A local arborist says city residents have every reason to be upset by Sarnia’s proposed tree bylaw, which he calls an overreach by local government that will also hurt businesses like his own.
“When you come into a dictatorship of what you can and can’t do on your property legally, you run into a problem,” said Ron Campbell, owner of Lambton Tree Service.
The draft bylaw, which is out for public review and comment, would require every property owner in the urban area who wants to remove a tree to first obtain a permit.
Obtaining a permit would require a written application and a plan or drawing of the property.
The property owner must also pay an as-yet unspecified fee, and, possibly obtain a report from an arborist at his or her expense.
Offences under the bylaw would be punishable by fines up to $5,000, per offence.
Campbell said a better approach would be to require property owners to plant a new tree for each tree removed, without need for an expensive and complicated permit application process.
The draft bylaw, if approved, would also authorize enforcement officer to enter private property at “any reasonable time’ to ensure compliance with the bylaw.
And it will hurt the local tree care industry, Campbell added.
“I could see three companies out of probably six in the area right now that would probably close their doors – including myself,” said Campbell, whose company employs five arborists for 10 months each year.
Alan Shaw, Sarnia’s director of planning and bylaw enforcement, acknowledged local tree companies are concerned. The city is working with them and has another public input session planned for the industry, he said.
As for enforcement officers entering private property, they already have the authority to do that now when enforcing a municipal bylaw, he said.
The city currently has six officers and it may need to hire more to enforce the tree bylaw after the final version is approved, he added.
Shaw said others at public input sessions have also suggested a cut-a-tree, plant-a-tree approach. But a young sapling doesn’t have the same environmental impact as a mature tree, he said.
“Neither you or I will be around to see the same benefit of the tree.”
Shaw said citizens requested it, and Sarnia is only following in the footsteps of other Ontario municipalities including Toronto, London and Oakville.
Sarnia’s draft tree bylaw is based on a template that’s been tweaked and it might need revision before being approved by council, he added.
“Don’t make any assumptions that the bylaw is going to come in in the form it’s currently presented,” he said.
Visit http://planning.smartsarnia.com/ to submit comments to the city or complete a questionnaire.