City council is looking at four options related to a new private tree bylaw.

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

October 7th, 2019



The city is having the private tree by law debate – again.

We are in different times and different actions have to be taken.

Burlington declared a Climate Emergency – many many others have done the same thing. This city council wants to go a lot further than any past council in saving the trees and it is going to cost – quite a bit.

Belvenia trees-1024x768

This is what the urban canopy is all about. Lose it and the value of the houses on the street plummet.

At the Burlington federal candidate debate Liberal Karina Gould said there was no problem with people agreeing that climate change was real – where we have the problems she said is their willingness to pay for the changes that are going to have to be made.

Council had four options in front of them: Here they are with the costs attached.

Trees Pine street

These trees were cut down to allow for the building of a retirement home on Pine Street.

OPTION 1: Status quo
A status quo approach was considered as part of this report. This would allow the current Pilot Private Tree Bylaw in Roseland to run the original 2-

Pros: Allows for more time to evaluate the pilot.

Cons: This does not consider the implications of a declared climate emergency, and delays protection of trees citywide.

COST: Option 1 – no impact

OPTION 2: Expand the Bylaw to Ward 4 Only
The expansion of the bylaw to ward 4 was considered as part of this report. The staff requirement would be reduced to 1 full time staff, with associated cost reductions.

Pros: Provides for a slightly larger pilot area.

Cons: This does not consider the implications of a declared climate emergency, and delays protection of trees citywide.

COST: The operating budget impact is $95,000 for 1 full-time tree protection officer. The capital budget impact is $51,000 including the purchase of 1 electric vehicle and charging station.

Geese on Guelph Line and the apple trees

This group of trees beside a popular church on Guelph Line were cut down because the geese were eating the apples and pooping on the church drive way.

OPTION 3: Repeal the Pilot Private Tree Bylaw and approve a bylaw for the urban area only
This option would protect all private trees within the urban area of the City and exclude all agricultural and rural areas north of Highway 5/407.

Pros: Provides protection for private trees in the most populated area of the City.

Cons: Does not provide protection for residential properties in the rural area that are not covered under the Regional bylaw for woodlots.

COST: Option 3 and 4 – The operating budget impact is $300,000.00 including 5 full- time staff (1 supervisor and 4 tree protection officer)

OPTION 4: Repeal the Pilot Private Tree Bylaw and approve a city-wide private tree bylaw

Pros: This option provides the highest level of protection by including the entire city.

Cons: Increased resource requirements in both operating and capital budgets.

The capital budget impact is $250,000 including the purchase of 5 electric vehicles and 2 charging stations to be installed at the City’s Operations Centre.

Source of Funding
The Private Tree Bylaw will be funded through both the operating and capital budget, and a business case has been prepared for consideration in the 2020 budget process. There will be partial cost recovery of administrative costs through permit fees, as well as bylaw contravention fees through site inspection, estimated at approximately $200,000.

Amy Schnurr

BurlingtonGreen Executive Director Amy Schnurr

Contracted service costs are expected to decrease by $12,000 per year. The impact to the property tax rate is estimated at 0.18%.

In the ensuing debate we will see how our city Councillors handle the issue and what the public has to say.

There were two delegations to the meeting Monday evening; the Executive Directors of both Burlington Green and Oakville Green.

The report will come back to city council in December.

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9 comments to City council is looking at four options related to a new private tree bylaw.

  • Elan

    and the flag bearer for this ‘climate emergency’, Mr Nisan, votes NOT to commit to extending the tree bylaw city wide and the funding (that all other municipalities already have) to the 2020 budget. Mr ‘Climate emergency’ Nisan. ok. this is your second failure to launch on this. And what the heck was Lisa Kearns doing asking residents to sit through her “I love climate” video, from her election campaign, THEN to vote AGAINST the motion. Wow. in favour: Mayor and Coucillor Stolte.

  • Adam

    How many trees will be saved each year? What is the cost per tree if we implement the $300,000 tree bylaw solution? We also should look at how many NEW trees could be planted with that $300,000 as well. These are basic questions that need to be answered. Putting in new rules and regulations is rarely the answer. If we have a climate emergency I believe we can get a much better bang for our buck.

