City committee votes in favour of bylaw aimed at preserving Edmonton’s old trees

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City committee votes in support of bylaw aimed at saving mature trees
WATCH ABOVE: Owners of new homes in Edmonton could soon be required to plant specific numbers of trees and shrubs on their property. As Fletcher Kent explains, the move is actually aimed at saving mature trees – Feb 23, 2016

EDMONTON – New homes in Edmonton could soon be required to have trees and shrubs in the front yard, as part of an effort to provide incentives to preserve existing landscaping.

On Tuesday, the City of Edmonton Executive Committee voted in support of a bylaw amendment that requires a minimum of two trees – one deciduous and one coniferous – and four shrubs for every new single-family detached home. The amounts would increase for larger lots.

The proposal was created primarily in response to infill development, but would be applied to all new residential properties.

To make new development easier, lots are often cleared of existing trees before construction begins. A blank slate, as it were. In order to provide an incentive to retain existing mature trees, the amendment suggests counting mature trees left in place towards the minimum planting requirements.

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“It’s devastating to see a lot completely clear-cut,” Lynn Odynski of the Old Glenora Conservation Association said. “We fear we are about to lose far too many of our old growth trees.”

A city report said because there currently aren’t any tree and shrub planting requirements for low density residential developments, there’s little incentive to retain existing foliage when redeveloping.

The lack of requirements can also result in redeveloped sites, such as infill in mature neighbourhoods, without any newly planted trees or shrubs. The city report said that causes “a perception of character incompatibility” between existing homes and new builds.

“I think the more builders understand that they’re going to build more goodwill in communities, and subsequently, their projects will go better if they preserve the trees,” Michael Walters, the city councillor for Ward 10, said.



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Currently, there is not a municipal bylaw that requires a certain number of trees per new home, but some developers issue their own foliage requirements for new neighbourhood developments.

In order to incentivize the preservation of mature trees, the bylaw calls for any mature tree that is not cut down to negate the need to plant two trees.

Odynski said the bylaw does not go far enough.

“We do not believe this bylaw provides any protection from clear cutting of the mature trees on the lot,” she said.

Odynski said she wants the bylaw to include an outright ban on destroying mature trees but Mayor Don Iveson said such a clause is simply not possible.

“There are huge limits on what we can do in the current provincial legislation. But I think we’re making some progress at the same time,” he said.

Iveson also said that even if provincial rules were changed to allow for an outright ban, he prefers a consensus-building approach as opposed to a ban.

“I’d like to see a cultural shift instead of a legislative shift. But if we don’t get the cultural shift from certain builders, then we might have to look at certain more stringent statuatory tools.”

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The executive committee will vote on the proposed changes. The recommendation will then go to city council.

A survey conducted over two weeks in December found 56 per cent of respondents thought every house should include trees and shrubs, but the amount should be based on the size of the lot.

There were mixed feelings when asked if all homes of the same type should have the same landscaping requirements, no matter where they were located in the city. Fifty per cent disagreed, 13 per cent were neutral, and 36 per cent agreed.

Now that the city committee voted in support of the bylaw, the proposed changes will go to a public hearing and could be in place as early as the 2016 construction season.

With files from Fletcher Kent

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