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Richmond school trustee regrets loss of trees in school property sale

Tree replacement and small garden part of plans for Mitchell Elementary property.
Richmond Board of Education trustee David Yang.

A Richmond school trustee wants more tree replacements on a school property after a portion of the land is being sold to the city for safety improvements.

At a Richmond Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, the district approved a proposal to sell 173 square metres of Mitchell Elementary to the City of Richmond to upgrade the No. 5 and Cambie intersection.

Along the strip of land are several mature trees that will be chopped down.

After the plan was approved, trustee David Yang suggested a motion to increase the tree replacement ratio from 1:2 to 1:3 on the school property. He argued it was regrettable to lose greenspace and grounds during the property sale.

"My worry is that this shows our learners we are OK with unsustainable practices like chopping down trees," said Yang.

"As a district, we should make our practices more sustainable ... and that development and sustainable solutions should go hand in hand."

Secretary-treasurer Cindy Wang confirmed the plan is to replant trees in the same location the mature trees are removed from during intersection upgrades.

She added the grassy area near the corner will also be turned into a small garden for the school.

"We are required by city bylaw to hand [in] landscaping plans as part of the building process. City staff and district staff will always work together for ways to preserve green spaces and trees," said Wang.

Trustees Rod Belleza and Debbie Tablotney also supported Yang's motion.

"Mitigating greenspace is important and increasing shade at or near the area we are losing," said Tablotney.

She added she was happy to hear there would be a garden at the school as the school asked for one "a while ago."

However, some trustees pointed out that this concern could have been raised before the motion was passed.

Trustee Alice Wong highlighted the city has tree protection bylaws for a reason and should not require school district staff to do additional work on counting the extra number of trees needed.

Yang countered the school district should "set a higher bar as an education institution" and "can do better" when addressing environmental issues.

The motion was defeated with trustees Wong, Donna Sargent, Heather Larson and Ken Hamaguchi in opposition.

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