The section of trees along Railway Avenue. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Town staff given discretion to remove problem trees

Homeowner worried about trees overhanging Elm St. property

To tree or not to tree — that is the question.

At their July 23 meeting council received a letter, dated July 5, from Smithers homeowner Joan Wilmot.

In it, she referenced a number of trees surrounding her property on Elm St. which she said made her feel unsafe.

“These large trees surround our property on three sides and lean in … They drop branches regularly and I am concerned these trees [may] fall on our house or a person,” the letter reads.

At the meeting Mayor Taylor Bachrach noted he was able to connect with Wilmot over the phone and that Wilmot said the Town’s director of works and operations Roger Smith had already stopped by after she wrote the letter.

READ MORE: Give the trees a chance

Giving an update to council, Smith said the issue extends beyond just the one property and that the section [of Railway Ave. that backs the properties on Elm St.] has more than 100 trees, many of which are nearing their end of life.

But acknowledging the issue, he said, it’s not as simple as canvassing residents because while some would undoubtedly want the trees gone, there would also be those who didn’t.

“I dont really know what to suggest,” Smith said, adding that while technically the Town could go and clear cut the whole section, there would inevitably be people who wanted the trees there.

Addressing Wilmot’s concerns, Smith said the Town has already gone in to remove trees along the stretch that were “obviously dead.”

But he also acknowledged the vast majority of the trees were nearing their end of life and that a few could indeed pose a risk to nearby residences if they were to fall, noting that when he went to check out the area on July 23, he noticed there was a fallen tree, presumably from the storm the night before.

“It was on one of the resident’s fences,” Smith said, adding the larger issue of removal of trees that are at-risk of falling or dead is a discussion the Town will eventually have to deal with.

“There are a number of bigger trees — bigger poplars — that if they were to blow over in the direction of the houses they would land on a house.”

In the end, Smith said that there were some trees in the area that probably should be taken down.

“There are [probably] half a dozen trees where, as a layperson, I can tell that they’re dead [and] they should come down.”

Deciding not to pass a motion related to the item, council instead gave Smith discretion over fixing the issue.

“If there’s no objection from council I think [unless] this goes [against] what you had in your budget to take care of these one-off situations then we’d leave it to your discretion to decide on the best remedy for that specific situation,” said Bachrach.

As discussion wrapped up, director of development services Mark Allen noted the agenda item did raise the issue of a larger conversation the Town would have to have on removing trees that are nearing their end of life, noting the Town has already had to remove similarily-aged poplars near Chandler Park.

“We may need to bring a budget request to council this fall about a larger scale [operation] to remove, probably, most of the trees and then replant whatever suitable species would work there.”

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