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…..

LP

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No Jefferson Salamander on Hanlon Creek Busines Park Lands

CITY OF GUELPH NEWS RELEASE

Salamander monitoring finds no Jefferson Salamander presence on Hanlon Creek Business Park lands

GUELPH, ON, May 10, 2010 – Results of the recently completed salamander monitoring program indicate no Jefferson Salamander presence within the Hanlon Creek Business Park (HCBP) lands.

Natural Resource Solutions Inc. completed a comprehensive salamander monitoring program at the site between March 11 and April 30, on behalf of the City of Guelph, Belmont Equity (HCBP) Holdings Ltd. and Guelph Land Holdings Ltd. The monitoring program was developed in consultation with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) Guelph District Office, City staff and Dr. Jim Bogart, Chair of the Jefferson Salamander Recovery Team.

The monitoring program included 5.5 kilometres of drift fencing, 122 minnow traps and 611 pitfall traps to monitor location and direction of salamander movement to and from potential breeding grounds. The monitoring program was undertaken during peak salamander breeding season when salamanders begin emerging from their overwintering sites and migrating to breeding ponds.

Thirteen salamanders were captured and sampled during the monitoring program. DNA extraction and analysis was then performed at the University of Guelph by Dr. Bogart. In all cases, the DNA analysis found no presence of pure Jefferson salamanders or Jefferson-dominated polyploids (Jefferson-dominated unisexuals).

“In consultation with Dr. Jim Bogart and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, we have concluded that there is no Jefferson Salamander presence on the Hanlon Creek Business Park lands,” stated Mayor Karen Farbridge. “We will move forward with our plans to service and develop these important employment lands and grow jobs in our community while ensuring excellence in environmental protection and restoration. In Guelph, sustainability and prosperity go hand in hand.”

On May 7, 2010 the City received confirmation from the MNR, Guelph District that the 2010 salamander monitoring program was rigorous enough to ascertain the presence of Jefferson Salamanders on the site. Based on the results of the program, the MNR, Guelph District also stated that there are no requirements for authorizations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the HCBP and that no agreement or permit under the ESA is required to proceed with development of the business park.

The City will be moving forward with the development of the HCBP subdivision as approved by the Ontario Municipal Board in November 2006. The 2010 salamander monitoring program has provided additional information on the location and movement of other amphibians within the HCBP subdivision. This additional information will be used to consider design refinements and to undertake measures for wildlife protection during construction activities.

Let’s Talk Trees…

Our urban forest is a major municipal asset. Cities spend a lot of time, money and resources maintaining “grey” infrastructure, but not enough on “green” infrastructure. Green infrastructure is linked to quality of life, recreation, air quality, urban cooling, carbon offsets, and so many other intangible benefits, such as aesthetic beauty.

Grey infrastructure is, let’s face it, boring. It’s underground, it’s invisible, and rarely appreciated. Green infrastructure is something we enjoy everyday.

It used to be that tree planting and naturalization were community efforts. Scouts, Rotary, OPIRG, Trees for Guelph etc. are still involved in such efforts and are making a difference.

We need to expand the community effort. Council is faced with a tough budget year in 2010. Tree replacements (1 for 1) will likely continue, but we will never make a dent in increasing our canopy at that rate. The saying goes “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is NOW.”

So let’s rally! Would you “adopt a tree” for your local park?

People buy far-away invisible stars as Christmas gifts. And service orgs adopt a km of roadside highway. Why not adopt a local tree you can see grow everyday and one that your grandchildren can enjoy a generation from now?

Royal City Park needs more trees. The park was originally funded by the IODE as a gift to the Royal City. Will our community continue this tradition? So many individuals and groups benefit from this park — Old University Neighbourhood Association, John McCrae School, the Boathouse, the Animal Hospital, just to name a few. How about adopting a tree?

Guelph Urban Forest Friends (GUFF), Sierra Club, Council of Canadians, LIMITS — would you adopt a tree?

I will.  On behalf of my family, I will purchase a tree for Royal City Park.

Anyone else?

Royal City Park

The Royal City Park Material Management Plan went to the Community Development and Environmental Services committee this past Monday. One of the key recommendations in the plan is to remove and replace 52 high-risk trees in 2010. A full copy of the plan can be viewed at:

http://guelph.ca/uploads/Planning/0609_RoyalCityParkPlantManage/062409_DRAFT_RoyalCityParkPlantPlan.pdf

The loss of 52 trees will have a significant impact on the look and feel of  the park.   As a regular user of the park, I can attest to the emotional attachment that the community feels for the trees and the impact it will have on the park experience.

I also recognize that the city should have been investing heavily in the last 25 years on regular species renewal planting, tree pruning and better park management practices (ie. cutting with whipper-snippers).   This is true for our entire parks system, not just RCP.

