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Toronto tree protection nonsense drives contractor crazy

A contractor emailed us the comical BS he recently had to go through, all because he wanted to build some porch stairs slightly within a "tree protection zone"


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December 17, 2014 by Steve Payne

redo_imagejpeg_2_0Municipalities everywhere seem to have gone bonkers on “tree protection” issues. Even worse than before.

What you see here is a notice that the City of Toronto insisted be posted on a renovation contractor’s jobsite recently. (He asked to remain nameless, and we’ve whited out the address of the project which was on the sign.)

INJURY AND/OR DESTRUCTION OF TREES ON PRIVATE PROPERTY?

Really?

All that was happening was that the stairs for the new front porch that the contractor was building were apparently too close to the “tree protection zone.”

Here’s the email we got from the contractor:


The stairs for the new porch encroach slightly into the tree protection zone, so we had to obtain an arborist report, and submit along with an application to “injure” the tree.  The reduction in the tree protection zone is on the periphery, and amounts to about 5% of the entire tree protection zone.  An insignificant amount, according to the arborist.
 
The entire process was  partly comical, partly frustrating:
1.       The entire process from start to finish took more than 8 weeks.

2.       We were listed as the agent, but the city called the homeowner looking for additional information.

3.       At one point, we got a call asking why the tree hoarding was installed 30 cm greater than what is required.  We gave them more than what they asked for, and that’s a problem?

4.       At the 8 week mark, I got a phone call asking to provide, among other things, a copy of the committee of adjustment decision.  I was told that if I get this to them in the next 5 minutes they will continue to work on the application, otherwise they will move on to other files and don’t know when they will be able to continue reviewing the file.  Fortunately I had my laptop with me, I pulled into a parking lot and sent them the info they wanted.  If you need the document, ask at the application stage.  Definitely not at the 8 week mark.  And try and give me more than 5 minutes to get it to you.

5.       But here’s the best part – while we were waiting to have our application approved, the city was repairing water lines on the street.  They decided to replace the water shutoff, which was right in the middle of the tree protection zone!

Feel free to comment if you’ve also had “Out of Their Freakin’ Tree” stuff like this from city hall.


Steve Payne

Steve Payne

Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine
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9 Comments » for Toronto tree protection nonsense drives contractor crazy
  1. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of. Seems like a huge waste of money and resources. If you’re living in the city you, how much do you really care about trees in the first place? How many are cut down every day to make room for a few housing development, or apartment building? Almost as dumb as mandatory WSIB.

    • Gail says:

      “If you’re living in the city you, how much do you really care about trees in the first place?”

      That’s about the dumbest comment I ever heard. Apparently, shade, wildlife, and a planet we can survive on are “crazy” ideas. You personally may not care, but the planet does. And if you would like to live where there are no trees, be my guest. I suspect there are plenty of concrete slums in your town, or one nearby.

      I had a beautiful 50 foot tree destroyed by contractors who drove heavy equipment over the root zone, with a few direct hits to the trunk to seal the deal on it’s demise. In fact, I bet the reason this “huge waste of money and resources” law was needed was because contractors know nothing about plant life, and were destroying the kind of property that cannot be easily rebuilt. .

      Based on the 58cm, and not knowing if that is diameter or circumference, I can guestimate the tree at between 45 and 70 years old. This is not a tree the owner would like to lose.

      Last comment, why didn’t the contractor file the paperwork sooner? Oh, probably didn’t know about the regs. Who’s fault was that? Governments are pretty good about alerting licensed contractors about law changes.

      Sorry, but I get tired of hearing all the whining about government regs here. If you don’t want regulation, move to India and build schools that collapse on students.

    • Gail says:

      Apparently, my first reply to you was not accepted, although I do not know why.

      First: “If you’re living in the city you, how much do you really care about trees in the first place?” Dumb comment. Just plain dumb. Go live in a concrete bunker for a year, and then get back to me.

      Second: Don’t blame the government because you didn’t keep up with the laws.

      Third: Contractors often destroy trees, bushes, and other planting on private property because they don’t care. A window can be replaced. A mature tree can’t. I know, having been there, with a tree that was over 100 years old destroyed.

      • David says:

        I think the point that Michael is trying to make is that if you live in the city you are paying for the infrastructure and building that you live in, which means that you are, indirectly, paying for the removal of a natural habitat (which most likely had more than a few trees). If no one bought the houses, they would stop doing this… Point is nobody can pretend like they are blame-free. The lifestyle we live is destructive and pointing the finger at contractors might make you feel better about yourself, but it’s just not fair.

        The thing that is unfair about the tree laws in Toronto is that private contractors and small businesses get to deal with unreasonable restrictions (like in this article), while government-contracted companies and home builders get approved for variances to cut down perfectly healthy trees that nobody else would ever get approved for.

        If we are going to talk about unfair comments, let’s talk about yours Gail: “contractors don’t know anything about plant life”. I’m a contractor and I can tell you that a Norway maple is considered an invasive species, and poses a risk to our native tree species. Also, they grow pretty darn fast, I’ve seen a Norway go from key to tree (35 cm) in 14 years. It’s ridiculous that the city is up in arms over an overgrown weed. I admit they’re nice looking trees…but still weeds!

  2. terry says:

    Does not supprise me at all , since when has anyone ever seen anything that any government does that is sane !

    • Gail says:

      Yup, who needs those traffic signals, paved roads, speed limits, school zones, buildings built to code, potable water, breathable air, licensed physicians, air traffic controllers, public schools, and on and on and on.

  3. Marten says:

    I live in the Ottawa area. We are trying to buy a piece of land and build a church on it. One of the biggest challenges we have, a few butternut trees on the land that will be cut down to build this building. City wont let us cut them down and is giving us a hard time about any alternatives, go figure

  4. Hi Marten.
    Maybe its just a matter of putting parishioners up the trees in a tree house for your services. Is there tree house law’s! Like maximum people up a tree at the same time! Plumbing requirements, electrical code in case of lightening strikes! Again making sure safety is factored in, as we don’t want any falls from heights.

    I don’t mean to be flippant, but I guess times are changing and we all need air to breath and environmental issues need to be considered now . Just a thought.