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