Hamilton Mountain News
Trees have been clear cut in Ancaster, Stoney Creek, Flamborough and even in downtown Hamilton, prompting irate residents and frustration among Hamilton politicians trying to stop them.
Councillors think they have found another way to stop chainsaws from decimating protected woodlots.
At their March 29 council meeting, politicians approved a motion, introduced by Mountain Coun. Terry Whitehead, requesting staff to study how to license businesses that cut down trees.
He said companies that do cut down trees are not licensed by the city. If these businesses were licensed, then the city would have some leverage over those companies to prevent them from going into an area and taking down a woodlot.
“We can hopefully stop the damage before it actually gets done because (pulling the licence) could be a deterrent,” he said.
On March 20 Norway maples in a protected woodlot were chopped down on a patch of land on Scenic Drive off Sanatorium Road.
Ann Lamanes, City of Hamilton communications officer, stated a stop work order was issued to the work. She stated the company, which owns the property, Valery Homes, “contacted the city” regarding a permit to cut down the trees, but a permit was not issued.
Lamanes said bylaw enforcement officials are continuing to investigate the incident.
Whitehead said this is not the first time a woodlot in his ward has been clear cut.
In 2013, a large swath of trees of Stonehenge Road near the Meadowlands was cut down and in 2012 a large portion of the Crerar Forest was cleared.
Whitehead said residents in the Scenic Drive area believed the woodlot was protected, especially with a tree-cutting bylaw that had been strengthened in 2014 by council that prevented clear cutting woodlots on half an acre or larger parcel of lands in the urban parts of Hamilton.
The bylaw, though, does not prevent the property owner from cutting down the trees. Fines under the bylaw range from $25,000 for individuals and up to $100,000 for corporations.
Whitehead acknowledged that the 20 or so residents who called his office felt the city had failed them.
“The problem is we do not have the power to arrest,” said Whitehead. “We can put a stop work order.”
Marty Hazell, senior director of parking and bylaw services, said his staff will investigate whether to recommend licensing businesses, including landscaping companies, that cut down trees. At the moment, landscaping companies do not need a business licence from the city. He acknowledged his review would not include a property owner who does his own tree cutting.
“I’m all for this,” said Stoney Creek Coun. Brenda Johnson, who has had woodlots razed in her area.
“I totally understand the entire annihilation of these woodlots.”
Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge, who has also seen woodlots chainsawed in her area, said the removal of the trees is an intense operation.
“It’s not just taking a chainsaw and cutting down trees,” said Partridge. “It’s not a small operation by any means. It’s quite a large undertaking. It’s unacceptable when it happens in a residential area or in any neighbourhood.”
Whitehead said politicians and staff are attempting to use “every tool in the tool box” to prevent further unauthorized tree cuttings in the city.
“We are limited in that tool box but we are trying to strengthen what we can,” he said.