Hello GUFF supporters,
The City has drafted a tree bylaw and is holding workshops for discussion and input: The next workshop is on June 8, from 7-9 p.m. in Conference Room C at City Hall. We urge you to attend or provide written comments by June 18.
Guelph Urban Forest Friends (GUFF) has reviewed the draft tree bylaw. It is an improvement over the existing 25-year-old bylaw and requires that permits be obtained for destroying trees over 20 cm in diameter on small properties and trees over 10 cm in diameter on large properties. Even so, it is still much weaker than some other tree by-laws in Ontario. There are a number of areas that need to be stronger:
1. The foundation of the bylaw should be that healthy trees of a certain size should be protected. The City of Toronto bylaw states this clearly: “The Commissioner shall not issue a permit for the injury or destruction of trees where trees are healthy.” 813-15C.
Admittedly, the Toronto bylaw does allow exemptions for the destruction of healthy trees under certain circumstances–such as when they are within the building envelope of a proposed building. But the importance of an affirmative policy protecting healthy trees cannot be underestimated.
2. The draft Guelph bylaw gives too much discretion in deciding whether to issue a permit to destroy trees. A city inspector would have to “consider” such things as whether the tree is an endangered species, the condition and location of the tree, whether it is important for erosion and flood control, whether there are breeding birds present. Instead, the by-law should contain a section entitled “PERMIT REFUSED” that itemizes reasons for which a permit must be denied.
Those reasons should include: that the tree is an endangered or threatened species; that the tree is healthy; that environmentally sensitive areas will not be adequately protected; that erosion or flood control will be negatively impacted; that significant vistas will not be protected and preserved; that the tree is a heritage tree; that removing the tree would violate the Migratory Bird Act. Such language is consistent with the Toronto and Richmond Hill tree bylaws.
3. Guelph’s tree bylaw should include mandatory parameters for issuing permits for destroying trees. As in #2 above, the draft by-law gives too much discretion in imposing the conditions on the permit. The bylaw only requires that the “inspector may make the Permit subject to such conditions as the Inspector may consider necessary. “The Inspector “may” require replacement trees; the inspector “may” require cash in lieu of tree replacement; the inspector “may” require that specific measures be implemented to mitigate effects on nearby trees, land, water bodies or natural areas.”
The Toronto tree bylaw, in contrast, states that “A permit to destroy trees SHALL be subject to the following terms and conditions:” Those conditions include such things as tree replacement and cash in lieu.
4. Guelph’s draft tree bylaw should require that whenever trees are proposed to be removed, impacts to surrounding properties (such as loss of shade, vistas or privacy) have to be considered. This is consistent with a provision in the Richmond Hill tree bylaw.
To summarize, the draft bylaw should:
- state that, except for certain exemptions, permits shall not be issued to destroy healthy trees over 20 cm in diameter (10 cm on large properties)
- itemize reasons for which permits must be denied (e.g. trees are healthy, endangered, of heritage quality, etc.)
- establish mandatory conditions for obtaining a permit to destroy trees (e.g. replacement trees must be planted)
- require that impacts on adjoining properties be considered (e.g. loss of shade, privacy)
Thanks from GUFF
About the draft Tree Bylaw
In addition to regulating trees 10 centimetres at breast height on lots larger than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres), the updated draft bylaw proposes to regulate damage or removal of larger trees on smaller properties; trees 20 centimetres in diameter at breast height on lots less than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres). The updated draft also includes a permit process, a list of exemptions, entry and inspection powers, enforcement measures and increased fines.Following a presentation, participants will have an opportunity to discuss issues and provide feedback.
Even if you can’t attend the sessions, you can still comment. Comments will be received until June 18.
Suzanne Young, Environmental Planner
519-837-5616 x 2356
Jessica McEachren, Environmental Planner
519-837-5616 x 2563
Contacting Guelph City Council
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