Renfrew – Renfrew town council recently passed a new tree canopy policy that it will provide guidelines on how the town will protect and enhance the tree canopy and natural vegetation in the municipality. Both Chief Administrative Officer Robert Tremblay and Amanda Springer, the town’s Environmental Officer, stressed the new policy applies only to municipal property and does not dictate the maintenance of trees and vegetation on private property.

During the August 8 council meeting, Ms. Springer said the new policy is required under Section 270 of the Municipal Act

Under Section 270 of the Municipal Act, all municipalities in Ontario require a tree canopy policy,” she said. “We are a bit overdue with this policy and the Act does not tell us what has to be in the policy so after reviewing tree protection policies in communities of similar size, geographics and demographics we came up with this policy which is very balanced.”

One of the concerns raised during in the Planning, Building and Environment Committee was the question of governance and how far reaching the new policy will be in terms of dictating if it can be applied to private property. 

“I want to make it very clear that this policy is for town trees on town property,” Ms. Springer said. “It cannot be applied or enforced on private landowners. Council has the option to do this but that is not the recommendation at this time.”

Council members and staff stressed the importance of defining where the policy would be applied, thereby avoiding any potential backlash. In previous years, the question of governance relating to a tree canopy policy has been confrontational for some neighbouring municipalities. 

In 2019, when North Algona Wilberforce Township held a public meeting for its new tree canopy policy about 70 people showed up. A heated discussion took place and many in attendance said the policy represented an attack on private property rights.

Renfrew’s policy directly applies to town-owned trees on public property. The policy encourages private landowners to adopt the principles of the policy, but does not require compliance for trees on private property. Renfrew does not have a specific tree by-law. Trees on private property are not regulated and this will not change as a result of the adoption of this policy.

Ms. Springer also made reference to a potential tree-planting initiative. She noted her research revealed that tree planting programs are quite common even in smaller communities and are often well received by residents. Some residents have contacted staff about any potential tree planting initiatives. She said a budget would be developed for the upcoming 2024 workshops and a submission for a community tree-planting program may be included.

By Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 23, 2023 at 12:52

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eganville Leader   Eganville, Ontario
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