Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tree Protection in the GTA (Greater Toronto area) ???

As mentioned a few times in my blog articles... the issues of tree protection in the City of Toronto are very present. Through my work as a designer in the Greater Toronto Area, I often come across issues of trees on private property that have been 'planted in the wrong place'.

Knowing how strict Toronto's Urban Forestry is in regards to tree protection, I began to look into tree protection bylaws in the surrounding areas...

The Town of Richmond Hill

As of March 19th, 2007... The Town of Richmond Hill enacted a tree protection bylaw... trees greater than 20 cm in caliper diameter are protected!

20 cm!?!?! I thought to myself... In Toronto they regulate at 30 cm! Hmmmm.... Is Richmond Hill trying to one up their big neighbour to the south?? Whatever the case... it looks good on them! Makes my job a bit more difficult ... but I am happy to comply with regulations that save trees!

The City of Vaughan

... no protection set in place as of yet but a recent event in Klienburg has resulted in a stir of activity to push a tree protection by law into place... right now, what is protected in terms of trees in the Vaughan area is woodlots.

In the past, the population explosion of Urban development in the "Town" of Vaughan made it jump to city status almost overnight. (A town changes to City status once the population exceeds 50 000 people) One would conclude there are more residential properties in Vaughan then there are old growth woodlots... All I can say regarding that is...Get to it Vaughan!!!

The Town of Newmarket

... No mention of tree protection ... What happened? I think there is something pending but nothing I can find just yet...

The Township of King

... or more popularly known as King City ... no mention of tree protection ... although they are a smaller group in the GTA, they still have some headwaters of the Humber River Basin to think about! Maybe coordinate with the Seneca College Campus in King and get some conservation programs in place? How about linking up with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and setting a bylaw in place with them?

The City of Mississauga and the Town of Aurora

I grouped these two areas because of similar bylaws...

In Mississauga... No tree greater than 15 cm!!! Shall be cut without a permit ... the best size yet, but there is a snag here...

In Aurora... a 20 cm bylaw ... from what I can tell on their website, protects trees greater then 20 cm in caliper diameter... Toronto??? Still 30 cm!

But wait!!! There is a snag here to the bylaw in both of these areas!!!

The By-law states that property owners require a permit to remove 5 or more trees that are within regulated diameters or larger from their private property in a calendar year.

That means, you can remove 4 trees of any size within January to December of each year. ????????? But cut a 5th tree in that time period and you need a permit?????

Who the heck made that bylaw up??? Maybe someone in the city council had 4 trees on their property that they wanted gone and wanted to fly under the radar the day the bylaw was drafted up???

Based on my interpretation of this bylaw, you can cut 4 trees on your property each year and if you have a lot of trees on your property, divide the total number by 4 to get how many years it will take you to have a completely cleared lot without ever contacting anyone for permission! That seems like a joke to me....

The City of Brampton

I found this by-law in place since 2006 I believe... Brampton Tree Preservation By-Law I believe it states that you need a permit to remove most trees over 40 cm DBH. Not that impressive but at least there is some sort of preservation for the larger trees. Also noted is that one can remove a tree at any size if it is considered invasive according to the City of Brampton. There are many exemptions to needing a permit so it is best to read through the by-law and see where your situation fits in.

The Town of Oakville

From what I can tell on their website, enacted back in 2004 was a bylaw to preserve trees greater than 30 cm in diameter... same as Toronto's standards... I think Toronto should change their bylaw to 20 cm in diameter!

Durham Region

At the moment Durham Region has a bylaw enacted to protect woodlots ... With the Urban sprawl going on in this region, hopefully the local communities act and set bylaw protections in place for private properties as well...

Pickering ...has a limited bylaw for conservation lands

Ajax ... when I looked it up I got an error page with the following text at the top "The system cannot find the file specified"... good luck with that one.... Hopefully it is in error due to updates on changing tree protection bylaws???

Whitby ... similar to Pickering, has protection in place for designated conservation lands and woodlots but not much for private property unless your property falls under the protected land areas.

Oshawa ... all I could find was a protection bylaw for City owned trees and it was enacted in 1983!! Time for an update???

Anyway, I hope to update this post for any changes to the bylaws in some of these communities. I may have missed some bylaws that are in place, if I did, they are hard to find on their websites!!! (Note to the webmasters)

Anyone with further information regarding tree bylaws in these areas... feel free to contact me and I will look into them so I can update this article...


Paul said...

The Bylaw is not in place to take away your civil liberties, it is there as a means to ensure the survival of our urban forests. Without this bylaw in place, people would not stop to consider why a tree should be left alone.