    Also the city has been cutting down a ton of trees recently, hydro cuts them down all the time, are they both required to pay fees and go through red tape to cut those trees down as well?

    How many trees were cut down to build your house or apartment? At one point this entire area was probably forest. Developers cutting down trees makes sense, how else do they make way for the houses!!! I don’t understand the issue with this.

  • Tim C

    Yet we have the developers in Oakville constantly building new McMansions with the tree protection in place. They have figured it out,so I imagine Joe Smith will figure out how to do his weekend project without clear cutting his yard.

  • Tim C

    What is the hold up here? Did the previous Mayor and Council suddenly reappear?

    Can we not simply look next door at Oakville and see how the tree protection by law has worked out over many years? I thought our new Mayor and council were different from the previous do nothing gang. How disappointing!

    Go ahead developers and continue to clear cut properties. No one in Burlington will stop you!

  • James

    The first two photos in this article and maybe even the third show city-owned trees within the municipal right of way. That’s not what’s at stake with this proposed by-law, those are not privately owned trees. You want to protect city-owned trees in the boulevard, by all means go right ahead, I’m all for it, but if I plant a tree on my private property and then 10 years later decide to cut it down, what right does the City have to either stop me from doing that on MY property, or charging me a fee to cut down MY tree on MY own property? I understand what the goal is here, but let’s not toss property owner rights out the window in the process. Government already has their hands way too deep in our pockets. We’re not talking about development, we’re not talking about public safety, we’re talking about landscaping on private property. If this by-law looks like it might actually happen, I may just have to cut down all my trees proactively before it takes effect so I can avoid having this fight later on.

    Editor’s note: Somehow the issue – climate change – got lost in this comment.

    • James

      Climate change is a real issue, an important issue, and I am in full agreement that we need to do whatever we can to save this planet for future generations. But I live work and play in Burlington and I just don’t see mass tree removals taking place in the urban area on a regular basis that jeopardize life on this planet or warrant such a heavy fisted by-law that infringes upon our property rights and casts common sense out the window. This isn’t the Amazon rainforest, this is the urban area of Burlington, and I don’t think there’s a problem with the occasional tree being cut down. I think this by-law if approved is unnecessary, misguided, and punishes the wrong people. Do we really need to spend $300,000 annually to make sure Joe Smith can’t cut down that maple tree that’s in the way of his home renovation plans, or charge him $1,500 for a permit, plus arborist costs, plus disposal costs, to cut down the tree he paid for and planted in the first place? Last I checked Joe is still paying the property taxes and maintaining the property as best he can, shouldn’t he have some rights? This by-law will hurt normal people like you and me, not developers if that’s who the real target is. A few thousand dollars isn’t a big deal to them, but it sure is to me. This by-law is nothing but a feel good story that accomplishes nothing. Kind of like making a big deal over a rainbow painted crosswalk. If this City wants real change, we need to stop wasting time with opportunistic, politically correct, photo-op, token efforts like these and find better ways to actually achieve the desired change. It can’t just be about giving our elected officials meaningless opportunities to smile on Instagram and make it seem like they’ve accomplished something more than they have. I don’t have the answer to the climate change problem, but I know this by-law isn’t it. It’s the easy way out.

  • Penny Hersh

    A monetary fine is definitely not the answer. First of all the City would have to collect. Secondly this cost would just be passed on to the purchaser of their units, and the trees would be gone.

  • Penny Hersh

    Well, I guess we will see just what this new Mayor and Council are made of? Councillor Nisan put forward the motion of a Climate Change Emergency and everyone on Council backed him up.

    It is easy to put a motion in place, much harder to make changes and just what the taxpayers of Burlington are willing to take out of their pockets to make this happen. Its crunch time….the next few months will be interesting indeed.

    Thank you to Executive Director Amy Schnurr, from Burlington Greenfor reminding us over and over again what Burlington needs to be doing.

    Talk is cheap…..

  • gfraser

    I vote for option four. It appears that you cannot trust everyone to do the correct thing.

    Furthermore, Developers/Builders MUST have their proposed site photographed with trees left undisturbed prior to site preparation. Bylaw officers will assess the site plan to maximize and retain the tree canopy. Any Builder not doing this, MUST be fined an obscene amount of money per tree destroyed.