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Port Colborne to have rotting trees removed
Bylaw to ensure dead and damaged trees don't threaten roadways
Jan. 13, 2015
Mike Zettel

High wind storms and the seemingly relentless onslaught of the Emerald Ash Borer have done a number on trees in the city, with many needing to be cut down.

But many more need to come down, including some on private property.

On Monday, city council approved a new bylaw which targets diseased and damaged trees, giving the city the ability to order homeowners to remove dangerous trees and to go ahead and do it if the order is not followed.

If a tree poses a threat to someone travelling on the road or sidewalk, bylaw officers will let the homeowner know in writing the tree needs to be removed. The cost of removal will be borne by the homeowner.

However, if the tree poses an immediate threat, the cost will be borne by the municipality.

The bylaw will also prevent future trees from being planted too close to property lines and on boulevards, with the reason being the root system may impact the sidewalk, and the grown trees may end up blocking sightlines.

The city's property standards bylaw already addresses dead, decayed, diseased or dying trees on private properties not adjacent to roadways, such as backyards, said Sherry Hanson, senior bylaw and property standards officer. However, she noted, that if it's simply a nuisance tree, it's considered a civil matter and is not dealt with the by the city's bylaw enforcement division.

Addressing council on Monday, Hanson said the bylaw, in the works since council gave direction for it last January, is meant to address the threats from the ash borer and damage caused by storms. She said that while many trees have been removed, there are still many that need to come down.

Homeowners will be notified if a tree needs to be removed, and they will be given 14 days to decide if they want to appeal the owner.

If they don't appeal, the homeowner then files an application for removal. They will then be given a certain amount of time to remove the tree, after which the city will come in do it for a fee.

Coun. Dave Elliott said he was concerned the bylaw doesn't specify a set amount of time for homeowners to get the job done. He said he foresees instances where the city removes the tree and bills the homeowner, only to be told they weren't given a set amount of time.

"If you're going to have issues, this is going to be the section you're going to have it with," he said. "There are going to be issues with people who say we haven't given them enough time."

Hanson said the reason the bylaw doesn't set out time frames is because each situation is different. She agreed, though, to ensure that when each homeowner is notified, they will be told then how long they have to act.

She said the city will be flexible and will give an extension if one is needed.