The community is seriously divided on the private tree bylaw - so is council but the

News 100 greenBy Staff

December 18th, 2019



It has been a contentious issue for close to a decade.

It was impossible to find a consensus – positions were deeply divided. The environmentalists had a view point and they believe they are right; the property rights people know the environmentalists are wrong and have all kinds of documentation to show the law is on their side.

Positions taken by King George III were brought up by the property rights people who argue that the municipality don’t have the right to tell the owner of a tree what they can and cannot do with or to that tree.

City Council did get to vote on the bylaw that has several sections of which have been deferred to a January Council meeting.

The bylaw will not come into force until April 1st, 2020.

The fear amongst many in the city is that those who have trees on their property may choose to cut them down before the bylaw is in force.

Anthony Fac

Albert Facenda, a frequent council delegator.

Albert Facenda, a frequent council delegator said in a Gazette comment: “Arborist’s, Start your Chainsaws and Chippers!!  Between now and April 2020 tree service companies will be going crazy to get ahead of the deadline.”

Before the vote took place Councillor Paul Sharman tabled 12 amendments to the bylaw. Some were deferred but there was nothing of substance that was approved as an amendment.

Sharman hand up

Councillor Sharman: “”This Council couldn’t wait for Roseland pilot project to complete.”

In his closing comments Sharman said:

“This Council couldn’t wait for Roseland pilot project to complete.

“This Council couldn’t wait for the forestry management plan.

“This Council doesn’t even know the capacity of the built area was even designed to hold a bigger UTC than 15%, this whole thing may be a wild goose chase.

“As Arborist, Thomas Wright, says, this Council does not even know whether the City has a significant loss of tree canopy happening.

“So, it is proposed that the City of Burlington impose heavy fees, possibly significant fines and replanting costs on potentially 10’s of thousands of home owners in the next 10 years all with the single ideological goal of stopping them from cutting trees down that will die in any event.

“This bylaw may trigger a number of unintended consequences, including:

1) Providing home owners, the incentive of selling their land to assemblers who will convert single family home neighbourhoods into blocks of townhomes, especially south of the QEW. All because this Council has made it prohibitively expensive to improve their homes.

2) Disincentivizing home owners from ever planting trees on their own property because when they grow to be over 20cm’s they represent a significant financial risk in the event they wish to reorganize their property.

“People will not be allowed to manage their own property without paying huge, punitive fees to the City all to protect someone’s good idea.

Sharman picking

There were times during the private tree bylaw debate when Councillor Sharman was distracted.

“The reason the Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) in the urban area is only 15% is precisely because it was developed with homes. But no one in City Hall has checked that out.

“This whole rushed and ill-conceived bylaw is premised on the desire to sustain and increase the UTC significantly, but no one in the city has bothered to check how feasible that lofty goal is. All that is being done here is a huge penalty on anyone who wishes to improve their property. The property they have worked hard to own. The city is going extort huge sums of money to satisfy an idealistic fantasy.

“I cannot support this decision Council is about to make in the complete absence of evidence. I repeat myself again, this bylaw is rushed and ill-conceived.

Shawana Stolte 1

Councillor Stolte: “As a community …we are playing “catch up” to other more progressive municipalities.

Councillor Shawna Stolte responded saying: “I by no means see this Bylaw as being “rushed and ill-conceived” as presented by my colleague on Council.

“Staff have worked very hard on this policy framework and members of the Forestry Department have worked towards this goal for nearly a decade.

“As a community we are not leading the way…we are playing “catch up” to other more progressive municipalities that enacted tree protection bylaws years ago. If these policies had not been effective, those communities would have repealed them long ago.

“One silver lining of the City of Burlington taking so long to enact our own tree protection bylaw is that we have benefited not only from the research conducted by other municipalities but also from the benefit of their lived experiences. This does not mean however that we should merely replicate another municipality’s solutions.

“We are unique, we are special and we have worked hard to collaborate and come up with an initial framework that fits our unique community.

“There remains some details to finalize, especially with the financial impact to the residents, but the purpose and objective of the bylaw is clear and I am proud to support this proactive, positive step forward for our community.”


Angelo - not getting it -deferal

Having seconded the 12 amendments to the Private Tree Bylaw Councillor Bentivegna had questions about many of them.

