required to prune dead or dying branches or to remove a dead or broken stem of a multi-stemmed tree.

Removing a Tree that is an Immediate Hazard

A tree is an immediate hazard if it is a risk to human safety or property because it is in imminent danger of falling, or its vertical stem is at extreme risk of breaking or causing damage.

The images above are examples of trees that define an immediate hazard. If the tree is an immediate hazard, it may be cut before applying for a permit under these conditions:

  • Photograph the tree to clearly show the hazard before cutting
  • Do not remove the tree from the site
  • Report the matter to Public Works and apply for a tree permit the following business day.

Note: Penalties may apply for removal of a tree that is not an immediate hazard without a valid tree permit.

A tree is NOT an immediate hazard if it:

  • has normal leaf dieback,
  • leans but has an intact root system
  • has broken hanging branches,
  • has some internal decay but sound exterior wood, or
  • sways in the wind but exhibits no significant signs of risk.

Removing a Tree that is NOT an Immediate Hazard

  • Apply for a tree permit.

Reporting Hazardous Trees

  • On City property: Contact Public Works at 604-927-5496 or 604-927-5488, or after hours at 604-543-6700.
  • In contact with power lines: Contact BC Hydro at 604-BC-HYDRO (224-9376).

See below for more information about reporting a hazardous tree.

Protecting Significant Trees

Definition of Significant Trees

The new bylaw expands the definition of a significant tree to include:

If Removal is Required Due to Hazard or Property Development

  • Follow the rules for hazardous tree removal if applicable. Otherwise, apply for a tree permit.
  • Regular replanting rules apply, except that two replacement trees are required for every significant tree removed.

If Removal is NOT Required Due to Hazard or Property Development

  • Significant tree cutting/removal is not permitted.
Trees in Development Permit Areas (DPAs)

Development Permit Areas have special development requirements and include commercial, industrial, comprehensive development and intensive residential zones (e.g. small-lot residential, duplex, townhouse, rowhouse and apartment). 

If Removal is Required Due to Hazard or Property Development

  • Follow the rules for hazardous tree removal if applicable. Otherwise, apply for a tree permit.
  • Regular replanting rules apply.

If Removal is NOT Required Due to Hazard or Property Development

  • Tree cutting/removal in a DPA is not permitted.
Protective Barriers

Protective barriers are required around trees to be retained prior to the issuance of the following permits:

  • demolition permit
  • soil removal or soil deposit
  • development permit
  • tree-cutting permit
Prohibited Tree-damaging Activities

A tree-damaging activity includes the following:

  • cutting, undermining or damaging roots
  • placing fill, building materials or other structures over the roots
  • operating trucks, backhoes, excavators or other heavy equipment over the roots
  • denting, gouging or damaging the trunk
  • removing or scraping bark
  • depositing concrete washout or other harmful substances near the roots
  • adding or removing soil to change the original soil grade
  • tree topping (cutting off the top portion of a tree)

A tree permit is required to conduct any tree-damaging activity.

Reporting a tree of concern

Public Property

The City is responsible for maintaining trees on public property, such as park land or on a boulevard.

To report a problem, call Public Works at 604.927.5496 (Monday-Friday, 7am to 3pm). For after-hours emergencies, call 604.543.6700.

Private Property

The health and maintenance of a tree on private property is the responsibility of the property owner.

If you are concerned about a tree your property, please contact a certified arborist for advice, Please refer to the International Society of Arboriculture Directory to find an certified arborist.

Power Lines

If a tree is in contact with power lines, contact BC Hydro at 604-BC-HYDRO (224-9376).

Steps to Get a Tree-Cutting Permit

Step 1

Under the City’s Tree Bylaw (#4108), a property owner can apply to the City to cut down one or all the trees on their property.  The City’s Arborist must review all applications for tree cutting to see if any significant trees are involved. The definition of a significant tree can be found in the Protecting Significant Trees section above.

Step 2

The applicant completes the online tree cutting application form. When the applicant does not own the land, a letter of authorization must be included from the property owner.

Step 3

The City’s Arborist will review the applicant’s package and advise them if any of following are also required prior to the issuance of a tree cutting permit:

  • a tree survey
  • a tree cutting and replacement plan
  • an arborist’s report
  • proof of liability insurance carried by the owner or tree removal contractor retained
  • proof of approval of the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and/or Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the case of any areas protected for fish habitat or flood-proofing purposes
  • a report from a geotechnical engineer confirming to the City’s satisfaction that the proposed tree cutting and replacement plan shall not in any way create a danger to the lands or adjacent lands from flooding, erosion, land slip or potential tree falls, where required by the City
  • Where applicable, adherence to the City’s approved Watercourse Development Permit Area designation of the 2005 Official Community Plan
  • Proof there are no applicable covenants in favour of the City restricting tree cutting and/or removal
  • Security deposit of 100% of the value of all the replacement trees and site restoration
Step 4

Staff will call the applicant and let them know their permit is ready for payment and pick-up in Development Services (above the Bank of Montreal and Starbucks on Shaughnessy Street beside City Hall).

Step 5

Staff in Development Services will collect the applicable fees and/or security deposit and issue the tree cutting permit. They will also scan a copy of the signed permit to be retained for City records.

Step 6

During the cutting or removal of a tree, a copy of the tree permit must be conspicuously posted at the front of the property where the tree is being cut/removed.

Step 7 (if applicable)

Upon completion of a tree replacement plan or site restoration work, the applicant may request to have their security deposit returned or letter of credit released. Staff will review the site to ensure compliancy and then have staff issue a refund or release the letter of credit.

Tree Bylaw Fines

A fine is levied for each tree cut, removed or damaged, or replacement tree not planted or maintained in contravention of the Tree Bylaw. In addition, planting of three (3) replacement trees is required for each tree cut without the required permit.

All fees and/or fines collected go towards planting new trees in the City. To view the Tree bylaw, click here.

Contact

Public Works
Tel:  604.927.5496
Email:  publicworks@portcoquitlam.ca