Request to remove dangerous trees refused by council

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County attempted to embark on a policy to remove dangerous trees on county property requested by residents.

However, a draft policy recommended by administration was cut down by council.

At its regular meeting Feb. 10, council defeated a recommendation to approve a draft tree removal policy as recommended by CAO Jordan Panasiuk.

After a 25-minute discussion, council could not agree on an effective way to manage the policy.

Some council members agreed the work be done by local businesses, not County staff or property owners.

Faust Councillor Robert Nygaard suggested private contractors do the work.

“I agree with Robert, we should have private contractors cut down trees,” Reeve Ken Matthews says.

He is concerned about liability when citizens cut down trees.

Panasiuk says the policy would cover only dangerous trees or those negatively affecting peoples’ property.

Requests would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, he says.

“From an administrative perspective, it is expensive and time-consuming to remove problem trees, especially those near urban development,” Panasiuk says.

“We have a lot of county property and road allowances and that’s a lot of trees.”

The policy statement explains that the policy is designed to provide all residents with the ability to remove trees on county property that may cause damage to private infrastructure or that pose a threat to people or property.

It is recognized trees provide benefits to the community and the removal of trees should be considered a last resort.

Administration often receives requests from ratepayers to either remove unsafe trees from county property or to express their concerns of a neighbour removing unnecessary trees on municipal property that takes away from the character and enjoyment of their own property, the CAO says.

That could be from county-owned land, road right of ways and most commonly from municipal reserve.

The tree may be leaning towards a house or roots could be causing damage to their utilities.

“In these situations, the tree should be removed,” Panasiuk says.

With nearly 1,400 kms of road allowance, multiple developments with municipal reserve, and several treed county- owned parcels, it takes a considerable amount of resources to proactively manage the problem of dangerous trees as an organization.

To address the problem, the County wants to create a policy and process for allowing members of the public to remove trees located on property themselves.

The policy and waiver are meant to exempt the County of liability related to removing tree, Panasiuk says.

He says the policy and waiver were reviewed and approved by the county’s insurer and legal team.

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