BurlingtonGreen points to why a private tree bylaw is necessary.



By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. July 15, 2013.   Liz Benneian made it pretty clear – you need a private tree bylaw that applies to everyone, and as she explained, everyone includes the developers.  For it is the developers, according to Benneian, that are a very large part of the problem.

The debate in Burlington has been focused on individual rights – the “you can`t tell me what to do” point of view.   What the city failed to twig to was the role developers have played in the clear cutting that was taking place.

BurlingtonGreen recently pointed us to a situation back in October of 2011 where trees taken out in the Orchard, had residents up in arms and the council member calling emergency meetings.  Jeff Paikin, operator of New Horizon Homes, explained at the time that this was just the way things were done by developers.  You bought up several properties, assembled the land, clear-cut the trees you didn’t want and then you took your site plan application to city hall.

The trees were gone – and never was there just the one tree cut down. 

Benneian argued that that was the problem.  If there were a private tree bylaw the developer would be treated just like any other citizen.  There is no difference, she explained to city council, between a developer who owns a piece of property and the individual

Paikin had clear-cut century-old trees that filled the lot behind several Tydman Way properties, and caused an outcry from the Orchard community.  At the time Paikin said it was all within his company’s rights as a property owner.  And that was perfectly true.

At the helm of the New Horizon team are hands-on owners Jeff Paikin, President and Joe Giacomodonato, Vice-President.

Paikin is quoted as saying: “This is a routine function of the development process that we have done on every site we’ve ever owned… so it’s just a little frustrating.”

 “There has been no meetings with residents in the area,” Orchard neighbour Larry Daigneault said in an e-mail sent to Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman.  “We were told by our local Councillor that we would be updated regarding any new developments before anything could be done to this area.”

Paikin takes the position that since no official application has been submitted to the city regarding developing the land, New Horizon Homes did not need to alert neighbours before the clear cutting took place.

At a public meeting Paikin met with property owners  “… to introduce ourselves… and show them the kind of development that we do and the kind of thoughts we had for that property.” “While that was underway, as part of the regular process, the trees were removed.”

Sharman is reported to have said:  “It was just last week that the developer called me to confirm that they had acquired the last property that was critical to their project. He did not say that he was in the process of cutting the trees down.”

Paikin was asked if  there was a legal requirement to call the Councillor or neighbours and alert them they intended to cut down the trees and is reported to have responded: “Would you call the Councillor if you were cutting a tree in your backyard?” asked Paikin. “There is no requirement, it’s not contrary to any bylaw… it’s absolutely within our rights…. This is just the world as it relates to development in 2011. It’s a necessary part of the process…. I’m sure when they clear-cut the trees to build the Orchard (community) our neighbours didn’t mind at all.”

Sharman chose to completely ignore his own experience in his ward.  The position he took at the council committee meeting was a complete crock.Sharman’s reported comments back in 2011 don’t square all that well with the position he took at the Community Services Committee meeting last week where he said the problem really wasn’t clear cutting – it was intensification.  People didn’t like intensification” he said, suggesting that the clear cutting is the result of the need to intensify – that is build more houses on the space we have.

Sharman chose to completely ignore his own experience in his ward.  The position he took at the council committee meeting was a complete crock.

Unfortunately there isn’t anything the city can do about the intensification taking place; there is a provincial government policy that sets out the level of intensification Burlington must undergo.

City council meeting as a committee either didn’t hear what Liz Benneian was trying to tell them or they just didn’t care.  Or – they didn’t really have the courage of their convictions and were not prepared to do the right thing for the city.  Or perhaps the developers in this city do own city council.  They certainly don’t have the Mayor or Meed Ward in their back pockets – those two did the right thing and voted to both educate the public and at the same time develop a bylaw that would prevent the needless clear cutting that is legal now and develop a reasonable bylaw that gives residents the exemptions they need to fully enjoy the property they own.

During the debate a couple of facts came out.  People in the urban tree business believe a city should have about 30% tree canopy.  Burlington has 27% – close.  However, the rural part of the city has 24% – south of the QEW the number is 17%.  Ouch!

Councillor Sharman who had direct experience with the approach developers take to clear cutting – didn’t say a word about his experience during the debate.  For a guy who goes on about the facts and the need for data before making decisions Councillor Sharman failed his constituents and was less than honest with himself.

People tend to remember this sort of thing.

The issue will come up again at city council this evening – hopefully council will pull itself from the edge of the cliff they were about to go over.

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2 comments to BurlingtonGreen points to why a private tree bylaw is necessary.

  • Gee, what a tragedy that Mr. Paikin is “unimpressed.” As a resident of Falcon Boulevard, I attended a meeting about two years ago at East Plains United Church where Mr. Paiken and a couple of members of his staff met a community group opposed to a new multi-storey building they wanted to build near the intersection of Falcon and Plains Road. The building would tie in with an existing large residential development of theirs.

    The meeting was well-attended, councillor Rick Craven MC’d the event and, as I recall, not one person defended the New Horizon project or Mr. Paiken’s arguments. Everyone was opposed to it for multiple reasons.

    As we left the meeting I said to my wife, “There’s a dead project for sure.” Silly me. A very large hole in the ground currently marks the project that nobody wanted but Mr. Paiken. Developers in this town get what they want and the feelings of the citizens be damned.

    Mr. Paiken has nothing to complain about and nothing to worry about. He’ll cut all the trees he wants, erect all the buildings he dreams of, and make all the money he desires. Let’s not pass him a crying towel yet.

  • parrking

    We received the following comments from Jeff Paiken and have added them as comment on the piece we wrote:
    I saw your latest article on the tree bylaw. Pretty disappointed that you go so far out of your way to make the argument that all of this is about how we dealt with this issue almost 2 years ago. Not being called for comments on this issue and seeing my name and photo in print is pretty shoddy journalism. In our family we know a bit about balanced journalism and the responsibility of the journalist to present a balanced argument and you took no steps to attempt to do so. Obviously you have a one-sided agenda on this issue and have used our company in an unprofessional manner to create your one-sided argument. If you were at the session earlier this year where the potential tree bylaw was discussed you would have realized that the community is VERY divided on this subject. It was mentioned at this event that there are approximately 2,000,000 trees in Burlington and that the number that are removed in any given year is in the hundreds.

    In any event printing current quotes against my 2 year old quotes on a single site and single issue is shoddy and I’m not impressed.

    Jeff Paiken, President New Horizon Homes