Private tree bylaw gets approval at Standing Committee level - will go to Council on the 16th for approval.

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

December 4th, 2019



Unless there is a massive shift xxx Burlington is going to have a private tree bylaw – which is going to take some time to get used to.

City council has been at this issue for more than nine years; there was a pilot program in the Roseland community that was iffy in term of results.

Everyone will say they love trees – but when they become a nuisance, they want to be able to cut t hem down. This city council is saying that the Climate Change issues are such that we have to save every tree we can.

Belvenia trees-1024x768

This is the Burlington everyone wants; keeping this canopy means we stop cutting down trees unless absolutely necessary.

In comments she made just before the vote to recommend the bylaw was passed Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns said:

Either were a Climate forward Council, or we’re not;
either we commit to our business plan, or we don’t;
either we look to the priorities of the next generation or we don’t;
either we empower the best staff doing their best work or we don’t;
either we invest or we don’t;
either you’re on the right side of history. Or you’re not;
I am, and I am supporting Burlington’s city wide private tree bylaw.

Her views reflected the mood and determination of this council.

There were delegations that believed the city did not have the right to do what they were setting out to do. Some impressive arguments were put forward telling us more than we ever wanted to know about the British North America Act and “letters patent”.

Shawana Stolte 1

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte, who moved the motion said:

This debate has been going on before Burlington City Council for almost a decade now…

We’ve all heard the arguments from one extreme to the other…including delegates last evening who presented legal arguments cautioning Council against supporting what they claimed to be an illegal bylaw.

Following Committee last night I did some research and would like to take a moment and share the following in regard to the legislation behind Tree By-laws:

In 1946, the Trees Conservation Act was passed in an attempt to protect woodlands from clearing and overcutting.

Under the Municipal Act in 1994, all local municipalities with a population of greater than 10,000 could regulate tree cutting.

To simplify the process and authority for Tree By-Laws, provisions were consolidated into the new Municipal Act (2001) which took effect on January 1, 2003. Upper tier, single tier and lower tier municipalities could now all pass Tree By-laws under the new Municipal Act, 2001.

Consolidation of the tree cutting provisions into the new Municipal Act, 2001 enabled:

All local municipalities and upper/single tier municipalities to pass and enforce by-laws. They may also delegate these powers up or down.

Upper tier municipalities can regulate or prohibit the cutting of trees in woodlands designated in the by-law that are 1 ha or greater.

Lower tier municipalities can regulate or prohibit the cutting of individual trees in areas up to 1 ha in size.

The Municipal Act enables municipalities to „prohibit‟ the destruction or injuring of trees where the previous Forestry Act could only „regulate‟ the destruction or injuring of trees.

By-laws enacted under the Municipal Act, 2001 can require a permit for the destruction or injuring of trees.

The permit may impose conditions including how trees are cut and qualifications of persons authorized to cut.

The changes that came with the Municipal Act have empowered municipalities more than ever before.

In the past 10 years almost all upper tier Tree By-laws have been updated incorporating some new considerations for good forestry practices and requiring applications for permits instead of just notices of intent.

The Municipal Act states that

“A local municipality may prohibit or regulate the destruction or injuring of trees.”
“An upper tier municipality may prohibit or regulate the destruction or injuring of trees in woodlands…”.

The Act also states that

“…a municipality shall have regard to good forestry practices…”

“…a municipality may… require a permit …impose conditions to a permit…including… the manner in which destruction occurs and the qualifications of persons authorized to injure or destroy trees.”

Also important to note is that delegation can occur up from the lower tier municipality to the upper tier municipality and also down from the upper tier municipality to the lower tier municipality. Single tier municipalities have jurisdiction over both trees and woodlands.

Currently, there are at least 23 upper tier municipalities (counties and regional governments) with by- laws and 35 lower and single tier municipalities with Tree By-laws in Ontario.

Clearly many other communities have taken the progressive action of creating a Climate Action Plan and protecting their green infrastructure by way of a Private Tree Bylaw, and it is time for Burlington to get off the fence and take concrete steps to doing the same.

We cannot dispute that our Urban Tree Canopy is in a state of crisis…Conservation Halton has rated our downtown forest health as “poor” and its getting worse.

The reality is we are losing thousands of trees and it does not matter whether these losses are from disease or development, we cannot afford to lose anymore.

We need to everything possible to protect AND enhance our tree canopy.

Is this Private Tree Bylaw the only answer? NO, of course not.

It is but one important tool in our Urban Forest Management Toolbox.

This is not about picking just one tool to use, its not a matter of investing in tree protection OR tree planting but exploring and implementing as many tools as we possibly can.

For my colleague who trusts numbers more than words I will offer a simple equation…

25 small trees planted minus 25 mature trees taken down leaves us with just 25 small trees.

Whereas…25 small trees planted plus 25 trees protected leaves us with a healthy forest of 50 trees.

The best way to preserve and grow our canopy is through protection AND planting and I believe that everyone on this Council supports robust tree planting and looks forward to implementing concrete tree planting initiatives throughout the City. The hope is that residents will replace trees on their property as per the program and NOT opt to pay any cash-in-lieu…but giving residents a choice, the funds that are received as cash-in-lieu will continue to help to enhance the canopy.

