St. Marys Journal Argus
St. Marys Town Councillors were presented on Tuesday, June 3 with a proposed tree bylaw limiting the tree-cutting activities of property owners, and setting a maximum fine of $25,000, or more depending on how many trees are cut.
"I find this (proposed) bylaw to be extremely severe. It's almost overkill," offered Councillor Bill Osborne, after it was brought forward by Director of Operations Chad Papple. "The penalties, in particular, are very severe."
The proposed bylaw, which was provided at this week’s Committee of the Whole meeting only for information — with Papple expecting to take into account councillors' suggestions and come back later with the final proposal — allows that “property owners are entitled to remove trees on private property with a diameter less than 20cm without notification to the town.”
If they want to remove one or two trees between 20-76cm in diameter in one year, private property owners are asked to provide a notice to the town. And if they wish to remove three or more trees between 20-76cm in diameter per year, they’ll require a permit. The proposed permit fee for that size of tree is $250 per tree.
“For any tree over 76cm in diameter, a permit would be required by the town, with a permit fee of $500 per tree,” explained Papple's report.
There’s also a proposed requirement of a Heritage Permit for removing trees in the core-area Heritage Conservation District.
The fine on first conviction would be $10,000, or $1,000 per tree — whichever is greater. On subsequent convictions, those figures jump to $25,000, or $2,500 per tree, whichever is greater.
At the June 3 meeting, Mayor Steve Grose agreed with Osborne that the proposed fines go beyond what Council expects. But he didn't agree with Osborne's comment that "maybe I'm not looking very closely . . . (but) I don't perceive a problem in St. Marys." By contrast, Grose suggested Council definitely is looking for some sort of tree-cutting control.
And, as justification, he cited the trees removed in the spring of 2013 from the Ardmore Park property. At the time, the landowner told the Journal Argus that the dozens of trees taken down from the former West Ward estate were identified by a certified forester as suitable for removal since they would impede a planned "executive-style lot" development.
At a meeting of Council last month, Chief Building Official Grant Brouwer provided the information that Ardmore Park has once again been sold, but that a similar-styled development is still being pursued.
"I don't think you need excessive fees," Grose said of Papple's proposed tree bylaw. But "in the case of Ardmore, you definitely need something in place."
Councillor Carey Pope agreed. "It's good that we have this checklist," she told the June 3 Committee of the Whole meeting.