Feilders offers a different and very detailed perspective on the pilot tree bylaw that is to go into effect in Roseland

opiniongreen 100x100By Jim Feilders

February 4th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

During a presentation at the Burlington Seniors Centre by Burlington Urban Forestry staff and Ward 4 Councilor Stolte said she would like to complete the pilot faster than the two year period.

The Urban Forestry manager indicated many benefits including what Toronto has recognized – shading. Changes since 2013 when Council did not support a private tree bylaw – the ice storm, flood, wind storm and Emerald Ash Borer resulted in Council changing their minds. Roseland was chosen for a number of reasons and data will be gathered for analysis.

A proposed Private Tree Bylaw Pilot was approved at the Committee of the Whole March 19, 2018.  The proposed pilot will be a two-year project for the Roseland Area, starting March 2019, and finishing March 2021.

Roseland tree boundaries 2019

The Roseland area is bordered by Guelph Line to the west, New Street to the north, Roseland Creek to the east, and Lake Ontario to the south.

This exciting initiative is based on a recommendation from the city’s Urban Forest Management Plan that was developed in 2010.

This program will aid in preserving valuable urban forest assets in an effort to maintain and grow a healthy and vibrant community resource into the future.

The bylaw will allow for some flexibility for private property owners, yet includes restrictions based on preserving heritage and “significant” trees. Replacement plantings are important for ongoing sustainability of Burlington’s Urban Forest, and are proposed for trees greater than 30cm (1 foot) diameter at breast height (dbh).

The 30 cm exemption was based on a survey of other municipalities and felt it was a moderate approach.
Boundary trees are also addressed.

Exemptions will be allowed for specific instances including emergency work; trees posing high risk as deemed by a Certified Arborist; ash tree removals, or removals allowed under the Planning Act.

At the end of the two-year pilot period, a review of the Bylaw will be undertaken, with a report to Council, including the feasibility of further rollout city-wide, and resource implications. The bylaw will be enforced by The Manager of Urban Forestry and any designate, who will have the authority to:

• Issue Tree Permits

• Issue work orders directing as to how authorized work is to be conducted. The authority to issue work orders shall also include the authority to order a stoppage of work

Burlington’s Strategic Plan identifies expansion of the urban forest to be a key action item in our strategic direction of a Healthy and Greener city.

The bylaw requires applicants to submit an application to the Manager of Urban Forestry or their designate with the following information:

• A Tree Protection Plan acceptable to the Manager of Urban Forestry or designate, identifying the trees to be injured or destroyed, and including size, species, condition and location; the trees to be kept; and measures to be taken for the preservation of remaining trees on the site

• The permit fee

• A proposed for tree replacement planting plan

• Confirmation that tree protection fencing around city trees is done so in accordance with the city’s Standard Specification for Tree Protection and Preservation (SS-12A)

• A schedule of proposed site inspections to be completed by the project arborist

• Project scope including but not limited to an explanation of proposed demolition (if applicable), construction, equipment used, timing, detailed explanations of any applicable work within tree preservation zones

• Boundary trees located within three metres on both sides of a mutual lot line require a letter of agreement signed by the adjacent neighbor(s); or documentation from the Project Arborist that the proposed work will not negatively impact the tree in question

• Any additional relevant information
Applications and all necessary paperwork can be submitted to Roads, Parks and Forestry at 3330 Harvester Rd. Burlington, Ontario or by email at forestrypermits@burlington.ca.

1. Applications will be reviewed by Forestry staff and the applicant will be notified of any missing items. Forestry staff will respond to the applicant within five business days.

2. If the application is complete, a site meeting will be scheduled to discuss acceptance or denial of application, further modifications needed, and subsequent securities and/or compensation costs to be incurred by the applicant.

3. Upon approval of the application, the applicant is required to provide payment to the City of Burlington for the required security and compensation amount per the bylaw and indicated in the approved arborist report and preservation plan.

4. A Tree Permit will be provided to the applicant which must be displayed on the property in view from the road.

$100 per tree to be removed or injured up to a maximum of $500.

There is no cost for ash tree removal; however, replacement trees are still required.

When a tree permit has been granted, all owners are required to replace trees that are proposed to be removed, or pay cash-in-lieu of replacement of $700 per replacement tree:

Diameter Class (Removed Tree) No. of Replacement Trees Required

Diameter chart

The manager said the real results of such a bylaw are the withdrawal of applications. People rethink the removal of trees.

