Put Some Teeth into Tree Policy:Trees really are an essential cornerstone to our green future.
Trees really are an essential cornerstone to our green future. Very few strategies have as direct a relationship to carbon offset as does the planting of a tree. However to effectively achieve the planting of more trees (and protection of existing stock) will require a paradigm shift from the current passive City policy.
(1) The tree removal bylaw must be actively enforced in the manner that parking bylaws are with routine patrols and ticketing. Why not use the same active enforcement team? They are already out, patrolling resident neighborhoods. And the bylaw needs to be rewritten to put the burden of proof of compliance on to the landholder, rather than the burden of proof of noncompliance on the City. With the prevalence of Satellite imagery, it is just not that difficult to document tree removal. Much like the de facto effectiveness of speed cameras, the use of before and after photographs should result in automatic fines with mailed in evidence and tickets. This approach would substantially lessen the cost of collecting penalties while increasing voluntary compliance.
(2) It is all too common for the City/Parks Board supplied boulevard trees to be the ONLY trees in many neighbourhoods. The development permit process should include a substantial tree enhancement component. Parking lot developers should be required to include a tree plus ground soil meridian in every 5th “parking spot”. Commercial developers should be required to include a set back from the curb, with at least as many trees planted as the City boulevard planting guidelines set out, effectively doubling the number of sidewalk trees on our commercial streets. Residential developments should include the requirement for one tree in the front and one in the back of the building lot, on any new development, as well as a no net loss rule on all lot redevelopment.
(3) Boulevard tree planting (and replacement of damaged trees) under the Parks Board program must be proactive. There are still too many neighbourhoods without any trees. These neighbourhoods are so unlivable, with the lack of tree cover, that it is clear the residents rely on air-conditioned car travel as their primary mode of transport in the heat of the summer. Witness the swaths of housing stock East of Rupert/South of East Hastings and West of Clark/South of Kingsway. There are areas where the only green comes from patches of lawn. Without the benefit of a boulevard tree, these areas are concrete deserts.
(4) To encourage tree planting in existing developments, landholders could receive a property tax grant for the addition of up to three trees. As with the home owner tax grant, these type of self-reporting grants have to be supported by an assessment, inspection process to heavily fine people who file false claims. It ought to be an easy political sell to ask for the Province’s cooperation in adding this mechanism to the property tax.