Langford re-tables tree bylaw to correct procedural grey area
The bylaw provides temporary coverage until a full tree management plan is adpoted
In December when Langford hastily implemented a temporary tree bylaw until a comprehensive tree management policy could be developed, it changed an in-camera meeting to a public meeting without the required 24-hours of notice to the public. According to municipal rules, councils can waive the required notice period with unanimous agreement. On Dec. 19 Langford council unanimously voted to accept the new agenda, which implicitly showed agreement to waive notice, but they did not explicitly waive notice.
That minor grey area was pointed out by John Alexander, a lawyer hired by a group of Langford-based developers. And so the tree bylaw was put back on the agenda.
At last night’s council meeting, council received the bylaw for first, second, and third readings to eliminate that grey area—this time the agenda had been posted with more than adequate notice. At a future meeting, the bylaw will come forward for final adoption.
Langford is also preparing to develop its comprehensive tree bylaw, starting with hiring a consulting company to work on a report and help manage consultation. Council approved a plan to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for an urban forest management plan.
In the meantime, the bylaw that passed in December is still legal, in place, and enforceable, according to Langford’s Director of Corporate Services Braden Hutchins, who explained the details at the start of Monday’s meeting. Even when there are procedural questions, a bylaw is enforceable until the council rescinds it, or a court overturns it. It was “out of an abundance of caution” that staff recommended council re-do the tree cutting bylaw, he told the gathered crowd.
As at the Dec. 21 meeting when the bylaw was first voted into place, a crowd of residents spoke up last night, both in support and opposition.
Alexander was there representing the developers who retained his advice. He asked council to acknowledge, “that sometimes proceeding without careful thought and review and rushing governance leads to poor outcomes.” He seemed to disagree with Hutchins’ comments that the content of the bylaw was still enforceable, even with the implicit/explicit waiver of notice period detail. Alexander had suggested in a press release shared last week that the bylaw might not be enforceable if it were challenged.
Many of the same people who spoke at the Dec. 21 meeting were also there on Jan. 16 to share their views; the majority were in favour. Mike Wignall, an engineer at Westbrook Consulting, was staunchly opposed on Dec. 21. On Jan 16, he expressed thanks to council for being willing to re-do the bylaw with proper process. Though he still disagrees with the bylaw, he was impressed by their willingness to bring it back to the table.
Council unanimously received the bylaw for first, second, and third readings.