Permit now needed to fell large trees

Most Ottawa property owners must now get a municipal permit to cut down large trees on their land.

Most Ottawa property owners must now get a municipal permit to cut down large trees on their land.

The city's new tree conservation bylaw went into effect Tuesday. It requires removal permits for all trees with trunks larger than 50 centimetres in diameter (a little thicker than an average beer keg) on properties less than one hectare in size.

A forestry inspector will visit the property before a permit can be issued. The permits are free.

The bylaw applies to land within Ottawa's urban areas, but does not apply to:

  • Rural land, except in the city's east end along the Ottawa River between the urban boundary and Ted Kelly Lane.
  • Farms or orchards.
  • Golf courses.
  • Cemeteries.

For properties larger than one hectare, landowners must draft a tree conservation report and have it approved by the city before any trees can be removed from the property. A permit for tree removal on such larger properties costs $100, except when the removal is part of a development application. In that case, the fee is included in the application.

Robert Kok, an arborist with Ottawa Tree Surgeons, said business boomed in recent weeks as people scrambled to beat the bylaw.

The new permit requirement will help guarantee that only unhealthy trees or those threatening a building foundation will be removed, he said.

Right now, he said, "people are taking down trees for no reason.…They'll have seeds falling in their pool, too much shade, they don't like the tree anymore."

Many residents of Ottawa's Sunnyside neighbourhood were angry last week after a healthy, 150-year-old oak tree was reduced to a pile of firewood in advance of the bylaw going into effect.

Nicole Parent, chair of the city's Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee, said that kind of tree removal is what makes the bylaw necessary.

"Who are we to say that we can remove something that's been there for generations and generations?" she asked. "If a property owner just decides to buy a lot and two years later decides, 'Oh, I don't want that, I want to cut it down' and has total disregard for the community around him, I don't think that's right."