Meed Ward goes on an educational offensive – wants to save those trees. Is she scooping the Mayor’s issue?

September 3, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Trees – do they belong to just the person on whose property they are rooted or do they belong to the community with the owner of the property on which they are rooted serving as a steward?

The moment you suggest city hall can tell you what you can and can’t do with your property all hell breaks loose – and with some justification.  The bureaucrats can at times be particularly insensitive and thick-headed.  The city has hundreds of people who will tell you stories of their woes and complaints.  

This is what a tree canopy should look like and this is what the people on Belvinia enjoy most of the year. But there are large parts of Burlington where mature stands of trees like this don’t exist because too many trees got cut down when development was done.

An attempt to create a bylaw that would govern the cutting down of trees on private property in June was defeated on a 5-2 vote.  A staff report suggesting the city not create a private tree by law didn’t help.

If there is going to be a change in the way Burlington looks at when we cut down trees it will take quite a bit more in the way of public education; a process that is hindered by the interests of the development community.  A private tree bylaw would prevent developers from cutting down trees on properties they have purchased and want to assemble and develop.

Known as the Joseph Brant oak, the tree, now more than 100 years old was a boundary marker for the grant of property given to Brant for his service to the British during the American Revolutionary War.

Resulted in just the Mayor and Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward voting for the idea.  The rest of Council sat on their hands and let their individual ideologies fill in that space where common sense should have prevailed.

At the time the Mayor came to the realization that there was some educational work to be done.   Meed Ward saw the situation the same way and has announced that she will be bringing forward a series of motions to provide the citizens of the city reasonable options.

Meed Ward has advised her fellow Council members that she plans to put forward a number of motions that will cover:

 1.  A No-fee permit requirement for cutting five or more private trees at one time.

2.  Notification and consent of adjacent properties for cutting private trees on the boundary of the property (Adjacent properties would be those on either side, and backing onto the property in question). Similar protections exist under the site plan process; this option would extend those same protections to trees in the absence of a formal development application.

3.  No fee city permission required to cut any tree on private property larger than 20cm in designated Tree Protection Areas. Tree Protection Areas (TPA) are streets and districts where neighbourhoods have opted in to tree protection, via a petition and 2/3 majority survey. A minimum of 10 households required for implementation of a TPA. Items 1 and 2 above would also be part of a TPA.

4.  Requirement to replant on private property or designated city property (to be determined by city staff) any private trees cut, on a one to one basis.

5.  An annual report to council on the number of permits granted and trees cut, as well as TPAs established. A review of the tree protection plan at least once per term.  

The intent of these motions, said Meed Ward is four-fold:

She wants to enhance tree protection for boundary trees and multiple tree cutting in the advance of a development application.  She also wants citizens who support her view the opportunity to enhance private tree protection in their neighbourhoods.

Meed Ward believes the city needs some mechanism, to determine just how many trees on private property are being cut down and would like to see data tracking and enhanced tree protection options for residents.

Mayor Goldring got himself elected as Mayor on a platform that included doing more for the environment – getting the traction he had hoped for took a hit when he voted to take the wind turbine out of the final version of the pier and when he changed his mind on creating separate bike lane for Lakeshore Road.

BurlingtonGreen came close to swallowing their tongue when the wind turbine got lopped off the design; there were so many good reasons for keeping the wind turbine in place – unless of course there were design problems that would come to light if the turbine was installed – but that’s another story – isn’t it?

What we may be seeing at city council is a significant public issue slipping out of the grip the Mayor should have on it and seeing it slide into the hands of a council member who, while not popular with her colleagues, is proving to be quite adroit at capturing the public’s imagination.

Her comments during the unveiling of the Spiral Stella sounded much more “mayoral” than those of Rick Goldring’s.

Meed Ward plans to bring this matter forward at the Development & Infrastructure Committee on September 9th, during the evening session.

