LETTER: Removal of eagle perch part of a larger problem in West Van

Dear editor:

I am one resident who was in complete disbelief when told the eagle perch on the Stearman Beach grand fir tree had been cut down (Aug. 19 news story). I had followed closely the negotiations between the owner of the property, the architect and the residents, which continued thereafter in council chambers between district staff and council during public meetings. There was great relief, even euphoria, when a decision was eventually arrived at and one private lot tree – the eagle/raptor perch would be “saved.” That was then.

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Of course, as referenced in this article, this is not the first time an “error” has been made to the advantage of homeowner and disappointment of neighbourhood.

The district has declared a climate emergency. The province has updated building guidelines for residential construction on the waterfront due to sea level rise and wave action, a consequence of climate change. I am referencing climate and not weather, to be clear.

When the long and protracted wrangling came to an end for this waterfront development property, a series of variances were granted with accommodation to protect this tree and eagle/raptor perch.

The district has recently released a report on West Vancouver’s natural assets, which include the foreshore, the urban and alpine forests (assets that I have been advocating to protect for about 30 years and still without an effective tree protection bylaw), the watershed, streams (our own natural conveyance channels), our riparian areas (under constant threat from development), and our grasslands and parks. These need to be monitored and protected or ecosystem services are lost.

As COVID-19 continues to impact our community, it is obvious that residents flock to nature, to the forests, parks, beaches and hiking trails, but most often to the shelter and security of our own backyards. There we can enjoy nature in its biodiversity. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that when familiar sights and sounds disappear in a neighbourhood, there is sadness and resentment, something that people new to the area do not appreciate or simply ignore.

The district’s Neighbourhood Character Working Group was given the task to “consider and review regulations and policies that respect neighbourhood character and reduce the impact of development.” Residents are encouraged to [give feedback to the working group’s recommendations on the district’s website. The opportunity to submit comments is extended to Sept. 20].

While removing the eagle/raptor perch on Stearman Beach will not form part of this process, it is a microcosm of what is happening on development lots but only on a much larger scale, where many of our natural assets are being compromised for increased profits. There are rules in place but loopholes exist, resulting in a gaming of the system.

I want to support Coun. Nora Gambioli and thank her for helping to bring this sorry saga to the public’s attention. I also want to acknowledge district staff for pursuing this, and I will be following up with them to see what action has been taken to address this “mistake.”

Therese Reinsch
West Vancouver

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