Input sought on proposed private property tree bylaw

by Scott Rosts Niagara This Week – St. Catharines

ST. CATHARINES — Promote, develop, balance, manage, contribute and protect. Those are the strategies the St. Catharines Urban Forest Advisory Committee is hoping to achieve in a proposed private property tree bylaw. The city wants to hear residents’ input on the proposed bylaw designed to protect trees on private property, and will host the first of two open houses on Thursday, Jan. 30 to glean input from residents.

Mike Anderson, development horticultural technician for the City of St. Catharines, said the city is one of few that doesn’t have such a bylaw, adding it was identified as a future action when the city passed its Urban Forest Management Plan in spring of 2011.

“It was part of the management plan for most municipalities,” said Anderson, who notes the proposed bylaw is an important part of ensuring the hundreds of thousands of trees in St. Catharines are protected.

The proposed bylaw, he said, would balance feedback from residents with the city’s conservation goals. The public input, he said, is critical since the bylaw would be dealing with private property.

Elizabeth Chitty, chair of the City’s Urban Forestry Advisory Committee, said the group has come into the public process with a completely open mind. No bylaw has been prepared to date, she said, as they want to ensure they hear from residents before putting together any draft. She said the committee has put a considerable amount of time to come up with different options under consideration that could help formulate the bylaw – some with punitive actions, some not.

“The options we looked at are all different choices and go in different directions,” said Chitty. “We want to hear from people on what they think, so we can bring that back to our February meeting to begin our next steps.”

She said residents should get informed about the project, and its purpose. Slides from a presentation that will be made at each open house, along with background information on the process, which is available online at Chitty said she expects some different opinions from residents during the input process. Her committee alone, she said, has had differing opinions, so the feedback from the community is integral to the next steps.

“The trees in our community are absolutely critical to protect,” said Chitty of the importance of such a bylaw. She said the tree canopy in the city is important to everything from air quality and physical and mental health, to economic development.“A beautiful place is where people want to live and work,” she said.

The open houses run from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30 and Thursday, Feb. 6 at the St. Catharines Kiwanis Aquatics Centre. No RSVP is required. Meetings will include a brief presentation and then group discussions with committee members. Notes will be taken for the committee.

Those who are unable to attend the meetings can fill out an online survey online at Within days of launching the survey, nearly 200 residents had already completed it, said Anderson.