Merrickville-Wolford Council adopted a new tree care and maintenance policy at the last council meeting, to streamline the municipality’s processes for maintaining, removing and planting trees in the Village.
According to Manager of Operations, Brad Cole, one of the reasons for the creation of the policy was to set out some clear guidelines about the ownership of trees located on both private and municipally-owned property. “There is always a conflict there as to who looks after the tree, whether its us, or whether it’s the homeowner. So we just thought this would bring some clarity to it,” he told council.
According to the policy, if more than half of the trunk of the tree is on municipal property, it is the municipality’s responsibility for its care and maintenance. If more than half the truck is on private property, the municipality will pay for its care and maintenance based on the percentage of the tree that is on municipally owned land. So, for example, if the tree is deemed to be 75% on private property and 25% on municipal land, then the Village will pay for a quarter of the costs associated with the tree, with the rest falling to the individual landowner. Director Cole also clarified that property lines will be defined by the location of the right of ways, or through a legal survey if available.
The policy also outlines possible reasons for the removal of a tree from municipal property, and guidelines for replacing it, including location, size, and type of tree. Councillor Timothy Molloy, who has been involved in planting between 250 and 400 trees in the Village, expressed some concern that the minimum height of the tree outlined in the policy (6-8 inches) was too small to guarantee its survival.
“We have, in the past, when we’ve planted trees, gotten trees with an arbour of about an inch and a half to two inches, and a substantial root development,” he said at the meeting. Director Cole assured him that they put this minimum in the policy to allow them the opportunity to plant seedlings, if they want to create a denser stand of trees somewhere in the municipality. “We do always strive to go with something about an inch and a half to two inches, and generally about five to six feet in height, so they can withstand the fall and winter weather,” he said.
The policy also outlines that, if a resident wants a tree removed that is on municipal property, their request must be submitted to council. If council approves, then the tree would be removed at the resident’s expense.
Currently, there is no policy for the removal of trees on private property. Councillor Molloy believes that this is something they should be looking into, as they have many old and heritage trees in the Village. He made the point that, if they are following the Village’s Official Plan, which indicates protecting heritage, rural, and natural environments as a priority, they should consider putting some rules in place about cutting down any tree in the Village, even if it is not municipally owned.
“I believe we should at least look at having a tree cutting policy, so that, if someone on their property wants to cut a tree, then they should have some sort of reason for wanting to cut the tree that is substantial, and not just a whim,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Michael Cameron agreed with Councillor Molloy’s comments, but added that any potential policy should not be a blanket statement for the entire municipality, seeing as the majority consists of rural farmland. He didn’t want farmers to have to go through a process just to clear trees on their property. “I was thinking more in the urban area and hamlets,” Councillor Molloy clarified.
Council agreed, at Mayor Struther’s suggestion, that they direct staff to bring a potential tree removal policy for the Village back to council for consideration at a future meeting. “It would be a worthwhile conversation as to: Do we formally want to pursue it and, if so, how would we go about doing that?”, he said.