To supplement a strong tree planting initiative our Forestry Dept. has come up with a fair and reasonable Bylaw that also protects our existing canopy and I hope that this Council, in light of operationalizing our Climate Action Plan, is willing to support this Bylaw that protects and preserves our trees.

Steve Robinson Forestry Manager

Steve Robertson

The proposed bylaw is complex.  The Forestry department is going to add staff whose prime role is to educate and explain the bylaw. Steve Robertson, manager of forestry said the job is to help people work with the bylaw and to be educators and not draconian enforcers.

This is not going to be a smooth process; if the climate change people are right it is a necessary process.

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8 comments to Private tree bylaw gets approval at Standing Committee level – will go to Council on the 16th for approval.

  • Paul C

    Burlington’s urban forest includes extensive wooded natural areas, as well as hundreds of thousands of trees along roads, and in parks, yards and other open spaces. Current analysis estimates an average canopy cover of approximately 23%, comprised of 17% in the urban area and 28% in the rural area.
    If this town (or Region) is serious about increasing this Canopy growth to roughly 40% then they would set out a media campaign, each and every spring, for citizens to purchase and plant new trees on their property.
    To meet this challenge the town should provide the limited time offer each year to purchase new trees directly from the Region, “AT COST” (by pre-order only) to each and every citizen of this town (and/or Region). (If they have this program already than they do not promote it very well)
    Other smaller towns across Ontario have this program each and every year and they are always sold out and highly successful.
    Over time this would bring the town (or Region) canopy growth factor up in a “POSITIVE” and encouraging way, instead of negatively imposing sanctions and bylaws for cutting old ones down (which probably need to come down anyway due to trunk split, rotted wood, or insect infestation).
    Love to plant new trees. Just cannot afford them!! Sell them to me at cost, promote the hell out of the program, and then maybe you won’t have to worry about seeing the forest for all the trees that are newly planted!!

  • James

    This ridiculous by-law will “fix” our tree canopy just about as effectively as rainbow painted walkways will “fix” homophobia. We seem to find ourselves living in a politically correct knee jerk reaction world taking action unnecessarily and without sufficient forethought just to say we did, while actually accomplishing nothing at all, yet patting each other on the back nonetheless. I predict a sale on chainsaws at your local hardware store tomorrow and a busy weekend for those holding on to the illusion of property rights.

    • Phillip Wooster

      Speaking of “politically correct”, your evaluation of City Hall is no more apparent than in the latest drivel (propaganda actually) that arrived in my mailbox in a flyer entitled, “2018-2022 Burlington’s Plan” which oozes all the trendy buzz-words so typical of self-aggrandizing politicians who like to talk a good game–“strategic directions, vision, prioritize, focus, proactive, priorities, initiatives, transformation, integrated, responsive, collaborative, living document, engagement”. We better be careful, Big Sister is Watching.

      BTW, the flyer is now going directly into recycling.

  • Gary Scobie

    As the steward to my backyard “woods” for nearly 40 years, I’ll gladly submit to the Private Tree Bylaw, even though it may cost more than my own stewardship. I applaud City Council for taking this small but important step in maintaining and enhancing out tree canopy.

  • Penny Hersh

    Anyone who attended the meeting when the Tree-By-Law came up for discussion, came away knowing that this proposed by-law plays a very small part in saving the Tree Canopy in Burlington. If staff and council don’t take the advice that tree planting and proper management of trees is essential for a healthy city then they just were not paying attention.

    This by-law is a band-aid answer to a much more difficult problem – climate control.

    I would like to see Council designate funds for major tree planting and culling of old and diseased trees, as was suggested by some who delegated against this by-law.

  • Phillip Wooster

    “Not draconian enforcers”–a total misrepresentation. My experience with the Forestry department is that their operating motto is, “our way or the highway”. Compromise is certainly not in their lexicon.

  • Hans Jacobs

    I support any by-law that will increase Burlington’s tree and shrub assets. A tree conservation by-law should cover all of Burlington, including Hydro corridors. Several years ago, Hydro One destroyed all of the trees and shrubs in its corridors, including many that were not in any way a threat to the integrity of the transmission system and others that could have been managed easily with pruning. This was a huge loss that must not be repeated.

    The Winter edition of Burlington’s “City Talk” includes a “performance target” of “Achieve a 2:1 tree removal to tree replacement ratio by 2022”. That is the exact opposite of what is required.

    • Phillip Wooster

      Hans, this bylaw is a solution in search of a problem–it will do NOTHING to increase the total number of trees on private property. Currently, I have seen no data that suggests homeowners cutting trees on their property is a major problem; in fact, the City has violated the trial in Roseland which was to run to 2021–I wonder why???????? My experience in living in Burlington for over 40 years is quite the opposite–most homeowners value the trees on their property and only remove or replace them when there is a good reason for doing so. And this bylaw won’t deter them despite creating a bureaucratic boondoggle that will cost $$$$ for the taxpayer. Here’s how I can see homeowners reacting—1. local hardware stores will be selling more chainsaws 2. trees that might become a problem will get cut down early before they fall under the bylaw 3. trees will not get planted if homeowners foresee a possible problem and 4. large trees will die and need to be removed (I personally prefer a large bag of fertilizer piled around the base although treatment with gasoline also works wonders)

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