That tree bylaw - is it doing what people want it to do - some see it as a cash grab

By Pepper Parr

August 29th, 2022



Burlington’s citizens have had significant differences of opinion over just what the tree bylaw should do for some time..

Some don’t want the city telling them what to do with trees on their property while others welcome the practice of requiring people to get permission to cut down a tree on their property.

Adding to the number of trees is an ongoing project – keeping climate change at an acceptable level requires that everyone be on board.

Climate change is taking place and the canopy coverage is now not just a nice thing to have but something that is essential if we are to have any hope of how we individually manage climate change.

One Gazette reader said:

I’m not sure most people are aware of how expensive it is to have an unhealthy tree in Burlington now.

A good friend of mine has a large tree in his backyard that is hollow for several feet from the base and obviously in danger of falling.  He already had a similar tree brought down by a bad storm that took out a fence.  He contacted the city to access the tree and the city arborist said it was healthy.  A lay person can see it’s not.

For my friend to cut the tree down it will cost several thousand dollars and will require he pay an application fee to have it cut down.   He also has to plant 5 trees because of it’s girth that his yard cannot support.   Thus he has to pay a penalty because he can’t plant that many trees.   It’s hard to believe this is a democratic country right now.     In the past if a tree was sick or close to the house the fee was waived but no longer.   The bylaw was changed last year and now makes it nearly impossible to protect your property from a falling tree.   He is willing to let the tree fall now and damage his own or neighbour’s house than cut it down.   What a sad city we have become.

Not sure you have done any story on our tree loving bylaw recently but its worth a look on what the city has imposed with little communication.

Was it necessary to cut these trees ? The current tree bylaw would require getting permission and replacing five tree for each tree cut down

We are clearly not yet at the point where there s a wide consensus on just what a tree bylaw should do and who should pay the costs involved.

Is this an issue that should be given serious attention during the election campaign that will become much more active once the holiday weekend is over ?


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15 comments to That tree bylaw – is it doing what people want it to do – some see it as a cash grab

  • Alfred


    What grew on the land your houses presently sit on before they were built? Mushrooms? It appears OK. to cut trees as long as it benefits you and provided housing for you. 30 or 40 trees were probably cut to build your houses. You Nimby’s are now playing the environmental “Save the trees card” to save the view you have and don’t want a brick factory next to you.

    Who did you think owned this land when you bought? Ontario Parks? Is it zoned for permanent parkland as you would have us believe? Or something else that would permit the intended use? Be honest to yourself and the people reading this article. Not misrepresent the facts.

    Perhaps I can suggest we confiscate your homes demolish them take the land and replant trees there to extend the precious forest. With no compensation paid to you of course. Sound familiar. This land is privately owned. You and your communist friends could buy it, or convince council to buy it for all the citizens of Burlington. (Good Luck) Clearly the shale required to make brick is very site specific. This land appears to meet the requirements. Where do you think the factory and material for making bricks for building housing and commercial applications in Burlington should come? A master Nimby should say: Other cities. Someone elses back yard? How would we get it here? Truck it in with large diesel trucks from other Cities, clogging the highways with large dangerous trucks and damaging the roads at the same time. Not to mention the carbon mess these trucks make. How selfish.

    This article wasn’t really about your Canada Brick experience. But you snuck it in. Suggesting we will all die from carbon poisoning. If this factory is allowed proceed and cut trees. The reality is 87% of Ontario is Crown land. The private land holdings in many cases consist of forests and farm land. Countless numbers of trees in Ontario. Your doom and gloom scenario lacks a shread of credibility

    • David Barker

      Alfred, my friend.

      That is just an illogical rant.

      You bring up credibility. The illogic of your rant i’m sorry to say takes away any credibility to your position.

  • Yes… more attention to the preservation of the canopy across Burlington please!

    Let’s consider another example — Meridian’s plans to destroy a substantial forest.

    The planned clear cutting of the estimated 10,000 trees to make room for more quarrying of shale for brick production by Meridian (now renamed Canada Brick and now owned by Weinerberger (Austria)) is a City, community and business matter that remains “unresolved”. Tyandaga Environmental Coalition ( and various residents/groups across the community have been engaged to stop the clear cutting.