There have been well thought through delegations to city council on the number of trees being lost – Council does not appear to be listening.  Colin Brock, speaking for BurlingtonGreen said in a delegation that Some council members commented that tree removal is not an issue in their ward, while another suggested it may be a problem in theirs.  Viewing this as a ward by ward issue is confusing to us. Just like the proposed escarpment highway or the proposed quarry expansion where the implications affect ALL citizens, so too is the preservation of our tree canopy in every ward, throughout the city. This decision needs to be looked at from a city-wide perspective.”

This glade of trees on the east side of City View Park is to be cleared of these trees to create space for the construction of Maintenance space. BurlingtonGreen didn’t think this was necessary.

That city-wide perspective is not in place yet. Burlington is still working its way through whatever relationship it is going to have with trees.  The city recently cut down a small grove of tree at the City View Park where a maintenance facility is to be set up.  There was nothing particularly outstanding about the trees and the city felt that given the very extensive tree planting done on the park property –this small grouping of trees would not be missed.

with the trees taken down and the stumps being pulled out the space at City View Park can be readied for the construction of maintenance space. Did the city lose some vital trees on this project?

There is a small property on New Street west of Guelph Line on the south side that has several magnificent trees on it.  The houses look to be rentals, not particularly well-kept – and seem to be waiting for a developer to move on them. 

Does development mean that trees like this have to be taken down? Probably. The houses are poorly kept, the three properties are ripe for assembly, if they have not already been assembled.

We would not be surprised if the properties are not already in the hands of one owner.

If development is all about location, location, location this property on New Street at Guelph Line is just waiting for the chain saws and the back hoes. Is is possible for a different kind of development on this location? A private tree bylaw would at least prevent the trees from being cut down arbitrarily – and that’s something the development community does not want.

The location of the property and the homes that surround it make this an ideal location for a small development.  But what about those trees?  Do they have to go – and sometimes the answer is yes – perhaps some can be saved but most of those trees will at some point have a close encounter with a chain saw.

There is a development on Ghent where more than 100 trees are slated to be cut down.  The Ghent project is a close to total failure of progressive planning.  The property that has been assembled is one that offers stunning opportunities but the developer has chosen the easy approach to a return on investment and wants to put in more than 50 homes in a set of properties that once had eight homes.

The planners weren’t able to come up with suggestions or solutions and what gets built on Ghent will never become the Roseland or Indian Point of Burlington three generations from now.  What we build today – is what we have to live with for a long time.  The way we are developing suggests there will be far fewer trees for the average family in Burlington.

That is not progressive planning.

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2 comments to Meed Ward goes on an educational offensive – wants to save those trees. Is she scooping the Mayor’s issue?

  • Zaffi

    One would think with all the complaints about hydro costs that all residents, envirnomentally conscious or not, would support tougher tree bi-laws.

    Huge difference in my hydro costs and a much easier to cool house compared to my previous house in tree barren wasteland in North Oakville’s River Oaks neighbourhood. There the house’s backwall of brick was always quite hot to the touch.

    • Ken Colombo

      Tree huggers should be very careful of what they wish for. I participated in a telephone survey a short time ago. I believe the young gentleman caller mentioned Burlington Green as the opinion seeker. In our area of Burlington, we have what could casually be termed ‘an excessive abundance’ of trees which have matured significantly over our 45-year residency.

      With the advent of sudden, severe storms, which are the direct result of climate change, Burlington has had to bear witness to frequent tree limb blow-down occurrences littering streets, front property boulevards, which caused power outages. In one case, the power outage was 18 hours. The residence sustained extensive damage estimated at $10 thousand. City crews were hard-pressed to cope with pickup and wood hogging of the tree limbs. Traffic was slowed significantly by branches on the roadways. During the power outage, we couldn’t receive electronic news … and with a hand crank radio, a sweep of local radio stations indicated Burlington Hydro was NOT issuing update bulletins.

      I’ve always been suspicious of the message, “please stay on the line, your call is important to us.”

      I plan to present my story to council members as soon as I have concluded my photo illustrations.

      There will be MUCH to discuss at the time of my visit.