This bylaw is in place to protect from ignorance...should a tree be in the "wrong place" the application for removal is made and the situation is reviewed by forestry as it makes its recommendations. The purpose is to protect the large trees that have been on our streets for over a century... if a tree needs to come down, the city will allow for you to do so...and ask that you compensate for its removal.

dovlas said...

Hi Paul,

We have an old house in Toronto (North York) and are planning to build. We have 5 trees in the backyard and a huge tree in the front yard (our private tree) that we did not want to cut so we came up with a design that allows the tree to stay. The design requires a minor variance which was approved by the Committee of Adjustment but under the condition from the Forestry Dept. that we pay for planting of another, city-owned tree. The problem is that our tree is huge and there is simply no room to plant another tree there. We find such a condition unreasonable under the circumstances (many trees on the property, existing tree in the front yard, no room in the front yard, our efforts to avoid cutting the existing tree). We are wondering:
(a) if there is a by-law that requires a city-owned tree to be planted when building a new house
(b) if the city has legal authority to attach such a condition

Paul Corsetti (416)455-5515 said...

Hi Dovlas,

To answer your questions... If the committee of adjustments gave such a condition in order for your building permit to be issued, then yes, you need to comply otherwise they can penalize you...

There is not a direct by-law that I am aware of which would order you to plant a tree unless the new home planned, plus driveway... is larger than the existing home on that lot.

It then falls under new by-laws that regulate green-space to built space ratios... which is a by-law designed to not allow for an increase in storm water runoff based on calculations of what the current amount of water runoff is from the existing home/site.

If the new home is larger and that is what the variance you applied for was, the city has to consider how much storm water runoff will be added to the pre-existing conditions.

By asking for one or two trees planted, they estimate that will compensate for the water increase because 1 tree is calculated to absorb up to 25 square meters of average rainfall. So if your new home is 25 sq meters larger than the old one, 1 tree will do the job.

Now... as to making you plant it on your property... I do believe they will accept a payment for the value of the tree and can plant it anywhere in the city... meaning that if your house increases runoff by 25 sq meters...a tree planted 3 blocks away from your home will decrease rainfall runoff by 25 square meters there... simple logic...just as much rain will fall on the city boulevards down the street as it does on your rectangular lot.

My advice would be to contact the rep. for forestry in that area and ask if the city can find another place for the tree "you have paid for"... if not, then I would ask that forestry person to come to your property and paint in fluorescent construction paint...where the new tree will be placed as you would not have a clue where to put it. This should make them understand the predicament they have put you in by asking for an extra tree to be planted.

My guess is that someone in a city office made that decision after having never viewed your property in person... ask for that person by name... to come see the place and tell you where to put the tree... lol

Hope that helps... if it still becomes an issue like them telling you to place it close to the home or in the only open spot for you to have grass and a sunny garden/patio area... then contact your councillor...


Kevin said...


I just stumbled upon your blog.

As for Newmarket, they should have a private tree bylaw in place sometime in 2009. An associate of mine is helping with the draft.

As for tree bylaws:

I experience both sides of the coin. On the negative side they can appear to be a tree removal tax when large old Poplars, Willows, Siberian Elms and other soft wooded species need to be removed to manage risk. They can appear to bind civil liberties. But on the positive side, they are used to maintain and grow urban canopy coverage, they hinder indescriminant developers from profiting through the loss of magnificent specimen, and they cause a focus on tree preservation.

I am a proponent of many European management techniques. Which include Statics Integrated Assessment (or pull testing) various reduction methods for managing risk (not toppping!) Sonic Tomography to quantify decay evaluatiuons and the science of deadwood management. As per usual Europe has a more evolved perspective about managing trees, and yet it is in reaction to the prospect of losing a very feeble and small population of ancient and veteran trees. We in North America carry an arrogance that resources abound and our individual decisions will bear little impact on the larger picture, especially when concerning trees. If we maintain this attitude as your annonymous guest appears to, we will one day find ourselves scrambling to bind the hands of citizens with tighter bylaws (as my inlaws in the UK are with their protected trees)and develop preservation skills in our workforce that do not exist in the interest of preserving few and feeble specimen trees.

Keep up the great work!

Kevin Mengers
ISA Certified Tree Worker
ISA Certified Arborist

ACTE Certified Trainer/Chainsaw Technician/Climber Technician/Rigger Technician/Risk Assessor/Rescue Technician

Richmond Hill Lawn Care said...

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sumit said...

Dead trees are usually extremely weak and are thus in an imminent risk of collapsing;
Deteriorating trees that approach the end of their lifecycle
Trees damaged by storms, heavy construction machinery, etc.;

Tree removal services are also often used to remove healthy trees that are in the way of a construction or a radical garden redesign. As much as arborists hate cutting healthy trees, they understand rapid changes to the city landscape can call for such measures.