Crews clear a site near Mills Memorial hospital in April to accommodate construction of the new hospital building. (Black Press Media File Photo)

Crews clear a site near Mills Memorial hospital in April to accommodate construction of the new hospital building. (Black Press Media File Photo)

City of Terrace helpless on hospital site tree cutting

Construction site neighbours upset at lack of visual barrier

There was little the City of Terrace could do about the complete clearing of trees from the Mills Memorial Hospital construction site, a report to city council states.

While the city’s official community plan does have provisions through issuing development permits that can regulate cutting or keeping trees on some lands, that doesn’t apply to lands such as the hospital site, the report states.

“The hospital site is zoned public institutional and therefore is not subject to any development permit area designation. Public institutional uses are exempted from development permit designation in the Local Government Act,” wrote David Block, development services director and author of the report.

Block’s report follows a petition and presentation made to council June 14 by the construction site’s neighbours questioning several aspects of the construction surrounding the $622.6 million hospital replacement project, including why trees on the fringes of the property were not left as a visual buffer.

Expressing concern, council asked for the report which was provided to council July 14.

The Northern Health Authority had earlier said it had the area clearcut as some of the trees were classified as “hazard trees.” It then said it needed to cut all the trees to prevent birds from nesting there as if they had, the construction project timetable would have been pushed back.

The authority does add there will be replacement landscaping but that is not subject to city oversight either.

Block did say screening and landscape buffering does apply to industrial lands adjacent to commercial or residential uses but not to public institutional lands such as the hospital site.

There is also no tree removal bylaw regulating the general removal of trees from private lands.

Residents, in the form of a petition, opposed construction on a Sunday for the noise and disturbance that would create.

But council itself last fall approved of the move upon the request of contractor PCL with council agreeing that continuous construction was needed to finish the hospital in a timely and budget-conscious fashion.

The subject of leaving trees in the face of large-scale construction projects was also brought up by residents of the 4800 Block of Lazelle Ave. where a three-storey, 47-unit Indigenous-resident apartment-style building is to be built on the south side of that block.

“We would like to appeal to [developer] M’akola to preserve the trees adjacent to the south side of the street. They offer shade in summer, now especially appreciated. With the likely installation of a sidewalk on the south side of the street, the trees would ease the heat,” wrote one of the residents, David Heinimann, to the city.

For that construction, the development permit issued by the city, accompanied by site maps, does indicate existing trees along the sidewalk length will be kept. There will be no trees or vegetation adjacent on either side of the main entrance and exit from Lazelle Ave. to the complex’s parking area.