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Tree lovers hope Newmarket pushes forward with new protection bylaw

Council to meet Jan. 24 to discuss direction of new rules to restrict tree cutting on private property
20190614 trees down 5
Supplied photo/Dave Kempton

Newmarket-Aurora Drawdown member Fran Bazos said she has been waiting for private tree protections in Newmarket for years.

After a year of deliberation and gathering feedback, Newmarket council will consider approval of a draft private tree protection bylaw at a Jan. 24 meeting. If council allows it to go forward, it would restrict removal of trees greater than 20 centimetres in diameter at breast height, requiring permits. 

It is something Bazos said she and the rest of the environmental advocacy group hopes to see happen. 

“People have been cutting down mature trees for no gosh darn reasons at all,” she said.

The town has been gathering feedback on the idea for several months. If implemented, the bylaw would restrict you from cutting down a tree on private property depending on its condition, with fines possible for breaking rules. 

The proposed fees for a removal permit are $300 for administrative costs, with a $100 per tree review fee. Appeals could cost $50 to the department director or $650 for the appeals committee. Fines for rule-breaking will be enforced through the town’s administrative monetary penalty system bylaw, in amounts to be determined by council.

Bylaw proponents like Drawdown say the rules are necessary to protect the town’s tree cover, and rein in developers clear-cutting properties ahead of applications. As part of a regional forest strategy, the municipality hopes to improve the town's total tree canopy from 28 per cent to 35 per cent. 

However, Bazos said she is concerned the bylaw might not be strong enough, and the fines need to be high. 

“I’m very concerned that they’re not going to put teeth into this law,” Bazos said. “If you’re going to put a bylaw, you have to have some form of enforcement.”

Resident Chris Howie has also advocated for private tree protections for years, citing instances where developers have cut down mature trees before submitting development applications, when they get scrutinized more closely. He said Newmarket is lagging behind its neighbours in mature tree protection and change is needed.

“It would be a mistake to not pass and ultimately give the trees some type of protection,” he said. “It’s about time. We can’t go backward in time to protect some of these trees that should have had protection.” 

But others in the community have pushed back and said property owners should be able to do as they wish with the trees on their land. 

The Jan. 24 meeting is open to delegations from any side. You can send correspondence or register by contacting clerks@newmarket.ca.

Although the bylaw may go forward, the staff report suggests a delay before implementation to inform the public and create guidelines. 

“I’m just hoping council does the right thing,” Howie said. “It’s really for the future generations.”