Free Press, December 19, 2012 - Click to enlarge

Free Press, December 19, 2012 – Click to enlarge

After several years of disagreement on how to apply the bylaw and months of debate on reworking the regulation City Council adopted a new tree protection bylaw last evening, or more specifically an amendment to the exiting bylaw.

Given that the logo of the City of Cote Saint-Luc is a stylized leaf, it is somewhat ironic that the new bylaw actually makes it easier to chop down a tree on private property.

Now, a resident may claim that a tree is impeding sunlight or blocking one’s view in order to gain permission to cut down a tree.

Council will no longer have any power over tree replacement as the decision to fell a tree is now conferred upon the Director of  Urban Development.

What’s worse, any tree that is cut down need only be replaced with a single tree regardless of the size of the tree to be felled (unless more than five trees are cut on the same lot in a given year, a rare occurrence).

Unfortunately, not one resident appeared at the special meeting convened to review the bylaw.

In supporting the proposal, Councillor Ruth Kovac exclaimed that Cote Saint-Luc will not have a net loss of trees.

Councillor Dida Berku, a passionate defender of the environment responded that the bylaw will have the opposite effect since a resident can now replace a 50 year old tree with a two inch sapling.

Whereas Council occasionally required two or more trees to replace larger ones, this will now only be triggered if a resident neglects to apply for a permit.  In that case, two for one plus a fine will be required.

Berku went on to say that, “More trees will be cut and less will be planted.  This dilutes the intent of the original bylaw which was based upon best practices in the region.  The new bylaw permits you to cut a healthy tree, and this is plain wrong,” Berku said.

Our inventory of trees is directly linked to public health according to the Montreal Public Health Agency. Urban Heat Islands are spreading across the Island of Montreal and are evident around Cote Saint-Luc’s two shopping malls.  Earlier this fall, Council had the opportunity to require the shopping centre owner to shade its parking lot with small islands of green space and trees but chose not to.  Berku and I, along with Councillor Steven Erdelyi voted to require the centre’s management to plant more trees but we were outvoted.

According to Erdelyi, a June 2007 study by the Montreal Agglomeration measured tree coverage for the entire island.  The study noted that while 20% of the island is currently shaded the target is set at 25%.  At that time, Cote Saint-Luc had 15% shading while TMR boasted 25% shading.

In speaking against the new, watered-down bylaw I said, “My tree benefits my neighbours and their trees benefit me. It’s in the public interest to protect trees.”

There are many options for maintaining one’s property when it comes to trees.  Pruning a tree will amply serve to prevent over-shading or restricted visibility without the need for chopping.

Mayor Anthony Housefather summed up the debate in stating, “Council had conflicting visions between those who believe one should have complete freedom versus some restriction.  Despite our differences on this bylaw everyone is in good faith. It’s great that we can all work together, even if it’s not a perfect compromise.”

I voted against this bylaw, along with Councillors Dida Berku and Steven Erdelyi.

Bronwyn Chester identified this 200 year old Bur Oak at the corner of Wavell and Melling. It is possibly the oldest of its kind on the island. Will it be next on the chopping block?

Bronwyn Chester identified this 200 year old Bur Oak at the corner of Wavell and Melling. It is possibly the oldest of its kind on the island. Will it be next on the chopping block?