This could skew the statistics to be analyzed as there will be fewer trees removed and less statistically significant data)

Q&A
Q1. How was replacement size determined?
Ans. Picked the middle of the road from other municipalities as a good starting point.
Q2. Why no fir trees protected?
Ans. Not a Carolinian tree so no need to protect.
Q3. How soon will City respond?
Ans. Within 5 days initially.
Q4. Kudos for bylaw. What is age of 30 cm tree?
Ans About 30 to 50 years
Q5. Could we go lower like Oakville?
Ans Yes they have 15 cm
Q6. Where is money to take care of City trees?
Ans Using a 7 year rotation throughout the city so every area gets pruning once every 7 years. Now that risk assessment is done should be able to do better.
Q7. Very costly to haul excavated basement fill off site in order to protect trees. Can’t protect all trees as some are in the way of a house. Can trees in building envelope be removed?
Ans Can remove trees in the way but have to apply. Provincial policy trumps municipal. Province says housing has preference.
Q8. Why is there no tree canopy target?
Ans We don’t know how many trees we have. UFMP needs an update to see what have been lost since 2010. Some municipalities have lofty goals that they might not meet.
Q9. We had 17% canopy in 2010 and has been decreasing since. Conservation Halton gives us a failing grade and Environment Canada says 30 to 50%. We are not progressive enough. What is replacement plan?
Ans For each tree of 30 to 50 cm diameter have to plant 2 at 5 cm for $1400. (Editor’s note – the Site plan Application Guidelines, Section 9 for development applications require equivalent caliper replacement. For a 30 cm tree this would require 6 trees at 5 cm, not 2 trees).
Identified vacant tree sites in Roseland have been identified for new plantings.
Q10. Need help from residents in Roseland. History is that we asked for what we thought the current council would accept but need a better city wide bylaw. Lost 80 city trees recently and over 100 other trees. Canopy is not looking good. In the Character Study, trees were identified as the most important aspect of Roseland. The new OP mentions importance of character throughout. We need a proper renewal plan.
Q11. We have only 12 years to counteract climate change and we must save every mature tree. The new Council is progressive while the Province is regressive. Trees help flood prevention and carbon sequestering. We need to move faster and ask for 1 year to go for a city wide private tree bylaw. We can’t take the soft sell approach any longer. We should take a stand and chose a 35% tree canopy target. Burlington has lagged behind others. There are programs available to help with costs. We have to ramp this up.
Ans Echo that and every tree matters.
Q12. Can we have an interim review?
Ans We are following Council direction but may be able to have a one year review
Shawna – We need to convince council, not staff. 3 councillors want a smaller tree diameter limit for north Burlington as most trees are smaller than that.
Urban Forestry manager – contacting businesses involved about awareness so they are not caught unaware.
Q13. Need incentives to plant new trees.
Ans Looking at other aspects as well as preserving mature trees.
Q14. Heard of new developments planting trees on private front yards instead of city land then cutting them down. Allowed in Burlington?
Ans No. Above Dundas, trees are going on city property.
Q15. Staff should let consultants, architects and planners know about the bylaw a soon as possible.
Q16. Committee of Adjustment is not considering tree policies that exist now.

My own take on this:
Any tree can be destroyed provided it is either exempt, compensated by cash in lieu or agreed by neighbour. This bylaw will not prevent the loss of mature trees occurring at present.

The replacement option is not based on equivalent caliper diameter as is required in the Site Plan Application Guidelines for development applications. A 30 cm diameter tree would have to be replaced by six 5 cm diameter trees, not two. A 50 cm diameter tree would have to be replaced by ten 5 cm diameter trees, not three.

Trees on private property removed for personal improvements (pools, decks, additions) and infill development do not represent a large number of trees. Over the next ten years this will account for about 14% of all removals in urban Burlington. The real problem is sick and dying trees.

tree count

The evaluation criteria for the analysis was not given. The report from staff stated there would not be sufficient data to draw meaningful conclusions and no other municipality has proven the effectiveness of a tree bylaw.

“ It does not recommend a pilot project, primarily because of the difficulty of assessing the effectiveness of a pilot project, but does set out the key parameters of a pilot project should Council wish to undertake a two year pilot.‘

“While some municipalities have private tree bylaws, they are generally municipality-wide. Staff have found little evidence that private tree bylaws have been subject to rigorous assessment of their effectiveness, and in many cases the stated goals of municipal private tree bylaws are more subjective and philosophical than objective and measurable. There is a general belief that the municipality has an obligation to put processes in place to regulate the removal of private trees by putting in place a process that ensures the owners seriously consider the decision to remove a tree, educates the owners, and ensures the replacement of private trees that are removed.

“While these may be very legitimate goals, there is little evidence found that shows that these bylaws ultimately have had a measurable impact on the quantity or quality of the urban forest, or are more effective than other strategies to retain and enhance the urban forest.”

