Tree Removal Policy to be Updated


Robert Thomas

The policy that dictates when you can fire up the chainsaw and shout “timber!” while chopping down your boulevard trees is being updated.

At this week’s Executive Committee the plans to update the Boulevard Tree Removal Policy were approved but not without discussion.

Councillor Scott McMann said he had had a resident call about the tree removal policy as she is unable to sell her property due to tree roots in the sewer service connection. A service connection for sewer and water are the lines running from the main lines to individual properties.

City Engineer Josh Mickelborough stated that there had been “changes to the service connection ownership” being reflected in the proposed amending of the Boulevard Tree Removal Policy (BTRP).

The need to update BTRP is to put it into alignment with Bylaw #5564 (Sewer and Water Utility Bylaw) and the Sewer and Water Amendment (2) with current urban forest management practices.

Under changes to the sewer and water utility bylaw Council previously clarified a policy as to ownership and responsibility for repair and replacement. Service connections are the lines which run from the main utility lines to each individual property.

The policy states property owners own the sanitary sewer line from the main line to the building and the property owner owns the water line from the property line to the building.

Mickelborough stated that in some cases the City would “go to some homes two to three times a year” to clear out sewer connections which were failed infrastructure. Additionally, the City subsidized homeowners $100 if the work was done by a private contractor.

With the “transfer of ownership we won’t be in that business,” Mickelborough told the Committee, adding that many of the service connections cleared were past their life of service.

“They would be failing if there were tree roots in there or not,” he said.

City Manager Jim Puffalt said that even if a tree was removed due to sewage blockages “you cannot pin the roots onto one tree. Those roots can go for a long distance.”

Puffalt spoke about healthy trees being 60-70 years old and the need to save them.

“We have to look at a little bit of concern from the homeowner's side as well,” Coun McMann said.

Councillor Brian Swanson asked how many homeowners' sewer lines are cleared on an annual basis and Mickelborough responded that it was about 100.

The proposed new tree removal policy does the following:

-Establishes ownership of trees on City boulevards. Ownership will be determined based upon where the majority of the tree's trunk is located. If 50 percent of the trunk is on City property then the City owns it and vice versa. This aligns with what Regina and Saskatoon have done to determine boulevard tree ownership.

-Allows the Director of Parks and Recreation to authorize removal of a boulevard tree and determine whose responsibility it is to pay for the tree’s removal.

-Increases the reforestation cost from $100 to $300 in line with rising costs.

-Eliminates the clause allowing trees to be removed because of damage to sidewalks.

-Adding sewage blockage as a reason to the NO removal list.

In the end the vote was 4-2 with Coun McMann and Coun Swanson opposed.

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