    Our City officials have yet to demonstrate the progress they have made to resolve the issues brought to their attention since September 2015. Surely clear cutting such a substantial forest in this day with all the environmental issues is not appropriate no matter the policies of past.

    Stopping the clear cutting is a “real case” that can be applied to the City’s Climate Emergency Declaration 2019. This is a “real case” that could be incorporated into the city official plans, urban forestry plan, zoning and various by-laws when it comes to business, the community and the environment, and when it comes to learning from the past to future proof an environmentally safer way forward.

    We do not need more deferrals, delays nor more talking when it comes to stopping the ‘clear cutting”. We need positive action from our City council and staff that demonstrates they care and are not afraid to make positive differences when it comes to taking real steps to reduce destruction that affects all creatures human and otherwise.

    After all taking positive steps that keep an established forest intact is “risk mitigation” to reduce community degradation. Isn’t it?

    Where are our progressive public servants? Show us your actionable leadership.

  • Alfred


    A simple question? Why do we need a costly and time wasting tree by-law, when it has been proven over and over again that only a handful of healthy trees are cut down in a City with over 4 million trees. Trees thanks to the Mayor have now become a liabiliy when they at one time were deemed an asset. You would be a fool to plant a tree on your property with this by-law in place. The Mayor and a few of the councilors put this by-law in place to say Look at me. I did something Green for the environment knowing that there was no problem. Now less people will plant trees resulting in a loss not gain in tree canopy. A lot of angry people here. Philip, you were bang on thanks for informing the uninformed about our phoney council.

    • David Barker

      What’s the noise about then from you and other objectors if only a handful of healthy trees are cut down each year. Surely the impact of the bylaw must then be minimal. Fees, replacement trees and cash in lieu only come into play when taking down healthy trees. Diseased, terminal or dead trees do not require fees, replacement trees or cash in lieu.

      A big part of why was a private tree bylaw needed was because the development community would routinely clear cut a development site. Without the bylaw there was a loophole exploited by developers. It used to be that an owner or developer was able to clear cut the property at will. Only after a development application was submitted to the City did the City have control over which, if any, trees could be taken down. With the Private Tree Bylaw in place developers can no longer legally take down trees willy nilly.

      Trees have not become a liability. Ask any real estate agent if they have been fielding questions about trees on the seller’s property.

      Only narrow minded people would consider a tree on their property as a liability. Very silly to suggest that.

  • Steve W

    Mr Barker, . My friend did contact his own arborist. But he is miffed that he has to pay them a fee to validate the tree is unhealthy when the city’s arborist should easily see it has a problem. Hence he will just let the tree fall since after that he would have to put up 5 trees he can’t afford. There is a gaping hole 5 feet in circumference. It goes back 3 feet and upwards 7 feet through the trunk with mushrooms and carpenter ants inside. Only about 1 foot of the trunk is supporting a 150 ft tree. Any moron can see it’s unhealthy. What did the city arborist do when they came over? He measured the girth, looked in the hole and said nothing.

    • David Barker

      The tree companies I named usually either waive the arborust’s fee or reduce it and blend it into the removal cost.

      If the tree is diseased or in danger of falling the requirements of the bylaw(replacement trees or cash in lieu) do not apply). I suggest you and your friend read the bylaw and educate yourself.

  • Allen J Fenton

    Let us join in the fun!
    Get a qualified arborist report on the alleged damaged or potentially damaged tree and submit it to the city and wait for the City too respond! Sounds good!
    On June 17 ( a Friday ) at 5 minutes to 6 PM a massive 55 foot “ Tree of Heaven “ fell during high winds causing many thousands of dollars damage to our backyard property!
    This just 10 minutes before the arrival of guests for a combined birthday and anniversary event to be held in our backyard! We were very fortunate that none of our guests ( children and grandchildren ) were injured!
    Our arborist appeared first thing Monday morning to remove the downed tree!
    We requested that he inspect the remaining trees! He found another “ Tree of Heaven “ severely compromised and a potential danger to fall in either our neighbours back yard or ours for a second event.
    On June 20 the we submitted his written report with a request for removal! We sent photos of both the fallen tree and the potential second tree along with the report! We waited several weeks and resent our ( we think urgent ) request!
    As of today we have had no confirmation of a city official attending our property!

