Although council approved a forest plan in 2020, implementation has been slow according to city staff due to other pressures such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Collingwood’s rapidly growing population, the city is behind on its tree canopy policies, according to a staff report to councilors on Monday.
“The Council’s renewed calls for the preservation and augmentation of trees in 2022 in light of the rapid growth and development to come in Collingwood are prudent,” strategic adviser Jason Reynar noted in his report to the committee considered on Monday. “Over the next few months, administration recommends that the board authorize funding for outside expertise and support to accomplish several important tasks.”
At the Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee meeting on Monday (August 8), councilors will consider a recommendation to spend up to $100,000 to retain the services of a consultant to brief the next council on how Collingwood can better protect forest cover. Staff will also ask councilors to approve an additional $75,000 for tree maintenance and removal in 2022, to be drawn from the Operating Contingency Fund reserve.
“As a primary settlement area, Collingwood will intensify with increased density, which may result in reduced canopy cover on a specific lot; however, at the municipal or regional level, the vision to develop the tree canopy as a whole is an essential part of our long-term sustainability and well-being,” Reynar wrote.
Several recommendations would be considered part of any consultant’s report if approved at the board level.
Staff suggest that the Urban Design Manual and City Development Engineering Standards should be updated to reflect the latest standards for preserving, protecting and increasing the tree canopy throughout the development process. development.
“The Council has already considered whether the current standard of 30% canopy cover at maturity is sufficient. The revision of this standard will therefore have to take into account the expected survival and growth rates,” notes Reynar.
Staff recommend that an updated private tree by-law also be considered, along with a proposed site alteration by-law to ensure the protection of other natural heritage features such as wetlands and vegetation. A tree tracking and inventory system should also be put in place, which was part of the city’s forest plan which has yet to be implemented. Public consultation is also suggested as part of any consultancy work to be carried out.
In February 2020, the council adopted an urban forest management plan and the concept of an urban forestry unit.
Although the plan proposed funding of $2,259,025 from 2020 to 2029 for the company, no new human or financial resources have been approved through the budget process to date according to city staff, despite the administrative demands in the last two city budgets. In 2021 and 2022, the city spent between $200,000 and $300,000 per year on tree maintenance/removal and pruning.
Of the 41 recommendations in the Urban Forest Management Plan, staff say only the Official Plan review to develop new policies in support of the urban forest is currently underway. The delay in implementing the plan’s other recommendations is “the result of resource constraints and other pressing priorities (e.g., COVID-19 response and recovery),” according to the staff report.
The new draft official plan, which was first presented to council in July, suggests the city should achieve a minimum of 30% tree cover by 2041.
The city’s urban forest management plan calculated the 2018 forest canopy coverage at 31.7 percent. Thus, the objectives set out in the official plan may change, according to staff.
The Strategic Initiatives Standing Committee meeting will be held on Monday, August 8 at 2:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Collingwood City Hall. The meeting will also be streamed live on the city’s YouTube channel. here.