Willows deemed safety hazard

Trees topped discussion among city councillors deliberating a development proposed for Harbourfront Drive

Trees topped discussion among city councillors deliberating a development proposed for Harbourfront Drive.

At Monday’s development and planning meeting, council approved the development permit for three fourplex buildings of 12 residential units at 131 Harbourfront Dr. NE. Issuance of the permit is subject to official community plan and zoning amendments approvals, receipt of an irrevocable letter of credit for a landscaping plan and confirmation by a qualified environmental professional that construction and “riparian planting” will be monitored for compliance with riparian regulations. The latter two requirements would address the 13 willow trees that currently align the foreshore portion of the property.

Coun. Ken Jamieson noted residents are concerned the trees will be removed. City development services director Kevin Pearson said the trees are nearing 90 years in age. He said the city’s arborist has confirmed they are not critical to riparian habitat but do represent a safety hazard.

“We all love trees, but in this case we have to make an objective decision rather than an emotional one,” commented Coun. Alan Harrison, who recommended a covenant stating the willow trees are the property owner’s responsibility and, if removed, they be replaced with suitable trees indigenous to the area.

The applicant, Marvin Skjerpen, said the trees would not be removed all at once, but in three development phases, the first of which he hopes to start this fall.

“We would never go in and take out all the trees,” said Skjerpen. “At the end of the day it’s unfortunate they have to come out, but truly they are a danger and it’s something we’ll have to deal with.”