    Allen J Fenton

    • David Barker

      Get your Councilor on it. Election is coming up. That is not a bylaw problem. That us standard poor response from City staff, who forget they work for us. Who is your councilor?

  • bill keary

    My neighbor is having the same issue. Their tree is dead and every time we get strong winds, the branches fall onto his driveway. He has already had to replace a windshield. The city is giving him a major run around, perhaps the city should be held liable if they don’t want us to remove trees that are obviously dead or dying?

  • Philip Waggett

    On March 1, 2019, the City instituted a pilot tree by-law that was to run for two years. At that time, the results of the tree by-law were to be evaluated and a decision on a city-wide tree by-law was to be made. But the Mayor and the Councillors never adhered to their own pilot project–on January 28, 2020, the City wide by-law was enacted without considering its own pilot project which was conveniently ignored and in the hopes of this Mayor and council, quietly forgotten.
    Why was this? I live on the edge of the Roseland community and my own observation was that very few trees, with the exception of the extensive removal of ash trees BY THE CITY, were being removed. It appears that this Mayor and Council were determined to have their tree by-law come hell or high water and seeing that the pilot was not producing the results they wanted, just ignored and shelved the pilot to get their pet project enacted.

  • David Barker

    You may wish to advise the quoted reader that he has the option of engaging his own arborist to evaluate the state of the subject tree. I believe companies such as Davey, Treeworks, Cochrane, Beswick have in-house arborists who will evaluate the state of a tree. It is highly unlikely the City will challenge those opinions. I also believe those tree companies may apply for the permit on their customer’s behalf. If the tree is in a terminal or unsafe condition the permit fee is waived and the tree replacement or cash in lieu requirements are not applicable.

    Cautionary note. If you leave the tree in a knowingly unsafe or dangerous condition and it falls and damages either your property or that of a neighbour, or causes injury, (1) you will likely be liable for the repair and for compensation for injury, (2) your insurance company may deny your claim for the cost to remove (a) the fallen tree and to repair your property (b) to defend you against liability claims from neighbours for their injuries or property damage. The reason for denial of your claim is that it is a condition found in all policies that it is the policyholders duty to mitigate any known exposure to a potential loss.

    One other note of caution, not all policies cover the cost to remove a fallen tree in the same way. First of all to trigger the policy the tree must have damaged your property or the property of, or injured a neighbour. Should the policy be triggered (a) some policies will cover the cost to remove that part of the fallen tree that caused the damage, (b) other policies will cover the cost to remove the fallen tree that caused the damage. What’s the difference between (a) and (b)? If the tree was say 100 ft tall and 10 feet of it hit and damaged the property, under (a) the policy will only pay 10% of the removal cost. Under (b) the policy pays the cost to remove the entire tree.

    To your reader, a lay opinion on a tree’s health is useless and obviously unqualified. Bring in one of the tree companies named here. They want your business so they might have some bias in your favour. The City certainly does not have that bias.

    • Denise W.

      I see all kinds of healthy trees on Lakeshore Road. After a good storm they have left major branches laying on the road and sidewalks. Cutting is always extremely minimal. Not what I would want on my property, to mitigate any future danger.

      The picture used, of the trees having been cut….Those look like what the tree people would call “city trees” and will not touch them unless the city says it is okay. (fear of fines and possible loss of city business?) Basically, anything within 10 feet of the edge of the road. This was a big lesson for me, but if you look at your lot plan, your front yard is not the size it looks like. Perhaps a realtor could explain better. On my street, and in most places, that is actually city land.

      I will vote anybody for mayor if they will undo this bylaw.

      • David Barker

        I am well aware of my lot lines having 18 months ago severed my property. Generally speaking the City’s property begins at the resident’s property side of the sidewalk and includes the boulevard if any, and of course the road. My front yard is in actuality exactly what it looks like to the casual observer.

        City trees, those outside of a resident’s property, must not be interfered with except by city personnel.

    • Bob

      David Barker said “ To your reader, a lay opinion on a tree’s health is useless and obviously unqualified.”

      The original story said “ He contacted the city to access the tree and the city arborist”

      It was not a lay persons opinion. It was a qualified arborist who gave the opinion the tree was healthy and he would have proof of that for his insurance company with his denial