However, “could have” and “should haves” will do us no good today.  It’s 2009 and it’s time to plan for the future of the park — now — even if we won’t benefit, our children will.

 

The recommended plan is a balanced approach, basically:
1. Remove the trees that are at risk.
2. Plant new trees immediately, large calliper native species.
3. Schedule succession plantings to increase tree cover over the next 5-10 years.
4. Improve maintenance practices to increase survival rates.

I agree with this plan.  I know that this will mean the park will look very different next year, and the year after and for this, I am sad.  But our children will thank us.  Here’s a good example — the naturalization efforts in Silvercreek Park (between McCrae and the Hanlon) are now reaping the benefits of a plan that was implemented 20 years ago.  In another 20 years, Royal City Park will be in better shape than it ever was — diversity of species, increased canopy and healthier trees.

Would love to hear thoughts from park users and community residents….

LP

Yes, I support the Hanlon Creek Business Park

A friend asked me last week why members of Council have been “silent” on the Hanlon Creek Business Park issue. I suppose I never thought that I was being silent — because Council unanimously endorsed the project. Our collective position is very clear.

The recent events (most notably the on-site protest, injunction, Minister’s approval and the decision to resume work next year) have been widely reported in the media. No one from the media has ever contacted me, or any other member of council that I am aware of, other than the Mayor. The Mayor has the support of Council on moving forward with the HCBP, as evidenced by the vote to approve the site plan.

We are not moving forward blindly. This is a well-planned project that has been through years of extensive consultation and a thorough public process, resulting in environmental conditions that will protect and enhance the land. I attended the public meeting of LIMITS, including a second meeting where I was the only councillor in attendance, and have become well-read on Jefferson Salamander breeding habitat, among other things. I have also walked the site and am familiar with its natural heritage, beauty and features. I am deeply committed to protecting our environment, water sources, public health, trees, air quality, etc.

My support of the HCBP is not in conflict with these values. I truly believe this project is different. I believe this project balances the environment, economy and social/cultural fabric of our community. I do not believe the Jefferson Salamander is compromised by this project, nor the old growth forest or wetlands that protect our water supply. Land uses will be limited to those that do not pose a risk to the site. Significant wetlands and old growth forest areas are not being paved over. This is not a typical “industrial park” that you may think of in other parts of the city. Great care has been taken, and will be taken, to ensure the development meets the goals of the Community Energy Plan. A significant portion of the site has been farmed for the past century. The finished development will have more trees than the current site.

I am hopeful the project will move ahead successfully when work resumes in 2010. When it comes to protecting the natural heritage of our city as a whole, there are still areas that need protection and require public participation and diligence. The city has developed a Natural Heritage Strategy that will unfold over the next year. I encourage members of the community (including HCBP protestors) to participate in the democratic public process related to the NHS.

Trying to Do the Right Thing

Last night, Council voted to eliminate the cosmetic use of pesticides within the City of Guelph. There are exceptions (read the by-law), but for the most part, the days of indiscriminate spraying of pesticides on lawns in Guelph is over. Exceptions for insect infestation (grubs and chinch bugs) will end January 1, 2009.

The new pesticide-free Guelph will require a cultural and behavioural shift. I think this community is up for it – we’re a resourceful and responsible group!  So I will be joining the healthy lawn revolution too….

Although I would much rather tear up my lawn and create a lush Ontario native shade garden, the reality is that I still need a stretch of lawn. You see, I have three boys (and a daughter) and therefore, backyard soccer, badminton, volleyball and other lawn activities are still very much a part of our foreseeable future.

I’ve never sprayed pesticides on my lawn. But then again, I’ve never aspired to have the perfect lawn either. I’m okay with dandelions – they make great salad greens BTW – and the birds love the grubs.

This year, I have decided to try some of the techniques suggested by the City of Guelph “healthy lawn” education program to see if they make a difference. I completed the first step last week – dethatching and new “Eco-Lawn” seed with homemade compost. Thankfully, the rain soaked everything yesterday. So far so good….

LP

Clean & Green Our Neighbourhoods

On April 19th, consider spending a few hours in your neighbourhood or your favourite community park removing unsightly litter. You’d be surprised at the difference we can make in just a few hours when we all work together!

When
Saturday, April 19, 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Where
Anywhere within Guelph city limits including neighbourhood streets, parks and greenspaces. You choose the area you’d like to clean.

Who
The clean up is open to everyone: individuals, teams, and neighbourhood and community groups are welcome!

Register
Teams and locations must be registered by calling Karen at 519-822-1260 x 2679. Clean up kits will be provided, including safety vests for teams picking up litter along arterial routes.

After the clean up, volunteers are invited to celebrate with a free BBQ in St. George’s Square. There’ll be food, music and fun!

The Guelph Clean & Green Community Clean Up is sponsored by Guelph & Wellington Development Association, Guelph & District Home Builders Association, Guelph Downtown Business Association and the City of Guelph.