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Tree By-law Review Project

Project Status: 
Underway

Current Status

The implementation of the new Tree Protection By-law has been delayed. As a result of limited Forestry and Information Technology resources due to the COVID 19 pandemic, staff were not able to implement the new Tree Protection By-law on May 1, 2020, as originally scheduled. A new implementation date is being determined and the adjusted timeline will be posted here shortly. The timing for Phase 2 will also be re-scheduled appropriately.

The City’s existing tree by-laws remain in effect until the new by-law comes into effect.

Council Approval

A new consolidated Tree Protection By-law and associated process improvements were approved by City Council on January 29th, 2020 as Phase 1 of the Tree By-law Review project. Please refer to the staff report for more information. The new Tree Protection By-law is scheduled to come into effect on May 1st, 2020.

The project was divided into two distinct phases based on the resources required to support the proposed changes, to ensure a fiscally responsibly approach to implementation. The changes proposed affect tree protection in Ottawa’s urban area. There are no implications for privately-owned rural trees.

The new by-law harmonizes Ottawa’s two existing tree by-laws (the Urban Tree Conservation By-law and the Municipal Trees and Natural Areas Protection By-law) into one streamlined Tree Protection By-law.

In Phase 1, the new Tree Protection By-law:

  • Improves tree protection requirements;
  • Formalizes compensation requirements for the removal of public and privately-owned trees
  • Improves the requirements for the submission of tree information to obtain distinctive tree permits
  • Introduces higher application fees to offset the cost of implementation
  • Includes a new special fine designed to eliminate or reduce any economic or financial gain from contravening the by-law

Phase 1 also includes process improvements to support better implementation of the by-law, resulting in more transparent decision-making.

Phase 2 is scheduled to be presented to Committee and Council in Q3/Q4 2020, and includes further revisions to the new Tree Protection By-law, for example:

  • Decreasing the diameter limit for distinctive trees from 50 cm to 30 cm for the inner urban area (urban lands within the Greenbelt)
  • Creating a permit to work around trees to ensure better tree protection on development sites

The new Tree Protection By-law and the associated process changes will help to better retain and protect trees in urban areas, particularly in infill development scenarios as the City continues to grow. The changes will also bring Ottawa in line with many other municipalities in Ontario in terms of how trees are valued and protected in urban settings. Maintaining and increasing Ottawa’s tree canopy is a core means of building climate resiliency and adapting to future climate conditions.

Background

The City of Ottawa has two tree by-laws—the Municipal Trees and Natural Areas Protection By-law, 2006-279, which covers all municipally owned trees, and the Urban Tree Conservation By-law, 2009-200, which applies to a portion of privately owned trees within the urban boundary dependent on property size and tree size.

Following the completion of the Urban Forest Management Plan UFMP, staff are undertaking a review of the City’s tree by-laws. The objective of the project is to review and update both of Ottawa’s tree by-laws, and the associated processes and procedures. These by-law updates are key to urban forest sustainability and resiliency in Ottawa.

During the consultation process for the Urban Forest Management Plan UFMP, many issues were identified regarding the effectiveness of the Urban Tree Conservation By-law UTCBPDF opens in a new tab or window. Stemming from the feedback received, a key recommendation of the UFMP is to review and update the City’s tree by-laws.

Specifically, the UFMP recommends to:

  • Improve the effectiveness of the UTCB
  • Review and implement opportunities to strengthen the Municipal Trees and Natural Areas Protection By-law
  • Investigate the need for a Heritage Tree By-law, program, or registry in Ottawa
  • Develop city-wide tree compensation guidelines, and
  • Identify and formalize incentives for encouraging tree conservation and establishment

The last two recommendations listed are closely related to the implementation of the City’s tree by-laws and the related development review processes and will therefore be undertaken with the review and update of the existing tree by-laws.

