With the tree bylaw dead, city eyes alternate restrictions

Some of the 20-plus tree stumps behind the former Brothers of St. Louis residence on Murphy Road. Journal Photo

Troy Shantz

City Hall is once again pondering the protection of trees on private property after at least 20 mature trees were removed from a Murphy Road lot.

The grove of hardwoods was cut behind the Brothers of St. Louis property at 1316 Murphy Rd. The property owner, Steeves & Rozema, also owns the adjacent Twin Lakes Terrace long-term care home.

CEO John Scotland said some of the trees were diseased and posed a risk to nearby buildings.

The “cut back” also eliminated cover for vandals that frequented the property, he said.

“They’re not being cleared, and we’re also doing everything we can to maintain a healthy separation between our neighbours, which are residential lots to the north and to the east,” he said.

Scotland added there are no plans in the immediate future for Twin Lakes to expand onto the 1316 Murphy, which was once a residence for Catholic brothers.

City Hall says the property is too small to fall under Lambton County’s woodlot bylaw, which applies only to lots of an acre or larger.

Sarnia grappled with its own tree protection bylaw last year but backed off in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

Had the proposed bylaw passed, the Murphy Road owners would have been required to obtain permits to cut those trees, said Alan Shaw, Sarnia’s director of planning and building

“It would have put in some rules and regulations,” he said.

But a whopping 83% of residents who completed a questionnaire during public consultations rejected the bylaw, saying it was an over-reaching cash grab, diminished private property rights and created needless bureaucracy.

It would have required residents who wanted to remove a tree to pay a fee to apply for a permit, which could be denied in some cases.

After shelving the unpopular draft council directed staff to instead prepare a report on the development of an Urban Forest Management Plan.

Shaw said that task has been handed to the Parks and Recreation department and is now underway.

It will begin with the hiring of a consultant to take an inventory of the city trees, he said.

A report is expected later this year.