When the front door is barred, a clever intruder tests the back door.
That’s what infill developers in Kitchissippi have been doing in the last year to 18 months. They are aware that the City’s 2009 Urban Tree Conservation By-law prevents them from cutting trees 50 cm or more in diameter, unless they apply for a permit. These days, they are not interested in destroying trees at all, even though the City hands out permits to do this as easily as Santa doles out candy canes. Isn’t this a good thing—that they aren’t keen to destroy trees?
If only. Instead of applying to cut mature, healthy trees that are in the way of towering doubles and hefty profits, infill developers have pounced on the City’s flimsy enforcement of the “injury” part of the by-law. Because Forestry Services has NO rules in place and will not issue permits for or monitor damage to mature trees, wily developers can get away with announcing, “I will save the trees.” This allows them to inflict unfettered damage.
For the last three months, I have been documenting what this approach has meant to two silver maples on a corner lot in Champlain Park neighbourhood, where I live. Both trees have diameters well beyond the 50 cm that qualifies as “distinctive” under the City’s by-law. Both have had upper limbs hacked off and their root systems cut away. Excavation has left them haggard and dangling over a bedrock trench. Will they survive this onslaught? Time will tell.
The next few months will also tell citizens of Kitchissippi whether community associations and our newly elected councillor will call for more stringent tree protection. It’s time to demand that Forestry Services implement the “injury” provisions of the existing by-law. The by-law explicitly refers to both destruction and injury, but “injury” has been ignored.
Trees in the city’s downtown wards are valuable to citizens in terms of quality of life, health, and environmental benefits. It’s time that “green” not be limited to what goes into developer’s pockets.