Gales residents came out to delegate at a public hearing about rezoning 618 Farrell Road. (Google Maps)

Ladysmith strata questions tree removal on land rezoned for subdivision

Residents of the Gales strata complex are encouraging the town to have a closer look at the likely removal of over dozen trees, mostly red cedar and Douglas fir, following early talks of a new subdivision development on Farrell Road.

A public hearing was held at the city council meeting in April as the property at 618 Farrell Road was rezoned from rural residential to single dwelling residential. The change means the minimum lot size is reduced from 4000m2 to 668m2.

While a subdivision application hasn’t officially been submitted, a draft plan survey circulated by the developer at a neighbourhood informational meeting in November attended by 15 people identified several trees for removal in order to build an access road and upwards of eight new homes.

Several Gales residents also attended the city council meeting last month to ask if the town would appoint an independent certified arborist to review if cutting down the specified trees is necessary.

Jeff Reichert argued that the arborist’s report submitted to the town in January on behalf of Turner Land Surveying should be withdrawn altogether.

“It doesn’t explain why the trees would have to be removed to facilitate construction and as far as we know it was prepared before any engineering drainage plans where made available,” he said, adding that there’s a discrepancy in numbers between the 17 trees identified for removal and the 10 in the latest document from the arborist.

A letter to mayor and council from Turner Land Surveying’s Matt Schnurch on behalf of the applicant dated April 13, 2018, did explain that a number of the 17 trees are within the proposed building envelopes, or access, road and cannot be saved.

The certified arbororist looked at the others on the east side of the site to see if any could be saved but concluded that wouldn’t be possible given the current development plan.

“Any attempts at retention would not be feasible,” wrote Jonathan Bennett in the letter from earlier this year.

Regardless, Turner Land Surveying volunteered to have a new arborist’s report submitted at the time of a subdivision application and the town included that in a covenant on title.

It only remains to be seen whether Ladysmith officials and council will accept those findings or do its own study as requested by Gales residents who delegated before council.

To address the Gales’ concerns over the tree removal and privacy, Schnurch also proposed including that least two trees of six centimetres be planted on each lot, in both the front and rear yard, as part of the covenant.

“This way, instead of leaving eight trees in a precarious position, 18 new trees can be planted as a buffer to the Gales property, so that they do not affect lot grading and potential building locations,” he said.

An amendment put forward by Councillor Rob Hutchins also passed to include the location of the road on the west side of property as a requirement of the future subdivision.

A stormwater management plan will also be required with the application.

Councillor Carol Henderson pointed to drainage as just one of the considerations as the property moved to the next phase but said she was in favour of the plan of more single-family residential that worked with the “governing principle of using some of the natural assets.”

“I’m just wondering how much of this development will take into account some of the natural assets that are there,” Henderson said. “Drainage has often meant gray infrastructure as opposed to green and perhaps the trees can take some part in that drainage and retention.”

With the further work on obtaining subdivision approval expected this summer, the Gales residents will likely have other asks of the town in the near future.

New sidewalks, street lighting and the relocation of the community mailbox all remain as topics for discussion.

“I feel that with the increase in tax base on Farrell Road that it is time that we get proper street lighting, and sidewalks and curb and gutter,” Reichert added.

“We did have an incident in 2017 where a community mailbox was broken into and it is a really dark area.”

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