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Bylaw causes confusion

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

The region’s woodland conservation and management bylaw is getting an update.

In an attempt to modernize the region’s current bylaw on woodlands, Dimitri Pagratis, project planner for Durham Region, updated the planning and economic committee on what changes will be made, pending council approval.

According to Pagratis, the update will modernize the bylaw, and make it clearer.

The bylaw’s name will also change from the Durham Woodland Conservation and Management Bylaw to the “Regional Woodland Bylaw,” which Pagratis says better reflects the purpose of the policy.

Permit fees will also be updated, according to Pagratis.

A ‘good forestry’ practices permit fee will be $50, a proposed minor clear cutting permit fee will be $500, and a proposed major clear cutting permit fee will be $1,000 under the updated bylaw.

Fines for removing trees without a permit will also increase, which hasn’t happened since 2008.

The draft bylaw also proposes there will be no clear cutting within settlement areas, such as urban areas and hamlets.

According to Pagratis, the update will “clearly define and prohibit unwanted cumulative tree removal.”

Pagratis told the committee the next steps include the launch of an education and literature campaign, a woodland map will be made to assist the public and area municipalities, and there will be continued monitoring of tree cutting applications.

“[The] region’s tree bylaw improves efficiency, clarity and provides better woodland protection and enforcement,” according to Pagratis.

While various definitions have also been added or updated to make the bylaw clearer, some councillors still had questions.

Oshawa’s Ward 2 city and regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri wanted to better understand how the updated bylaw works.

“I understand there’s two different levels. There’s a level for one type of woodlot, and then there’s something for a greater number of cut trees. How does this work for the region, and who’s enforcing it according to our bylaw?” asked Marimpietri.

Commissioner of planning and economic development Brian Bridgeman explained the bylaw is under the Municipal Act, policed at the regional level and it pertains to woodlands one hectare in size and greater.

But, for woodlands less than one hectare, it falls into the hands of the lower-tier municipalities.

To the Ward 2 city and regional councillor, the bylaw still seemed muddled.

“The average person would ask, ‘Well, who’s taking care of this?’ We know that there’s three different levels that are taking care of this,” said Marimpietri. “You mentioned the region… we have the city – or the municipality, and then we have CLOCA. So it seems to be quite a few layers, and I think simplifying it would be something in the future maybe we could work on.”

Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr wanted clarification about the size of woodlands taken care of by the region.

“This topic came up last night at city coucil in Oshawa,” said Kerr. “I think the thrust is that they’re talking about a tree protection bylaw, but I think they may have been looking more at private property between two neighbours, and so forth.”

Pagratis reiterated the new bylaw encompasses woodlands one hectare or less, and lower-tier municipalities will be in charge of those smaller than one hectare.

The new bylaw will now head to regional council for approval on Wednesday, Nov. 27.