Virgil resident Matt Dietsch won his appeal and will be able to remove a honey locust in his backyard.Supplied photo

When Virgil resident Matt Dietsch was turned down after asking the town for a permit to remove a tree in his backyard, he decided not to take no for an answer.

At last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, the Virgil resident’s appeal of the decision branched out into a conversation about whether the municipality should be updating its tree bylaw.

Dietsch was one of two people appealing a denial to a request to remove trees on private property. His argument was over a honey locust with a diameter of 73.5 centimetres, which the town described as in good health, fair condition and being low risk.  

However, Dietsch says the tree, one of 11 on his Penner Street property, has become a nuisance and impedes his ability to erect an inflatable swimming pool in the summer months for his children to enjoy.  

Town arborist Harry Althorpe told councillors he sees “no legitimate reason” for the tree to be removed and that it’s “not causing any damage to the property.”  

Dietsch described it as fast-growing and reiterated that it has been a detriment in his family enjoying their yard the way they want to.  

“The removal of this tree is imperative,” he said, adding he is willing to replace the tree with another elsewhere on his property.  

Coun. Sandra O’Connor, a long-time supporter of a town tree bylaw, explained why she was not in favour of allowing the tree to be removed. “Mature tree benefits cannot be replaced by younger trees,” she said, citing environmental and psychological benefits mature trees can have, as explained in the town’s tree bylaw.  

She’s also concerned that Niagara-on-the-Lake has a canopy cover of just 18 per cent, the lowest in the region. “We have a very poor track record, and we need to do better,” said O’Connor.  

Coun. Erwin Wiens said the statistic of 18 per cent is a bit of a “misnomer” because there is an abundance of farmland in town that does not have tree cover.  

The town should have a policy and be putting money in its budget each year to plant trees, rather than penalizing a resident who wants to raise his family locally and enjoy their yard in the summer, he said. “It’s not up to us to say the tree is more important,” said Wiens. “If our canopy is an issue, we should be developing a policy to plant trees.”

With a motion made by Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa to support the appeal, Dietsch’s position was approved, under the condition he plants a replacement tree at his Penner Street property.  

A second appeal was also heard by a resident on Victoria Street who was requesting to remove a large blue spruce next to a municipal sidewalk.  

The applicant, who did not speak at the appeal hearing, argued that the tree is “out of character” for the neighbourhood and is a safety risk that blocks drivers’ views of pedestrians, according to the town arborist.  

“I didn’t feel it was obstructing the view that much,” said Althorpe. 

Councillors voted to uphold staff’s recommendation that a tree removal permit for the blue spruce not be issued.

By Kris Dube, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 22, 2024 at 13:58

This item reprinted with permission from   Niagara-on-the-lake Local   Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario

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