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Tree By-law Report
by Don Baxter

Ann Curran did a great job presenting the Roseland Community Organization's case last night. While she was busy doing this I was able to take notes which follow.

November 14, 2012

At the Community Services Committee of Council, a positive recommendation was approved to accelerate a study regarding the potential of a Tree Protection By-law on private property within Burlington.Council will consider this recommendation at their next meeting.

Roseland Community Organization supported this recommendation, and made a presentation to Committee to that end. This action by RCO was brought about by a growing concern about the alarming rate at which mature trees are being brought down in our community. In a recent memo, one resident quipped, “We will soon need a by-law to ban loud sneezing or else another tree will come down in Roseland.”

At the Committee, there were a number of key issues that need to be carefully considered in the staff research, including:

Effectiveness – will the by-law stop unnecessary removal of trees? What has been effectiveness of such by-laws in other jurisdictions? Some of the presentations and concerns raised at Committee dwelled on this question – should we take away property rights for something that may not do the job? While no regulation can be totally effective for this kind of situation, can we at least introduce a “second sober thought” into the process before a century old tree is taken down?

Different Needs – will the by-law deal with the different situations that arise around trees, including:

- Where a developer clears a site of trees before proceeding to apply for development approvals, and thereby, avoiding tree protection through the site plan process?

- Where the home owner a large lot takes the trees down prior to making a land division application to ensure the preservation of trees does not become either a neighbourhood or a site plan issue

- Where the home-owner who, for no reason other than their personal preferences, decides to remove a significant tree

Obviously there is no intent to stop all tree removal particularly where safety is an issue, but there should be a process where these issues are raised prior to the tree coming down – too often our wake up call is the early morning sound of chain saws, and by then, it is too late to do anything.

Liability – There were concerns that a Tree By-law may increase the liability of the City. Of course trees are a liability in that sense. The absolute safest route would be to take all trees down, but that is why we have risk management. The municipalities who already have tree by-laws have same insurance companies as Burlington, and they will advise the City on how to address this issue. The City already deals with risk management for trees on public property, so this new by-law could be an extension of that approach.

Budget – Implementation of a Tree By-law will generate costs but does this mean taxes will need to be increased? Perhaps, but the more managerial approach would be to decide if this is a needed service? what priority level does it have in relation to other services? and then, set a tax rate needed to generate the revenues required to deliver necessary services. Burlington is not on the edge of a fiscal cliff, and it has exercised sound fiscal management in the past.

Sustainability – While the focus of the Committee discussion was on the Tree By-law for private property, there were a staff review proposed on a broader range of tree issues. Much of the tree loss in Roseland is on public property for trees that are becoming hazards. The issues are ones of both maintenance and replacement procedures, and possible role for more community involvement.

We look forward to see what staff brings forward in their report. RCO has proven itself to be very resourceful, perhaps our Tree Committee can come up with ways the community to be more entrepreneurial in addressing within our community – clearly this more urgent in Roseland and Downtown than the entire city.

BurlingtonGreen wants residents to understand importance of trees

Letter to the Editor, Burlington Post May 24, 2013
click to view

Seeds being planted for Burlington tree bylaw
Mayor says he'll bring discussion forward in fall
by Tim Kelly

Burlington Post August 7, 2012
click to view

Burlington needs a bylaw to protect, preserve trees
by Colin Brock

Burlington Post July 11, 2012
click to view

Burlington residents will get a say on tree-cutting bylaw
by Matthew Van Dongen

Hamilton Spectator March 2, 2013
click to view

City examining private tree bylaw

Burlington Post March 1, 2013
click to view


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