Trees are a critically important part of our community. They beautify our neighbourhoods, clean the air, offer shade from the sweltering heat during the summer, and help keep sewers from being overwhelmed during a storm. The City of Toronto has committed to increasing its tree canopy to 40% coverage. Despite this good news, many trees are being lost throughout the construction process.
Over the past several years, John has worked with Toronto Urban Forestry staff to improve the speed of inspections and tree protection to ensure that trees are not improperly cut down or critically injured during home or building construction. While we’ve seen improvements, response times from the City can still average up to 5 days — meaning a tree being taken down illegally can be long gone before staff are on the scene.
One of the key issues is staff levels may be insufficient to address tree issues quickly once reported. Though the City has been tightening the budgets of many departments, there should be no financial impediment to protecting trees. The City can recover the cost of protections through various tools including site inspections, orders to comply, stop work orders and laying of charges.
Last week at Council, John’s motion initiating a new strategy to address this concern was adopted unanimously. Over the next several months he will work with staff to ensure that all of the appropriate fees are being collected so that the City can hire additional inspectors to improve response times in this area.