Project Scope

The Tree By-law Review project will include the following elements:

  • Review and update the Urban Tree Conservation By-law and the Municipal Trees and Natural Areas Protection By-law
  • Investigate the need for a heritage tree protection by-law, program, or registry in Ottawa
  • Develop city-wide tree compensation guidelines
  • Identify and formalize incentives for encouraging tree conservation and tree planting
  • Revise City processes and procedures related to tree protection and the implementation of the tree by-laws
  • Consider options for the protection of peri-urban woodlands (i.e., rural woodlands adjacent to the urban boundary) under the Urban Tree Conservation By-law as per direction from Planning Committee on February 27, 2018

Project Timeline

  • Q2 2018
    • Project website
    • Feedback from internal and external stakeholders
  • Q1 2019
    • Best practices and approaches in other municipalities
    • Consider options for City-wide compensation guidelines and draft implementation guidance
    • Research incentives for urban tree conservation and establishment and develop a suite of incentive options for Ottawa
    • Research heritage tree approaches and draft an approach for Ottawa
  • Q2 2019
    • Consider options for the protection of peri-urban woodlands, i.e., rural woodlands adjacent to the urban boundary under the Urban Tree Conservation By-law
    • Synthesis/Summary of issues
    • Identification of solutions
    • Complete Issue & Position Paper
    • External / Internal Working Group session on Issue & Position Paper
  • Q2 – Q4 2019
    • Incorporation of solutions into draft revised tree by-laws and City processes
    • Issue & Position Paper on project website with survey for feedback
    • Final revised by-law
    • Revised by-law to Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management (December)
  • Q1 – Q2 2020
    • New Tree Protection By-law, Phase 1, approved by City Council on January 29, 2020
    • Finalize revised City processes to implement the revised by-law
    • May 1, 2020 – revised by-law to come into effect
  • Q2 – Q3 2020 
    • Finalize revised City prcesses to implement the new by-law
    • Training and utreach on new by-law
  • Timing To Be Determined 
    • Tree Protection By-law to come into effect (Phase 1)
    • Phase 2 revisions to Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management and City Council
    • Secure required resources and finalize City processes to implement revisions
    • Phase 2 revisions to Tree Protection By-law and associated processes to come into effect

Consultation

A Discussion Paper slide deck was prepared to summarize the Tree By-law Review project and the challenges that stakeholders have identified with Ottawa’s current tree by-laws. The slide deck also outlines a suite of proposed directions to improve the by-laws and the associated implementation processes. This was prepared to support consultations with residents and stakeholders on the Tree By-law Review project. We asked them: Do you support the proposed directions? Do you have ideas for other solutions? Feedback was accepted between June and September 2019.

As we heard it – Summary of feedback

Thank you for your feedback! Staff received more than 100 public comments over the two-month public consultation period on the Tree By-law Review Project. The vast majority of the submissions express strong support for improvements to the Urban Tree Conservation By-law, and its associated implementation processes, and encourage the City to consider other mechanisms to retain and renew the rapidly decreasing Urban Tree Canopy.

Tree By-laws update public comment submissions

  • Strong support for improvements to the by-law is 88 per cent
  • Non-support is 6 per cent
  • General questions is 6 per cent

Residents expressed that the by-laws should be better implemented and enforced. Compensation should be used to replace and renew the tree canopy in the same neighbourhood that tree removal is taking place. A better monitoring program should be considered.

A significant number of residents suggested that the diameter for Distinctive Tree to be lowered from the current diameter which is 50 cm. A more transparent tree permitting process is preferred. Concerns regarding penalties were also raised, and the consensus is that stiff penalty should apply to unauthorized tree removal.

Issues were identified concerning the loss of urban tree canopy. Infill development is one of the most commonly raised concerns. Lack of consideration of trees in the infill development process, particularly lot design and increasing footprint, is perceived as one of the main causes for rapid decrease of the urban forest canopy in the City’s mature neighbourhood. Concern around construction practices was also raised by the residents. Careless construction practices often pose a threat to trees, especially when the construction activities are been conducted near the critical root zone of the tree. The chart below shows a breakdown of the respondents' main areas of concern and interest.

  • Better construction practice - 14 per cent
  • Decrease diameter for DTP (Distinctive Tree program) - 15 per cent
  • Increase compensation -  15 per cent
  • Better implementation and enforcement - 34 per cent
  • Better/early consideration for trees in infill development process - 39 per cent

Several residents indicated that they object to the idea of a by-law for trees on private property and that permit fees are too high.

Overall, there is broad support for the proposed directions outlined in the consultation materials. Given this feedback, staff is currently working on revising the City’s tree by-laws and will be presenting a revised tree by-law and revised implementation processes to Council shortly.

Contact person

Martha Copestake
Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development Department
tel.613-580-2424, ext. 17922
email: martha.copestake@ottawa.ca