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A new tree bylaw, by the back door
Editor: I have a number of concerns about the draft Brookswood/Fernridge Community Plan.
Bylaw No. 5058 was given two readings on Feb. 3, and thankfully, council sent this back for another open house, to be held on Feb. 19. This gives us more time to examine the consequences.
One of my major concerns is that Big Brother is freezing our trees. Most property owners probably aren’t aware of the oppressive measures in the draft Community Plan to control their trees.
These punitive measures have not exactly been discussed or been up front in the public open house presentations to date.
A tree lobby group constantly pressured council to enact a tree-cutting bylaw, back around 2005. A bylaw was prepared, and went to a public information meeting at the Brookswood fire hall in 2007. It was so restrictive and costly, the residents rejected it and council wisely axed it.
Now it’s back and even more intolerable, within the draft Community Plan in the form of “Development Permit Area D – Tree Protection on Map 3,” which covers all of Brookswood/Fernridge. Development permits must be approved by council.
“Significant trees” are defined as basically most common species over three metres or 10 feet high, regardless of trunk diameter.
This overkill will treat existing homeowners like big developers. They will have to submit detailed plans prepared by expensive land surveyors, arborists and landscape architects, to do one lot with a single building and/or small projects.
Owners of trees will need a development permit (triggered by a building permit) to add to a building, extend a roof, install a patio, or even clear areas to plant a garden or landscape and grow grass in your own back yard, it appears.
The design guidelines say “Applicants may be required to submit”... a tree survey (by a land surveyor); a tree evaluation report; tree summary schedule.
“Where land or natural vegetation is disturbed or damaged,” a tree replacement plan may be required. “Replacement Trees” are valued at $350 and “Retained Trees” are valued at $1,750.
Whose trees are they? The tree lobby is overreaching. As a private property owner and taxpayer, I do not see it as my responsibility to provide free trees for others. There is nothing preventing someone from purchasing the land, growing your own trees and paying the taxes.
Large trees have a big residential maintenance cost — like cleaning gutters once a month, storm damage to roofs and vehicles with scary 300-lb. branches falling, root damage to pavement and constant cleanup.
We should be able to enjoy the use of private property we pay taxes on, trees or no trees. Disturbing the ground (clearing brush, etc.) should be our decision, not that of bureaucrats.
Some of us would like to see a little more sunshine and open sky by removing or topping some of our trees. It can be depressing long winters in the constant shadows and I don’t think the tree lobby should be depriving us of some natural vitamin D sunshine.
Trees should be harvested. Co-founder of Greenpeace, Dr. Patrick Moore [Greenspirit.com], promotes harvesting trees as being good stewards of civilization. Because if you don’t use wood,then more non-renewable products get used. In promoting wood, the Canadian Wood Council lobbied to increase wood frame buildings from three and four up to six storeys, the current limit in the Building Code. There are several good mature 70 to 80-year-old stands of timber that should once again be harvested.
The plan comments on "preserving existing character of the neighbourhood," stating "new development should respect existing scale and form of the community."
Tall trees may reflect the image of the area as it is in the pre-development stage, but let's be honest. It's an illusion to think that you can transform rural to urban, build dense housing and still have tall trees dominate the form and character. Buildings, subdivision and roads will command the character change with trees renewed as required in bylaw 4861, plus homeowners will plant new ones.
A new neighborhood should have selective new trees planted in locations where they are likely to be undisturbed. Retaining small stands of tall trees minus lower branches is not ideal close to new buildings and will be dangerous from blow-down.
Using trees to bargain for increased density will lead to unintended consequences. The plan states "Single-family land uses have been located in areas where significant tree stands exist. Development incentive – Where sites permit, on-site density transfers will be offered to encourage preservation of significant tree stands”.
This means the planners intend to trade trees for more small lots. [Mr. Developer, if you retain this cluster of trees over here, (which might cover two 60-foot lots), we will bonus you by allowing more smaller 40-foot lots over there.] Buildings are to be located away from retained trees, which will waste more land.
It’s a bad bargain to screw up a subdivision (small lots and future ghettos with parking problems) for the sake of some trees just because they are tall.
Multi-family and townhouse zones should be used to increase density, not single family zones. Why can’t we have nice neighbourhood subdivisions like Murrayville and Walnut Grove?
Is the process backwards? Instead of trying to lord over private property owners with harsh bylaws, the Township or developers could pre-purchase lands with stands of trees to become the future neighbourhood park areas with costs recovered at time of development.
It appears the whole process is overkill, intended to make it unaffordable and difficult. It could cost a homeowner $3,000 to $8,000 and months just to get through the development permit and building permit process, before even hiring someone to remove a tree.
It’s bureaucracy unhinged. We need council to resist the tree lobby group and stand up for our property rights.