April 12, 2018: Big Tree Culling; Cut now, pay later?

April 12, 2018: Big Tree Culling;
Cut now, pay later?

By Chris Jones.

To anyone who strolls casually through the streets of Kitchissippi, it will be clear that there is a great deal of new house construction, additions and renovations going on. Developers and investors engaged in new builds and home-flipping are altering the character of the neighborhoods that have been so welcoming for so long.

As larger, boxier dwellings, condominiums and multi-residential units get built, consuming larger portions of their respective lots, a regrettable consequence is the demise of many large or distinctive trees that once adorned our neighborhoods.

These venerable trees make up the canopy of our community, furnishing much needed shade and shelter, absorbing low level ambient pollution and providing a cherished aesthetic enhancement to the streetscape. Their branches and leaves soften the harsh geometric shapes and straight lines that make up the typical urban street form.

Trees, once regarded as things of beauty, are increasingly seen as hindrances or “dangerous” obstacles that must be removed to maximize construction footprints and other amenities for the new owner/investor.

Larger dwellings provide additional property tax revenue for the City of Ottawa, which becomes a financial disincentive for the preservation of trees.

In 2015 in Kitchissippi ward, there were 100 requests made for the removal of “distinctive” trees—defined as a tree 50 cm in diameter or larger at breast height. It should be noted that each application may have included multiple trees at the same civic address. This means we have no way of knowing just how many distinctive trees were actually removed under the 59 permits granted that year. The city’s report on this topic didn’t provide this information.

I have noticed, too, that through neglect and lack of enforcement, insufficient protection is afforded to the root systems of distinctive trees when contractors are excavating a site. The result? The tree’s vital nutrient system is compromised leading to a failure to thrive. This of course, results in the developer or owner being able to later request a removal on the basis that the tree is dangerous, dead, diseased or severely injured.

These unfortunate trends have recently led a group of concerned residents — BIG TREES of Kitchissippi — to push for changes designed to arrest the steady cull of distinctive trees that is happening in the name of development.

Some of the sensible recommendations made by the group to amend the existing Urban Tree Conservation By-Law include;

  • Requiring the applicant to post a notice of application for removal of a distinctive tree for a period of 14 days in plain sight, in plain language, and readable from the street’s curbside so that neighbors do not need to enter the property to read it;
  • Change the definitions of distinctive tree so the diameter at breast height (DBH) for a deciduous tree is 30 cm and for a coniferous tree is 20 cm;
  • Revise the rules for impacted trees on neighboring properties in order to protect the critical root zones that span adjoining properties; and
  • Increase the minimum fine for conviction of injury to or removal of a distinctive tree without a permit from $500 to $10,000.

More can and must be done to protect this unique natural heritage wisely bequeathed us by earlier residents of this community. Learn more at: https://bigtreeskitch.wixsite.com/trees .

If you are concerned about the rapid loss of Kitchissippi’s forest canopy, contact Jeff Leiper at jeff@KitchissippiWard.ca or Mayor Jim Watson at Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca and make your views known. This is an election year.

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Photo Caption: Every tree lost diminishes a community in noticeable and measureable ways with a cost that will be borne by future generations. Exposed roots on this spruce have been dealt significant damage which threatens this tree’s survival. Carelessness during construction often damages root systems, necessitating, or providing excuses for, later tree removal.

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