The 12 amendments Councillor Sharman put forward (they were seconded by Councillor Angelo Bentivegna who at times wasn’t certain where Sharman was going).
Council Meeting December 16, 2019
1. Direct staff to prepare a Forestry Management Plan equally as comprehensive as the Oakville Urban Forest Strategic Management Plan Town of Oakville, 2008 – 2027 by Q1 2021
2. Direct staff to update the Burlington Private Tree By-Law relative to the Burlington Forestry Management Plan when complete by Q2 2021
3. Direct staff to a) compare the Burlington Private Tree By-Law to Oakville’s 2017 By-Law and explain differences, and whether to modify Burlington’s b) update the Burlington Private Tree By-Law for review at March Committee Meetings
4. Amend the Burlington Private Tree By-Law to forego replanting or cash in lieu and planting of 1st 20 cm of any tree cut down under the tree by-law application process.
5. Amend the Burlington Private Tree By-Law to revise the aggregate planting policy and replace it with the Modified Oakville replanting requirement Attachment 1 and include adjustment for tree condition.
6. Amend Burlington Private Tree By-Law to increase 2mtrs set back from house allowance (whereby no application fees or replacement is required) to equal drip distance line or 4mtrs, whichever is less
7. Amend the Burlington Private Tree By-Law to include the following clause from the Oakville 2017 By-Law “5. The provisions of this By-law do not apply to the removal of trees: (g) to permit the construction of a building or structure, where the removal, injury or destruction is required under a building permit.”
8. Amend the Burlington Private Tree By-Law to require replacement tree diameter of 30mm instead of 50mm and adjust the associated cash in lieu accordingly
9. Amend Burlington Private Tree By-Law to exclude invasive species e.g. Norway Maple from application and tree replacement
10. Direct staff to develop firm policies for the Burlington Private Tree By-Law to define forestry assessment standards in order to allow citizens to clearly understand the basis of all City arborist’s assessments, decisions and ruling to ensure transparency and accountability for the February 2020 meeting cycle
11. Amend the Burlington Private Tree By-Law to exclude rural farm property other than up to 4 acres that are used for residential purposes. Exclude all wood lots that are subject to existing municipal by laws.
12. Direct staff to return of cash in-lieu funds to applicants if not used to plant trees on private property within 3 years proportional to contribution and actual plantings accomplished


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6 comments to The community is seriously divided on the private tree bylaw – so is council but the “huggers” have the votes.

  • Alfred

    Elan. My socialist friend. Let me try to explain what Steve wrote or rather what I understood it to mean. Steve if he desires, can comment on my reading of his post. Steve is suggesting that if someone plants a tree on their own property knowing down the road they will have to pay ridiculous fees to cut them down. Or having to go through the expense ( arborist fees, city permits cost of replanting trees) they are fools. He believes as I do that people would be less likely to plant a tree. Hence the reduction in tree canopy as older trees die.The “long term effect”. Unless they would get a reduction in property taxes for doing so. ( the carrot ). Since you have no interest in lowering property taxes (one of the very few) who thinks property taxes going up double the rate of inflation is nutty low. You are blaming the deforestation on developers. Yet City staff concluded that these only resulted in few hundred trees being removed a year if that. In a City with 4 million trees. Since you have difficulty understanding that some developers live in Burlington and have a right to express their opinions. Please disclose what you own in terms of properties that could be affected by these new fees if any. As Don Johnson and others disclosed. My guess would be none. If so, credibility becomes an issue and wisely sinks residents interest . When you speak about indescriminate land clearing for monster homes and development with no City report that would suggest you are remotely close to the truth in numbers of trees removed. Just curious do you even pay property taxes. Oakville discloses how many tree permits gets issued I suggest you get informed and disclose that info. in your next post. That prove what a fraud these tree by-laws really are. Hundreds of thousands of trees should be planted. Because of people that think like you. Private property owners will say. No thanks! You and the STATE can keep your trees.

  • Steve

    So, never plant a tree. Got that part. In the end, the canopy will fade out. That will be the long term effect.

    Nice timing on the vote….going into winter.

    Unless this bylaw will also force people to plant trees? Or possibly for getting any kind of building permit or to pay lower property tax? Hope not!

    • Elan

      Steve, I have no Idea what this post means…Part of the bylaw would force planting trees in place of those being taken down (as it does in Toronto, Oakville, etc). Timing of the vote coincides with the Budget vote (annually in December), and is ten years late, stonewalled by developer friendly Mayor and Councillors…It will force residents to seek permits to take down trees. It will not allow lower property tax (?). Burlington is one of the lowest taxed municipalities in southern Ontario. 4% is nutty low, vs Toronto, Milton, Oakville, Hamilton. That is not a fun fact. It means past councils have pushed all critical infrastructure projects to the future = now. It also means residents clamouring for more services love the soap box, but dont want to pay up.

  • Elan

    Community is divided between developers (some of whom desguised themselves as ‘concerned homeowners’ during delegations), rural acreage owners (including Don Johnson, apparently, who all but invoked Julius Ceasar to somehow prove land owners activities cannot be curbed by the state no matter what damage they may cause for the community) vs those not financially vested in putting the breaks on indescriminate land clearing for monster homes and/or developments.
    Sharman was their parade leader, as most of his campaign donars were represented as delegators over the past few councils, and most of his 12 step amendment program meant to give developers what they want (slow down or kill the bylaw) fell flat as disengenious at its core. Yeah. He says studies show trees 4 meters from homes should be excluded since they pose a risk of fire to adjacent homes, leaving out that the study was in the context of Manitoba wildfires. Last wildfire in Burlington = ?. Then Sharman wanted a motion to ensure City Staff will behave honourably in enforcing the by-law. So, your saying City Staff don’t behave honourably and you need a vote to ensure it? Nuts. This guy is a remnant of the old council – bought and paid for by developers, and misleading the public with his selective “data” to sink residents interests.

  • James Appleyard

    Council better get a handle on leaf pick up before committing to preserving the trees!

  • Perryb

    “Having seconded the 12 amendments….Councillor Bentivegna….”. I trust that the Gazette. realizes that seconding of motions in a committee setting does not necessarily mean support. Motions must be seconded in order to be discussed, and often a rotation of seconders is organized in advance to keep a busy agenda moving. The implication is unfair.