Proposed Tree By-Law Update

I have received several inquiries about the status of the “Private Tree By-Law” that was presented to the Community Design and Environmental Services committee this past Monday.    I am happy to try to add some clarity….

The Tree By-Law report can be viewed HERE (starts on page 22)….

The recommendation in the Tree By-Law report contained 5 clauses.  Clauses 1, 2 and 4 were moved and seconded and supported unanimously.  These three  clauses were to:  a) receive the report,  b) approve amendments to the existing large lot tree preservation by-law and c) amend the user fee schedule to implement the amended large lot tree by-law.

Clauses 3 and 5 were to:  a) enact a tree by-law for small lots (less than 0.2 hectares) and b) to bring forward a plan to fund implementation of the by-law in the 2011 budget.

Clauses 3 and 5 were not moved or seconded by any member of the committee (as Chair, I cannot move or second motions).

Therefore, the committee (including myself)  did not vote “against” or to “remove” anything.  A Guelph Mercury article is quoted as saying that the committee “voted to remove the provisions of the private tree bylaw dealing with regulated trees on small lot sizes”.  This is not accurate – because the small lot tree by-law never made it to the floor to be voted on.

So where does this leave the small lot Tree By-law? Only the motions ratified at committee (Clause 1,2 and 4) will go forward to Council on July 27.  However, at that meeting, any member of Council could choose to add Clauses 3 and 5 back in, or add them in as separate motions.

In the past, I have publicly stated that I support the protection and preservation of our urban canopy. I still do.

But there are many ways to do this – the small lot private tree by-law is not the be-all-and-end-all — it is one potential tool of many.

The city must “walk the talk”  too – planting more trees on public land, better maintenance practices, increased naturalized areas, etc.  I also believe the majority of residential property owners understand the benefits of planting and maintaining trees and are excellent stewards of the urban forest.

The goal behind the tree by-law has merit — to increase the city’s canopy to 40%.    A healthy urban forest has immense public benefit – air quality, temperature regulation, energy use reduction, etc.

So the question remains — does the proposed small lot tree by-law do anything to help the city reach its  stated outcome of 40% canopy?    Is it too much “stick” and not enough “carrot”?  Are there better ways to achieve the 40% goal,  such as education, tree planting incentives,  free trees, etc.?      Should we focus more effort on those areas with 10% coverage like industrial and commercial lands (ie. parking lots, my personal pet peeve) ?  Residential neighbourhoods are not the problem.  I suspect the canopy in R1 (small lots) residential neighbourhoods is well over 50%.    (I am working on getting additional info on this. )

It’s still a year away, but the Strategic Urban Forest Master Plan will answer many of these questions.  Many municipalities have stronger tree preservation by-laws than the proposed Guelph one.  Many municipalities have no tree preservation by-laws.  Are we not doing enough or going too far?

I welcome your thoughts, as always…..


4 thoughts on “Proposed Tree By-Law Update

  1. We are suprised that you of all people would support the lack of new protections for smaller lots and weakened protections for trees less than 30 cm. In Ward 5 absentee landlords have already cut healthy trees so there would be less maintenance on their rental properties. How many more trees will now be cut because properties will be exempt from the by law? Do you even know? If you don’t how can you vote for this exemption and still be accountable to your constituents?

    In most cities 80% of the urban forest trees are on private property. A stronger tree by law that includes all types of properties no matter what size or who owns them including the city is vital.

    Basing assumptions that people are good stewards of their trees on a “guesstimate” by staff of how many trees are being logged is not appropriate. The good stewards of their trees will not be applying for a permit to remove their healthy trees. So this by law should not upset those owners.

    Also your comment:
    “It’s still a year away, but the Strategic Urban Forest Master Plan will answer many of these questions. ” What is going on with this council and city staff?? Where are the priorities? The original master plan plan came before council a few years ago. It was fairly comprehensive – now all it needs is to be implemented and funded. How long is this going to take? Staff seem to have plenty of time to work on new development applications where, in most cases, all the trees be bulldozed.
    As a council member who approves these developments how many Tree Inventory and Conservation Plans have you reviewed? In the Watson Rd. Phase 2 and the 146 Downey Rd. devlopments over 2000 trees on the Watson Rd. site and and on the Downey Rd. site 235 out of 250 trees were proposed to be logged. So please stop going on about our tree canopy and how it is increasing and we will eventually reach 40% . Canopy is provided mainly by the larger, mature trees not the ones recently planted in Royal City Park. Canopy is about providing shade and benefits associated with the amount of leaf surface. I saw the trees recently planted in Royal City park to replace the silver maples. Try sitting under one of those new trees for shade and not getting a sunburn. If you do you better be wearing a good sunscreen for the next 25 years! That’s if the tree survives that long.

  2. This issue has already been decided. At committee, Farbridge made the motion to only move forward with the large lots. This was supported by Salisbury, Burcher, Bell and Piper. Even though council Piper has stated above that she did not vote to remove the small lots from the motion, she effectively voted against them. It’s sad to see how 4 years of politics changes people. Councillor Piper is also on record saying Canadians don’t have property rights……

  3. This has already been decided at committee. Farbridge recommended that only the large lot section move forward. Piper, Bell, Salisbury and Burcher all agreed. While it’s technically true that they did not vote against the small lot bylaw, it’s really just semantics, which really goes to show how 4 years of politics has changed Councillor Piper. She is also on record saying Canadians don’t have property rights…….

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