Ryan Phillips

City will remove ‘problem’ Shoppers Row trees

City council has pledged to remove downtown trees that are costing business owners on Shoppers Row thousands of dollars in damage

City council has pledged to remove downtown trees that are costing business owners on Shoppers Row thousands of dollars in damage.

A total of 28 property owners have been affected by the large 30-to-35-year-old London plane trees that line the sidewalk along Shoppers Row and a portion of Pier Street.

Council agreed to remove the trees whose roots have caused flooding and pipe damage to downtown businesses and replace the trees with an appropriate species, after hearing from several upset business owners.

Blair McLean, a Pier Street property owner, described the damage at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“The London plane tree (roots) get down under the sidewalks and the brick structures that were put in cannot hold them,” McLean said as he showed a photograph of the brick cracking around the base of the tree. “The property owners are worried about their foundations because the roots are getting underneath. At Online Gourmet, roots went down 40 feet and went up through one of the toilets and the store had to be closed for three months to do repairs which cost him $50,000.

“You want downtown beautification and you’re trying to support our area but it’s very hard when we’re up against it when we see money going here, there and everywhere and nobody will help us when it comes time to repair the damage that we feel has been caused by council in the past in Campbell River,” McLean added. “You are the people who are supposed to be there and protect us. You want the downtown core to grow, you have to support us.”

The London plane trees were planted more than 30 years ago but Jan Tees, secretary of the Downtown BIA, said through research and speaking with an arborist she learned those particular trees should have never been planted near sidewalks, driveways or sewers.

Ryan Phillips, chair of the Downtown BIA, said the business owners would like to see the city take responsibility for the trees and the damage they’ve caused.

“We come before you first to acknowledge and take responsibility for the damage the plane trees have caused, reimburse the costs incurred as a result of the damage the plane trees have caused, and second, to immediately remove the identified problem trees,” Phillips said. “I believe there’s six of them that should immediately be removed and finally, to relocate or remove the remaining plane trees the city knows will cause future damage and loss to the property owners.”

McLean said he met with an arborist who advised that the plane trees could potentially be relocated during the fall or winter months to a park space and a new species of tree could be planted in their place on Shoppers Row.

But that’s just part of the problem. The other piece is that the underground downtown infrastructure is so old that it needs to be replaced. Coun. Ron Kerr said it doesn’t make sense to remove the trees and not fix the infrastructure.

“This is only part of what I see is a multi-million dollar project to renew the infrastructure,” Kerr said. “They go hand-in-hand. You can’t do one without the other. If you start moving one tree, you’re going to be pulling out pipes and pulling out wires. It’s like putting your toe in but I think with this type of project we’re going to end up getting completely wet.”

Coun. Andy Adams agreed but said removing the problem trees now and creating a downtown tree inventory to monitor them is at least a short-term solution to address the problem before it gets progressively worse.