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Council approves private tree bylaw for Roseland, consideration of city-wide tree bylaw in 2019

At our June 18 meeting, City Council unanimously approved a private tree bylaw for the Roseland community, to be implemented on November 1, 2018 as a two-year pilot program. Council also approved undertaking community consultation on a city-wide private tree bylaw.

Consultation will begin after Nov. 1 with staff reporting back to the new City Council in the second quarter of 2019 on options, recommendations and financial impacts for the city-wide implementation of a private tree by-law.

Click to read the staff report and Roseland tree bylaw

My Take: Though it’s been a long time coming, I support the private tree bylaw pilot for Roseland, and rolling out a private tree bylaw city-wide. The bylaw would help track how many private trees are removed and why, provide opportunity for a conversation around retention and replacement, and collect fees for removal, that would go into a tree planting fund.

Tree planting and preservation is sorely needed in the urban area of Burlington, which has a tree canopy of about 17% where the recommended canopy according to Conservation Halton is 30-50%. I support setting a tree canopy target in this range; currently Burlington has no target.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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12 Comments

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  1. At the risk of beating this subject to death, I have to add the last sentence of a conversation with a nephew who has a house a house in London, England, where landowners face expensive bureaucracy over trees: “Anyone who allows a large tree to mature on their property is making a big mistake.”

  2. The staff report clearly recommends not to proceed with a trial private tree bylaw..
    For all the reasons outlined in their report I agree with them.
    It’s an insult to landholders like me who have maintained their trees over many years and replanted when necessary at significant cost, to now be told that we must pay a fee to help plant trees for others.
    I see numerous trees planted by the City dying along boulevards that are not watered or cared for.
    At my expense and for a number of years, I watered, fertilised and nurtured a number of juvenile maples planted on the Centennial bike path at the rear of my property 30 years ago.
    They are now strong and vibrant specimens enjoyed by all.
    This kind of care should be a City wide responsibility paid for by the community, budgeted out of the general tax base and administered by Roads, Parks and Forestry.
    More bureaucracy is not the answer.
    Clear cutting of lots by developers is a separate problem that should be addressed by Council without penalising those of us that nurture and care for our tree canopy.

  3. Most private home owners love and look after their trees. They should not be subjected to this punishing, expensive pilot program. The greater danger is the developer who buys up property and then looks to maximize their investment by clear cutting the land to build multiple units or a much larger property. This restriction should be put on these individuals only and could easily be part of the site plan approval and building permit programs.I agree with Jerry Fairbridge’s comment above.

    • Michele, The city can already control tree removal during development via site plan. HOwever, what we have seen is a piece of land being clear cut then a permit is applied for. There is nothing to prevent clear cutting before submitting an application, unless there is a private tree bylaw in place.

  4. My research show we are losing about 1% of our urban tree canopy a year. We are already down to 15% from the 17% you quoted which was for 2012. We had 2 million trees in the urban area in 2012 and since then have lost thousands to the ice storm, the flood, the Emerald Ash Borer, development clear cutting, building renovations and the recent wind storm. In the next ten years, about 200,000 trees will come down if we do nothing. The proposed “moderate” private tree bylaw will do nothing to stop the destruction of healthy trees by developers. It will allow any developer to pay $700 for each mature healthy tree cut down if they don’t want to do replacement planting. The Site Plan Agreement does not permit this “cash in lieu” approach but instead an equivalent caliper replacement policy. Replacement trees take 20 years to give the same canopy as those cut down. But Council has approved OP and Zoning Bylaw amendments that permit cash in lieu. By the Site Plan stage, it is too late to save the trees. Council approved the recent application for 10 townhouses at 3225 New Street in place of two homes where 22 out of 25 healthy mature trees are to be destroyed. If two fourplexes were built, only two trees would have to come down. Oakville has a workable bylaw that allows some mature trees to go but they also have the backyard tree planting for $200 program by LEAF administered by OakvilleGreen. We need this program in Burlington in addition to a proper Urban Forest (and Wildlife) Management Plan with defined targets.

  5. I support a city-wide by-law. The cost of not having a by-law is much greater than the cost of having one.
    Increasing tree (and shrub) canopy is an important way to reduce the effects of climate change. Trees absorb CO2, provide shade, reduce the effects of wind, produce oxygen, filter out pollutants, provide shelter for birds, etc. Res ipsa loquitur. It’s way overdue. I believe Oakville has such a by-law and am not aware of any resulting problems.

    • What is proposed penalizes those of us who have trees and that surely will discourage property owners from planting trees. A clear property will cost far less to operate – and the owner will have less red tape to fight – and that’s hardly an incentive to plant more trees

  6. Dear Ms Meed Ward
    I suggest you also look at Oakville’s Tree By-Law to see how they have reviewed/revised it over
    the years with the help of Oakvillegreen and the support of residents. They are hoping to increase
    to 40% tree canopy

  7. You’re making my beautiful trees into an unaffordable luxury wrapped in bureaucratic red tape, adding an estimated 25% or more in virtual property tax and possibly lowering the value of my property because potential buyers will look at the trees not as an oasis in the city but as an expensive burden. Your common sense on most issues had my vote without question. You’ve lost it. Suddenly it seems I won’t be able to afford to live in Burlington because of expensive bureaucracy.

  8. We are only at 17% because the city has allowed developers and hydro to remove healthy trees, even 100 year old healthy trees, when some could have been just trimmed.

What's your take?

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