This week and next, I am showing community associations in Kitchissippi the graphic results of Ottawa not implementing the Urban Tree Conservation By-law. Last night, I spoke to the Westboro CA’s Annual General Meeting. On Dec. 10, I will be talking to the executive of the Westboro Beach CA.
I have created a slide show that you can view online. It shows exactly what has happened to two silver maples on a corner lot in recent months. They meet the definition of “distinctive” tree set out in the by-law, and they deserve to be conserved from damage (or injury, to use the language of the by-law). But the City has no system in place to do this. Why not? Other cities, like Toronto, have implemented their tree conservation by-law by setting up systems to allow, and then oversee damage to distinctive trees. Urban Forestry in Toronto only issues a permit to damage distinctive trees if the department is certain that damage from construction will not be severe enough to kill the tree. If Toronto officials deny a permit to damage a tree, the property owner must create a different design for the building. or buildings.
Here in the Wild West of Kitchissippi Ward, infill developers have the Official Plan’s intensification policy on their side. They have also figured out that it’s not necessary to apply for a permit to destroy distinctive trees. They just have to claim that they will protect or “save” the tree. Then they have unfettered access to its biomass. No one oversees what they do. They answer to no one.
The City’s absence amounts, in my opinion, to negligence. How can it have a by-law on the books that it does not enforce?
A well-intentioned community association has created a poster that tells developers how to protect a tree during excavation and construction. While this is laudable, it has no force in law. Furthermore, it’s not up to community associations to enforce a City by-law. The City of Ottawa needs to change its priorities from education to enforcement. I’m hoping that community associations in this ward will raise this as an issue at the January 2015 Ward Council meeting being convened by city councillor Jeff Leiper. Healthy, mature trees in this part of the urban core contribute so much to quality of life, and to the health of our ailing environment. They have no voice except yours and mine.