City council has approved a plan to keep mature neighbourhoods green as older homes are replaced by infill, but critics say it doesn't go far enough.
The executive committee put forward changes that would require owners of all new homes in established neighbourhoods to plant a minimum two trees and four shrubs.
City staff say the change is meant to address long-standing complaints from people who live in mature neighbourhoods that infill is destroying too many trees.
"The reality is we are losing the trees that were planted 60 years ago," said Lynn Odynski of the Old Glenora Conservation Association.
Odynski told executive committee the proposed changes don't go far enough because they don't prevent unnecessary clearing of mature trees during construction.
She said planting new trees will not compensate for the much taller and established trees that are lost.
"It's devastating to see a lot completely clear cut," she said
For ease of development, sites are often cleared of existing trees before construction begins.
Once a new home is built, there are currently no rules concerning trees or shrubs. Currrent rules state that all property visible from a public road be seeded, sodded or otherwise landscaped within 18 months of occupancy.
As a result, residents have complained to the city that the new featureless yards do not fit with the rest of the neighbourhood.
Under the proposed changes, owners of new homes would have to plant a minimum of one deciduous (leafy) tree, one coniferous (evergreen) tree and four shrubs for each single detached dwelling.
Wider lots will require more plants.
The city hopes the proposed bylaw changes will encourage home builders to save existing trees by making them consider landscaping before razing the lot.
But Mayor Don Iveson said the province doesn't give the city the authority to stipulate trees must be protected. He said the city will have to wait for changes to the Municipal Government Act before it can make rules to protect mature trees.
Iveson said he'd rather use incentives to help developers change their ways, rather than legislate protective measures.
"The builders who save trees are actually going to come out ahead financially, as well as in terms of goodwill with the neighbourhood," he said.
Bylaw changes still need to be debated at a public hearing. If approved, the changes will take effect before this construction season.