Township council will not be moving forward with an interim tree protection bylaw.
A motion by Coun. Petrina Arnason to apply the 2014 interim tree cutting bylaw to the entire Township was defeated on Monday night (April 9), with Mayor Jack Froese and Councillors Blair Whitmarsh, Angie Quaale and Michelle Sparrow opposed. Coun. Charlie Fox was absent.
The interim bylaw was originally in place in the Brookswood-Fernridge area, and banned cutting of more than eight trees or 20 per cent of the trees on a property, whichever was less. That bylaw was repealed when the new Brookswood-Fernridge Community Plan and subsequent tree bylaw were passed in the fall of 2017.
At council’s last meeting on March 19, a decision was made to discuss a municipal-wide tree bylaw after the election on Oct. 20. Arnason said the intent of her motion was to prevent preemptive cutting of trees, before these discussions begin.
“This is what I consider to be a turn key solution, because it’s something that we already had in place. It’s already drafted, it’s been vetted, and actually was in place for quite a long time. So I think that it’s really shown itself to be durable and effective,” Arnason said.
“In the duration while we’re talking about this (tree bylaw), this is really the time that we need to protect the trees that we hope to protect in the longer term with the bylaw for the entire Township, should it go forward.”
Those who were against the interim bylaw believed more discussion was needed.
“I think that for the people we’ve heard from who would like to have a tree bylaw, we’ve also heard from people who wouldn’t like to have a tree bylaw. So I think this is going to require some broad community consultation and not us making up bylaws on the fly around this,” said Quaale.
“Just setting aside and deciding right now a tree bylaw that spans our whole community and stops people from removing a couple of trees to put in a shed, or because they’ve got a swing set they want to put up, I think has a lot of repercussions that we’re not totally thinking of at this moment,” said Sparrow. “We need to have a full discussion on it and not just do it on the fly like this.”
Whitmarsh shared similar sentiments.
“Council made a decision three or four weeks ago that a tree bylaw was important, that we need to have a good discussion about it and it was decided to make it part of council priorities — the next council priorities session — for the council that’s coming in. That was a pretty strong statement that a tree bylaw is something we should really consider and really take our time to put in place,” he said.
“And so I’m not sure why in three weeks, (after making) a decision that seemed so good and so positive, now we have to come up with something quickly, and we have to rush it in because that’s not going to be satisfactory.”
“It needs a more fullsome discussion,” Froese added. “And an interim bylaw, we don’t know how long it will be interim, so I won’t be supporting it either.”
However, those who were in favour thought the interim bylaw couldn’t be enacted fast enough.
“We’ve been through this before, and what we had to do with Brookswood was get it done very quickly because as soon as you start talking about it, chainsaws start revving up, people start getting quite concerned,” said Coun. Bob Long.
“I’m just amazed at the number of trees that have been coming down in the last little while throughout the Township, and I applaud Councillor Arnason’s idea of bringing this forward,” Coun. Kim Richter said.
“I think we have to close down what’s happening, calm people down. There’s no need to cut every single tree down that’s on your property in order to get away from a bylaw. That’s not right, it’s not thinking long term and it’s not thinking about the future of our community.”