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Aurora residents want to see greater protections in place for trees
May 28, 2015
By Teresa Latchford

Writer George William Curtis once said “a tree which has lost its head will never recover it again, and will survive only as a monument of the ignorance and folly of its tormentor”.

Although his statement was made in the 1800s, it’s relevant today as Aurora continues to see new residential neighbourhoods and other development fill in its ever shrinking green spaces.

Many Aurora residents share the same sentiment and voiced their strong stance on tree preservation during an open forum this week at town hall. Those who spoke, including Isabel Ralston, were puzzled why golf courses are exempt from the rule of needing a permit if removing more than four trees from a property within a period of 12 months.

“As a resident of 22 years, we have witnessed massive tree destruction by this golf club (Highland Gate),” Ralston said. “We choose to live in this area because of the mature forest.”

She expressed her displeasure that the golf course has been able to remove what she feels is thousands of trees without getting a permit or informing neighbours in a formal process.

Residents are required to obtain a permit and advise their own neighbourhood of their planned removal.

Sue Bradshaw is concerned the green spaces in Aurora are being turned into concrete jungles.

“I would call it land rape all in the name of development,” she said, adding she hopes red tape won’t be the cause of the loss of so many trees.

Councillor Wendy Gaertner feels it is time to revisit the town’s rules and regulations surrounding tree preservation and removal.

She received support from all council members and the public who packed town hall this week, when proposing to revisit a draft tree preservation bylaw that was never enacted.

“If we pass a very strong tree bylaw, it will have implications on the planning process,” she said, cheered on by a nearly full council chamber.

However, town solicitor Warren Mar pointed out the property is no longer an operating golf course, so the exemption doesn’t apply.

“We also don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up that this will halt all development and save all the trees,” he said, referring to the Highland Gate development proposal.

In 2011, the town struck a tree protection bylaw committee, comprised of town staff from multiple departments, to review the town’s current tree bylaw and suggest changes following public consultation.

The committee conducted interviews with stakeholders, completed an online survey and public planning meeting and presented a report to council who sent it back to staff for revisions and more consultation.

A formal decision has still not been made to date.

She suggested having the bylaw on a future general committee agenda so council could discuss and provide staff with direction to move the process along. Staff is also to prepare a report before September that includes a summary of the review process and all written and verbal input received regarding the matter and to suggest meeting dates for the public to comment on the bylaw before a final decision is made.