Oak Bay residents rebuff hedge request

Couple says cutting to requirements would leave unsightly mess

York Place property owners say they were only given five days notice to trim this cedar hedge to municipal standards.

A cedar hedge is taking the hit for a sidewalk safety report on York Place and the home’s owners say they can’t keep up with each council administration.

Charles Sauer and Mary McCutcheon’s cedar hedge came under fire after a September report by Dr. Elaine Gallagher, of Gerotech Research Associates, commissioned by York Place residents. It cites safety concerns and came to a number of conclusions, including that the sidewalk should be replaced and that foliage blockage bylaws need to be better enforced in the area. Sauer and McCutcheon own one such hedge on a property on York nearest Oak Bay Avenue.

McCutcheon notes they were given short notice to cut the hedge back to bylaw standards, and the notice was dated the day before they received it.

“We were given five days notice,” she said. “This hedge has been here for 60-plus years. … You need some kind of grandfathering.”

The couple has owned the home since the 1980s and moved there at the end of the 1990s. In the “interest of civic duty” before being asked, they started trimming back the cedar hedge.

“Each year we have been trimming it back with the goal of moving it back so the foot path could be used,” said Sauer.

They also removed a couple of towering trees to open the view and replaced them with new ones they intend to keep at a reasonable height.

Still the hedge came under fire a couple years ago and Sauer and McCutcheon outlined the plan to municipal officials and council members.

“They said fine, no problem,” Sauer said.

They were stunned to learn it was still an issue, and reiterate their stance on the hedge.

“There is the community aspect of Oak Bay,” Sauer added. If the dramatic cuts required to achieve the bylaw are made, those walking and driving on Oak Bay Avenue will be greeted by “unsightly tree trunks. And it will be there for years and years,” Sauer said. “It will be ugly as sin.”

“It’s sad for the community,” McCutcheon said, adding the greenery would not return. “We’ve been told the chances are it will die.”

Sauer notes there could be other ways to alleviate traffic concerns on the road, including banning roadside parking or moving the sidewalk to the other side of the road. “There are other things that can be done,” Sauer said.

It’s a difficult situation, according to the district parks manager, with the two sides differing in objectives.

“We just had our first conversation with the owner of the residence and we are going to come up with a plan to aggressively prune the hedge – but not ruin it,” said Chris Hyde Lay, Oak Bay parks manager. “We have a game plan in the works to prune the hedge back to the sidewalk edge.”

Theirs was not the only hedge highlighted by the report about York Place.

“Other people in the area got vegetation encroachment letters also. And we’re doing a bit of work on the municipal side, trimming shrubs etcetera that are impeding sidewalk fluidity … we’re definitely making it better.”

 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com