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Key Issues


Banning of Election Signs in Oakville

Posted January 29, 2015

The JCRA board is concerned that Town Council is once again considering banning election signs on public property. We recognize that for 4-5 weeks this fall Ford Drive was sign crazy. We also had the largest number of candidates of all the wards. However, we believe that for the short period of time signs are allowed, they do spark us all to do our research; to get out and vote and to celebrate our right to choose public representation.

 

Election signs create a level playing field for new candidates by allowing them to build name recognition and serve as notice to their fellow citizens that they are interested in serving the public good. We are deeply concerned that banning elections signs on public property creates an advantage to incumbents. Incumbents have resident email lists not available to others and they often have a strong and established social media presence which a new candidate may not have developed to the same degree.

 

What about good old fashioned door-to-door campaigning and private property lawn signs?

Meeting constituents is certainly an important part of a successful campaign, but incumbents have the private property lawn sign advantage as they already have name recognition and established relationships with residents. Building name recognition is really important for newcomers as they campaign door to door and ask homeowners for their support by having a lawn sign.

What about social media?

Of course, but public elections belong in the public forum, visible to all not just those who are tech savvy and have readily available online access.

What about the environment?

There are ways to make elections signs more environmentally friendly and those who have them should be recognized for their efforts.

What about the number of signs?

Putting limits on the number of signs to something more reasonable is worth exploring but banning signs is extreme.

The big question is what harm are we doing by having elections signs?

Is there not greater harm to the democratic election process by eliminating the visibility of elections within our neighbourhoods?  At a time when voter turnout is not what it should be, should we make elections less visible?  We should be broadening our democracy not narrowing it.

What are other cities doing?

Some will say our neighbours to the west and east have banned signs on public property. That does not make it right. Halton Region has now passed a bylaw banning signs on their roads. Unfortunately it was done at the last regional council meeting prior to the election with no public consultation and the change is effective the next election.

We hope that for the few weeks a year or every few years that we have elections. you will agree that banning election signs on public property is going too far. We want to hear from you regarding your views.

Please send your feedback to us at memberjoshuacreek@gmail.com or members@joshuacreek.org

Click HERE for PDF version

 

Sincerely,

The JCRA Board

 


JCRA Tree By-law Position Paper:

JCRA supports the Town of Oakville’s goals for tree protection and preservation to increase the tree canopy on both private and town land, and we are pleased the Town has undertaken a review of the existing Private Tree Protection Bylaw to ensure it works to achieve these goals.

JCRA supports three overriding principles that we believe should guide and inform the proposed changes to the existing Private Tree By –law

  1. Protection of  property rights –  tree by laws should not prevent property owners from making changes to their property
  2. Permit Requirements and Tracking process for removal of all trees
  3. Compensation for tree removal, including incentives to retain trees

Property Rights

Homeowners cannot be prevented from making changes to their property, including pools, decks, sheds, gazebos, additions because of an existing tree.  While a notification and compensation process must be followed, property owners must have full use of their property for their own needs.

Permits for Removal and Tracking Process

Require a permit for removal of all trees with a 15 cm dbh or greater.

Use the permit process to both track removal, but also to track the planting of compensation trees. The tracking process of replacement trees will also allow the Town to ensure compensation trees meet minimum requirements, are not removed and are cared for to ensure they survive.  Tracking compensation trees is an integral part of ensuring the Town meets its tree canopy targets.

Limit the number of trees allowed for removal to 2- 3 (down from 4) within a 2 year period from the date of tree removal (rather than 1 calendar year as the time frame for removal) to  help with the balance between property rights and tree protection.

Exempt hedgerows from the Private Tree By-law to further protect property owners’ right to landscape their property.

JCRA also supports the protection of very large (76 cm dbh as defined by the by law) or rare trees unless they are assessed as dangerous or diseased by the Town as non- negotiable.

Compensation

Compensation for removal of trees needs to consider the size of the tree removed, and the property from which it was removed.   While a simple formula of 1 tree for every 10 cm dbh removed is easy for homeowners to understand it may not be practical given the size of a property.   As well, the by law should stipulate that compensation trees must be equal to the minimum size that requires a removal permit to prevent the future removal of compensation trees without a permit.

In addition to compensation requirements for tree removal, an incentive program for planting trees or for planting compensation trees in excess of minimum requirements would encourage property owners to add and/or save trees, thereby improving the town’s ability to reach tree canopy targets.  The development and implementation of such an incentive program could accompany the private tree by law.

Development Approval Process

The removal of large, mature trees, as well as mass removal of trees i.e. more than 2 appears to be a significant cause of tree loss on redevelopment lands south of Dundas Street, and as such, a significant concern for residents in that geographical area.  Addressing these concerns should be a priority for town staff.

JCRA understands the differentiation between the Town’s Private Tree By law and the Municipal Planning Act governing lands that are subject to development approval i.e. site plan approval  or subdivision approval, and that tree removals and replacements on those lands are part of the site plan approval process, not the Private Tree By law.

Although we support the strengthening of the private tree by laws to ensure tree protection, we do not want to see more onerous requirements on private individuals who wish to remove a tree for personal reasons, than that which is placed on property owners whose land is under redevelopment.

We want assurances from the Town that they will take action with the provincial government to make changes to the Municipal Planning Act so that individual municipalities can have control over the tree protection on development lands.   Without such assurance, we are reticent to support changes to the private tree protection by laws that restrict private individuals to a greater degree than those property owners with land under development.