DAN FERFGUSON PHOTO: Langley Township Councillor Charlie Fox

LETTER: Coun. Fox replies to ‘tree protection’ critics

As the mover of the motion at the March 19th Township Council meeting, I feel compelled to respond

Editor:

As the mover of the motion at the March 19th Township of Langley Council meeting, I feel compelled to respond Mr. Cameron’s letter regarding his perceived ‘delay’ in responding to the request for a comprehensive Tree Protection Bylaw for the Township.

Firstly, despite Mr. Cameron’s and several community members’ thoughts to the contrary, the Township is a ‘regulated’ community, one of four in the province, as it pertains to decisions regarding issues on ALR land. Therefore, Township Council is unable to enact any Bylaw on ALR lands without the expressed endorsement of the Minister of Agriculture. This Council, and previous Councils, have made several attempts to create bylaws that would regulate certain activities and types of operations in the ALR within the Township and they have all been rejected by the Minister (or his/her office) over the past several years. These activities include examples such as mushroom composting operations. A comprehensive Township-wide bylaw encompassing ALR land is simply pre-empted by the ‘Right to Farm’ legislation which provides oversight to all activities in the ALR.

Secondly, why the motion was made to make this part of the priority discussion for the next council and budget cycle commencing in the fall of 2018, after the next election:

– the motion of the March 5th meeting passed by council asked for a report from staff as to what types of processes could be undertaken to enact a Tree Protection Bylaw ‘task force’ to address this issue. This report will include details on process options, costs and time frames. As stated by staff this report will take some eight weeks to complete, thus putting us at the May 7th meeting assuming there is no delay in creation of the report.

– from there we need to advertise for members of the public who may be interested in serving on the Task Force which is a three to four week process, given time to advertise, get interested folks’ applications and organize the details.

– the selection of Task Force members would then take place by order of Council, likely at the June 11th meeting.

– if you assume normal process, the chosen Task Force would meet with staff and commence work right in to the summer. In years past Council has been taken to task when we have tried to do business in the summer months and especially when it comes to having public input and open houses as folks are usually away on holidays.

– that then puts this Task Force working group doing their public open houses and input in to September and October – right through the election.

– the new Council is not ‘fettered’ by past Council’s decisions and therefore they could even throw the whole Task Force out and chose another path … a true waste of time and effort.

On top of all that we have no staff available to lead this process. Given that the 2018 work plan was derived from a Council Priority Planning session held prior to the 2018 Budget and every staff member in the Planning Department (long range and other) and Bylaws is engaged in working through the established Council work plan. So the question then becomes: what project do we stop in mid-process and move those staff over to work on this. Further, this is not in the 2018 budget, therefore there is no budget monies set aside to work on this bylaw preparation, for staff time, legal vetting, materials, facilities, etc. It will take money and more than you think!

Bylaw creation takes staff time, time to create the Task Force and get them up to speed, the necessary public engagement to the highest level, often two or three (maybe more) open houses and input sessions, the need for legal vetting, two readings of Council, a public hearing and then third and fourth reading. The average bylaw takes between 12 and 16 months (or longer in some cases) to go through the process if it is within one Council cycle, not interrupted by an election. This would take us well into the spring or summer of 2019.

The reality is, my motion is truly prepared to ensure the next council in fact has it listed on their facilitated Council Priority Planning Session scheduled in November and further that they, through that process, if it is a top priority, ensure the budget funds are appropriately allocated to ensure the job is done properly. This may not be what some folks see as soon enough but given the timing and good governance it is in my opinion the best route to go to ensure an informed and proper outcome.

In the meantime an interim Tree Protection may be the option of choice and there is a notice of motion to that effect for the April 9th Council meeting.

Charlie Fox, Langley Township Councillor

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