“Therefore, it is estimated that approximately 1.7 million trees exist within the city’s urban area. Other than this estimate, we have no baseline by which to measure, track or evaluate the success of a private tree bylaw pilot project on the tree canopy. It is also suggested that the scale of the tree canopy alone may not be the best by which to measure urban tree forests. Other cities include such measures as diversity of species, physical access to nature, habitat provision, tree health and characteristics of the trees (size).

Tree stumps Guelph Line

It was private property – not in Roseland.

Evaluating the effectiveness of a pilot project would be further complicated by the time-limited nature of the pilot in a relatively small area of the city. In short, the city would have little or no baseline on which to measure change, and enforcement of the bylaw would be either voluntary, or by complaint. The city does not have the resources to actively police tree removal in Roseland. In the case of a time-limited trial, people could either remove trees in advance of the pilot starting, or wait it out. In summary, it is not clear that there would be any viable means to measure the effectiveness of a private tree bylaw trial project.

Sample size would also be an evaluation challenge. Staff estimate that in a two-year trial period in Roseland there may be 40-50 permits granted, although given the city’s lack of experience in the area, this is at best a rough projection. If the estimate is accurate however, it would be very challenging to extrapolate the impact of the pilot from such a small sample size on the overall urban forest of 1.7 million trees.

Moreover, except for the existence of some degree of community support, there is no other reason to undertake a pilot in Roseland, rather than other parts of the city that also have mature private property trees.

Further community consultation undertaken in Roseland since the staff direction to consider a pilot, shows that the community is highly polarized on the issue. People are either passionately in favour of a bylaw, or strongly opposed on the basis of private property rights. Few, if any people, were indifferent.

Tree stumps Guelph south of woodward east side

Scenes like this all over the city.

Value to Community
Even if it can be determined that a private tree bylaw is bringing value to the urban forest, it is possible that the same resources committed to education and/or actively expanding the forest on city property, might have a greater impact on protecting and enhancing the urban forest as a whole. Again, given the lack of research on the effectiveness of private tree bylaws, there is little way to assess this.”

The Urban Forestry Manager stated the best result of a bylaw is that potential applications are withdrawn or not submitted in the first place which indirectly results in preservation of mature trees. Thus the conclusion of the analysis will most likely be that not enough trees were destroyed to devote staff resources to implement the bylaw and that private citizens were unduly charged money for a problem that did not exist.

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The solution to the size of the tree canopy problem is planting more and more trees.

The best solution appears to be planting new trees. The proposed bylaw is deficient in this regard. The conventional approach used by others is equivalent caliper diameter although some cites use a metric related to canopy size by a certain time frame. Using two or three small replacement trees for those removed that are not exempt will provide very few new ones.

Of the 14% or so of trees being cut down that fall under the bylaw, about 31% are 30 cm diameter or under (exempt), 37% are between 30 and 50 cm and 32% over 50 cm in the areas south of the QEW.

This means that 2 tree replacements would occur for 37% and three replacements for 32%. Continuing with the math shows 2 trees for .14 x .37 = 5% and 3 trees for .14 x .32 = 4.5%. So, the new replacements would be 10% and 13.5%, respectively for the two tree diameter groups or 23.5% in total. In other words, for every 100 trees cut down, 24 would be planted.

This will not increase the urban tree canopy. The bylaw should use a smaller diameter exclusion and equivalent diameter replacement. 86% of trees are over 15 cm with an average diameter of 57 cm. This would mean 11 replacement trees for each one removed. The math then becomes .14 x .86 x 11 = 132%. Now we’re getting somewhere. More new trees than those destroyed. But this will not grow the urban canopy by much. We need twice as many trees than currently exist. We probably have about 1.5 million trees now and will need 3 million to get to a 30% urban canopy.

In addition, the City could offer free trees to homeowners.
If every household in urban Burlington planted a tree it would be about 75,000 trees and put a dent in the 111,000 to come down over the next 10 years.

Conclusion
The pilot bylaw will not reduce the number of healthy mature trees being destroyed and will not provide enough replacement trees to offset those being destroyed.

This is what most people in Burlington want; a gorgeous urban tree canopy that shades our streets, improves property values and gets some of the pollutants out of the air. But at the same time people want to be able to cut down a tree on their propeerty if they don't like them. We can't have it both ways - can we?

This is what most people in Burlington want; a gorgeous urban tree canopy that shades our streets, improves property values and gets some of the pollutants out of the air. But at the same time people want to be able to cut down a tree on their propeerty if they don’t like them. We can’t have it both ways – can we?

Trees Pine street

It was a beautiful tree, magnificent, resplendent – but it was cut down allow for the construction of a retirement home.

The analysis in two years will conclude there is no justification for a private tree bylaw city wide.

Council needs to revise the pilot program immediately.

Jim Feilders has been a strong environmental advoate for decades and thinks the city has got the pilot private tree wrong,

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