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Edmonton city council seeks power to control tree removal on private properties

Posted by on 21/11/2018

The City of Edmonton may soon have a say in whether you can chop down old trees on your property. City council voted Tuesday to ask the province for the OK to make a bylaw to govern tree removal.

If the province approves the request as part of planned changes to the Municipal Government Act, it would give the city the power to make a tree removal bylaw that would limit what homeowners can do on private property.

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    Most on council believe that in some circumstances, such as preventing the unnecessary clear-cutting of trees, it might be good to have the final say. But other councillors worry such a law would stir up a property rights hornets nest.

    “Some love trees. Some absolutely don’t want anything in their yard. So who’s right and who’s wrong?” Ward 7 councillor Tony Caterina mused.

    “Nobody is saying nobody can take down a tree,” Mayor Don Iveson countered. “It’s just saying, you might have to make the case in the event it is a significant tree.”

    Which trees are worth saving and which aren’t is a debate that has plagued the city. Iveson added that other Canadian municipalities have reasonable rules surrounding trees on private property.

    “The issue is that we have no means right now whatsoever under law to intervene in the case of a tree that wouldn’t impede development, that is of value to the neighbourhood, that does add to the streetscape and does contribute to that elusive question of the character of the neighbourhood,” Iveson said.

    Infill development lies at the heart of this issue. Every bit of real estate counts for a home developer and sometimes big, old trees are sacrificed in the name of square footage, much to the horror of some area residents.

    Brad Gable has built four infill homes in Edmonton, but might not build any more if the City of Edmonton is granted the power to limit tree removal on private properties. July 12, 2016.

    Fletcher Kent, Global News

    Brad Gable has built four infill homes. As much as Gable loves trees, sometimes he’s had to get out the chainsaw.

    “I’ve taken some down in the backyard here. I built in Riverdale. I took some big spruce trees down in the backyard, but I kept the ones I could keep,” Gable said while working on his latest project in south Edmonton’s Ritchie neighbourhood.

    Iveson said a tree bylaw won’t settle all the problems surrounding infill, but it would address a consistent complaint coming from the public. However, Gable said a bylaw that might make him argue his case before the city means he might just abandon infill projects all together.

    “It’s hard enough to build in an old neighbourhood. If they add that, well, I don’t know. They say they want infill but they’re putting all these road blocks in the way,” Gable said.

    “I get why they don’t want you to tear down the mature trees. But if they’re on my property, I think I should be able to do what I want with them.”

    The new provincial rules – that may or may not give the city tree removal powers – are expected later this fall.

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