Friday, January 6, 2012

Trees an issue for 2012 and beyond

The City of Burnaby will be having a public hearing in the spring of this year before visiting the issue of amending its tree bylaw which has been in place in its current form since 1996.  The tree bylaw is meant to protect Burnaby's trees from uncontrolled, rampant cutting by people hoping to create a view for their property or to remove limits imposed by trees to their monster home aspirations.  The current tree bylaw appears to be merely a minor nuisance (for tree haters) as it is difficult to enforce, and the penalties associated with illegal cutting appear to be a minor cost of doing business for developers.

The beauty of the Brentwood Park neighbourhood north of Brentwood Mall is due in part to the trees that line its streets of predominately bungalow-styled houses.  The trees are what make the streets in this neighbourhood appealing to pedestrians, particularly in the spring when the cherry trees are in full bloom.

Because the tree bylaw has been developed with good intentions, we cannot just dismiss it if it fails to do everything we need it to do.  As the example below shows, tree bylaws and programs can work.  The sapling below has joined a row of existing aging trees lining both sides of Brentlawn Drive.  The bylaw needs to have input from residents that have experienced its inadequacies.

The future Brentwood Mall Revelopment (BMR) will see its surrounding parking lots transformed into a "high street" lined with shops and trees along its length.  With many new developments, the trees that are added to new streets tend to be small saplings that, if they survive, will take many years to grow into medium-sized trees with trunks that are barely the diameter of a human's leg.  These are usually planted in place of larger, more majestic trees that were cut down to make room for the development.  The BMR will see the addition of more new trees to the area than currently exist on the mall lot.  My concern is of the large evergreen trees that currently exist on the east end of the mall property along Beta Ave towards the rear of the lot.

Some of the large evergreens east of Sears as seen from the Sears Rooftop. 

The BMR appears to envision a car parkade being built between Sears and Beta upslope towards the rear of the mall where the rooftop parking is currently located at level with the northeast Beta entrance to the rear of the mall.  This parkade will require the removal of the large evergreens located there.

The Shape Properties recent Notice of Open House states that the City of Burnaby Brentwood Town Centre Development Plan "indicates a significant public open space component" for the redevelopment.  In many high profile public spaces the presence of large evergreen trees have provided for Christmas light decorations that pedestrians have enjoyed during the festive Christmas season.  The transplanting of the large evergreens from their current perch atop the hill next to Sears to the area below dedicated to a public gathering place would make an immediate positive impact at ground level as well as for the inhabitants of the high-rises whose suites will be facing inwards towards the "high street".  The evergreen trees would make perfect Christmas trees during December and would make the mall site greener year-round.  Imagine that it's December sometime before Christmas and you are strolling along the busy "high street" at Brentwood Mall and in the distance you can see a stand of large, living, lit-up evergreens where pedestrians are gathered for various reasons ranging from waiting for friends, to sitting at a bench to enjoy a Tim Horton's tea (my personal dream) and there are tourists that are snapping pictures of friends and family with a large, real Christmas tree in the background.  The public place could have several of the large evergreens in the square dispersed throughout to create a "forest" or "grove".

Don't get me wrong, we could still use the smaller trees to line the rest of the "Village" and "Fashion" districts as well as along Lougheed and Willingdon to visually improve the area.  The cutting down of the large evergreens currently onsite would be a shameful waste of trees that took decades to reach their current heights and a missed opportunity to have "ready made" evergreens that would make an immediate positive impact in the public square.

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