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Bylaw concern takes root

George Paterson measures out the length his neighbour’s elm tree hangs over his Coldstream property (24 feet). - Jennifer Smith/Morning Star
George Paterson measures out the length his neighbour’s elm tree hangs over his Coldstream property (24 feet).
— image credit: Jennifer Smith/Morning Star

When George Paterson built his Coldstream home 30 years ago, he and his wife could sit on their deck and enjoy a picturesque view which even included a small corner of Kalamalka Lake.

But during the past decade or so, the Paterson’s view has been blocked by a neighbour’s elm tree.

It’s not even the loss of view that George and his wife Dorothy are most concerned with. It’s the mess the “ugly” tree sheds all over their yard.

At 80 and 85 years old, respectively, Dorothy and George are finding it harder to clean up after something that’s not even theirs – between the leaves in the fall and the seedlings all spring.

“It’s such a mess,” said Dorothy.

“Our yard looks like snow in the spring when the seeds all come down and every time the wind blows our yard is covered in these dead branches.”

The tree has always existed on their neighbour’s property, but was pruned back and taken care of historically.

Now, George says it’s overgrown, hanging 24 feet over their property and towering over their backyard.

The Patersons have tried to talk to their neighbours to see if some pruning could be done to the tree, but haven’t been met with co-operation.

“They say it’s such a nice shade tree, but they don’t get the shade, we get it all,” said George.

The senior couple has learned that while there are potential fines for those who don’t look after fruit trees, there are no regulations for other trees.

The Patersons had hoped the District of Coldstream might be able to help, after seeing another Coldstream resident raise the issue of overgrown trees at a recent council meeting.

George suggests there should be a bylaw restricting the height of trees to not be taller than a rooftop.

“I can’t build a building higher than 25 feet but they can grow trees 80 feet tall?” questions George.

Coldstream council debated the issue but agreed that there wasn’t much the municipality could do to assist homeowners.

“Legally it’s impossible for us to do that,” said Michael Reiley, Coldstream’s director of development services.

“We can’t, as a third party, enforce these.”

But the district is going to produce a flyer, which will be available on the district’s website and at the municipal office. It will educate the public on how they can handle such situations.

“It’s a difficult matter to regulate but I think that we do have an obligation to educate,” said Coun. Maria Besso.

One option homeowners have is determining if a neighbour’s property is part of a building scheme, and if that scheme limits tree heights.

“It can only be enforced by people who are actually part of that building scheme,” said Coun. Pat Cochrane.

Property owners can obtain a title from the land titles office, which may indicate if there is a building scheme on title.

But obtaining the title may require an owner to use a lawyer or notary.

Then only if their property and the neighbour’s property are both part of the same building scheme can action be taken.

“You could knock on their door and say there’s a building scheme, you should be doing this,” said Reiley.

Unfortunately for the Patersons, there is no building scheme in their neighbourhood.

 

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