Do Tree Bylaws Have Any Teeth?

The Town of Oakville, known for its leadership in tree care, had what at first appeared to be a setback this spring. The 1930s style heritage home and property of Fred Smye (Past President of the Avro Aircraft, maker of the Avro Arrow) was to be developed into 23 condos and all trees on site cut. Oakville denied the proposal stating it was “overdevelopment.” The case was taken to the Ontario Municipal Board. 

The exact settlement numbers reached between the developer and the city could not be confirmed at the time of writing, however, Jane Clohecy, Commissioner of Planning and Development in Oakville, said the town was able to achieve their goals. These included maintaining the zoning, allowing public access to the waterfront, including a public walkway to view the heritage property and protection of the largest of the mature trees.  

Although the city’s agreement did permit 236 trees over 20 cm to be cut to allow for the construction of roads and services to the new condos, Clohecy says they have required the planting of additional trees and landscaping in order to meet the town’s goal of 40% canopy by their centennial in 2057.

At the request of the National Post, Karen Brock of the Oakville Green Conservation Association reviewed the site after the trees were down. Her response was, “Why didn’t our bylaw protect the trees? It was heart breaking. There were massive trees lying on the ground, some 3 to 4 feet in diameter literally.”

Despite the unfortunate result, Brock does have faith in the system and in Oakville’s response. She says the arborists report was done. Every tree was numbered and its health reported. She views the scene as an opportunity to tweak and review concerns. “This won’t be the last development in SE Oakville. We need to tighten the bylaw.”

Brock wants to look at the potential for incentives to developers who save mature trees and perhaps increasing the number of replacement trees from seven to better reflect the loss. “We’re not against development. We want to show the value of trees and how mature trees make the property valuable.”
— Pat Kerr

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