Today, City Council passed amendments to Bylaw 12800 to implement minimum tree planting requirements for low-density development city-wide and incentivize maintaining mature trees.
I’ve been an active proponent of this for quite some time, bringing forward a motion in 2014 to look into this upon hearing from residents about their infill-related concerns. It is my firm belief that our urban canopy is essential to the well-being of our City. While mature trees can sometimes create some small issues they are overwhelmingly a positive for communities and individual lots, increasing house value by 7-19% according to a recent national survey. Our attempts to define the character of our mature neighbourhoods are less elusive when we consider the value of large trees. Protecting mature trees is a tangible way to protect the character of mature neighbourhoods.
Bylaw 1762 proposes the following amendments to Bylaw 12800;
Minimum tree and shrub planting requirements for Single Detached, Semi-detached, Duplex, Row Housing and Stacked Row Housing, not part of a Multiunit Project Development, based on site width.
Incentives to encourage the retention of existing trees and shrubs.
Submission of a signed Construction Management Acknowledgement Form.
The amendments now in place allow the City to ensure that minimum tree planting requirements apply relatively equally to all low-density developments. The requirements were developed in conjunction with feedback received in public consultations, it allows for tree/shrub requirements according to property size.
The City now offers incentives for retaining existing mature trees, for example; retaining one existing deciduous tree with a minimum caliper of 200mm will satisfy the requirement of two new trees. Additionally, developers must now show existing trees in their development proposals, allowing for more educated development plans.
The Construction Management Acknowledgement Form allows for the education of applicants and landscapers on the merits of maintaining existing trees as well as informing them of the regulations and incentives in place. For example, the City will be publishing landscaping and tree protection brochures to educate applicants on how to protect private and public trees, including roots, during construction
These amendments will modernize Bylaw 12800, promoting environmental stewardship, alongside ensuring a reasonable standard of livability and appearance for development in our city. The amendments will also still allow homeowners autonomy in how they landscape their properties.
In addition to these newly created minimum requirements, I made a subsequent motion that aims to work towards addressing climate change as well as improving our overall flood mitigation efforts. The motion, which passed, is as follows:
Can Administration please provide the following information:
How a minimum amount of softscaping on low-density residential lots aligns with climate adaptation, drainage and flood mitigation best practices.
Other benefits associated with the inclusion of minimum softscaping coverage
Potential bylaw changes that would be necessary for the inclusion of minimum softscaping coverage for low-density residential lots along with a recommended percentage of softscaping coverage
The importance of mature trees can hardly be overstated in its added value for communities. Mature trees help mental health, air quality, biodiversity, property values, natural drainage processes, and cooling. While the City has long preserved and proliferated them on publicly owned land, I’m glad we’re finally setting up guidelines for privately owned land too, and look forward to receiving information stemming from the motion I made on how we can take further steps to improving the communities and environment in which we live in.