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Divided Peterborough city council moves ahead with new tree replacement bylaw
Oct. 24, 2017
By Joelle Kovach

A new tree bylaw was adopted by city council on Monday that requires private landowners to replant whenever they chop down a healthy, mature tree on their own property.

The bylaw was adopted even after one councillor called it overly restrictive. Coun. Dean Pappas said he wasn't happy the city is now telling citizens to replace trees own properties.

"The problem with the bylaw is that it's too punitive," Pappas said, adding that he wanted to defer the plan so that city staff can develop an incentive program to encourage people to replant trees on their own properties.

"I don't want to punish people for cutting down their own trees," Pappas said.

Coun. Dave Haacke agreed

"I totally support increasing the canopy - but not at the expense of one homeowner when it's for the benefit of all," he said.

Yet the proposal to defer adoption of the bylaw lost 6-5: Pappas voted to defer, along with Coun. Dave Haacke, Coun. Andrew Beamer, Coun. Don Vassiliadis and Coun. Keith Riel.

The rest of council, including Mayor Daryl Bennett, voted against a deferral. Moments later, the bylaw carried.

The bylaw sets out rules about replanting: to compensate for the loss of a massive mature tree, for example, the homeowner may be asked to plant as many as four new small trees. The idea is to protect the urban tree canopy.

The bylaw has been in the works for awhile, and it there were changes made this fall to suit councillors.

An earlier iteration, proposed by city staff in September, would have required landowners to pay to have the city come and replant trees. That would cost $450 per tree; councillors thought that was far too expensive.

So the bylaw went back to the drawing board: now it allows the landowner to buy and plant their own replacement trees, which can cost as little as $50 (depending on where you shop).

Never mind requiring citizens to have the city replace your tree, Coun. Henry Clarke said: the do-it-yourself plan is reasonable.

"I think we've addressed the issue," he said.

Two citizens spoke to council, prior to the vote, in favour of the tree bylaw and one spoke in opposition.

Brianna Salmon, the executive director of GreenUp, said preserving the urban forest is crucial because city trees provide habitat for various species (not to mention that trees increase property values, she said).

Salmon praised council for coming up with a bylaw: "I think this will have a very positive impact on our community."

Peterborough resident Emily Straka also said council was going in the right direction.

"It is admirable that this city is going to be progressive and pass this before it becomes mandated by the province in 2019," she said.

But one developer, Murray Davenport, told council he didn't think there should be a "tree police" in the city.

Davenport said he's been developing new subdivisions in Peterborough for 39 years and that he's planted trees in every new neighbourhood.

He said he's concerned that now City Hall will have to approve tree removal before a developer can start building - and that will add a layer of bureaucracy to the arduous process of planning a subdivision.

Davenport said that even without a tree bylaw, it can take two years to get all the necessary planning approvals form City Hall to build. It's too long, he said.

"Why do we need a tree bylaw, complete with a tree police?" Davenport asked council. "Is the city trying to add further delays to the development review process?"

But Coun. Dan McWilliams asked city staff whether the new bylaw can be altered in the future if there are concerns, and he was told that yes, it could.

Meanwhile, Coun. Lesley Parnell said the urban tree canopy is quickly dwindling - and much of it is on private property.

"We can't defer this any longer," she said. "People need to realize they can't just cut down trees because they want a bigger deck."