A homeowner is fighting a City of Greater Sudbury bylaw that dictates a tree be planted in front of her house.
“Since we already have a well-established canopy in our neighbourhood, why do we have to accept a new city tree?” resident Janice Murray told the city’s hearing committee during a public hearing held virtually on Wednesday night.
During her meticulous 15-minute presentation, Murray outlined a timeline of events that began when she relocated to the east side of a duplex on Huntington Drive approximately six years ago.
A windstorm damaged a linden tree on the municipal road allowance in front of her house in 2018, prompting Murray to alert the city about the potential hazard. The city proceeded to remove much of the tree that year, followed by the removal of its peg in 2019 and its stumping in 2020.
On April 9 of this year, Murray said she spotted a city employee marking her front yard for a replacement tree, which she opposes, and was told to phone the city’s customer service line at 311.
She later connected with Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer and city road operations engineer Tony De Silva, which took her down a path leading to Wednesday’s meeting.
Murray’s arguments against the tree expressed Wednesday included:
- She already contributes to the city’s tree canopy via three trees in her backyard.
- Other properties in the area don’t have trees so why should hers?
- There’s an Eastlink box near the proposed tree site and it will be difficult to run a lawnmower between the two.
- There’s a curve in the road in front of her house and a tree would pose a hazard in the event a vehicle skidded off the road.
- The existing linden tree root system is still underground and the lawn can’t take anymore.
- She’s allergic to the Japanese lilac tree that has been proposed.
“Staff reviewed these reasons, but did not feel there was adequate evidence presented to reverse its original decision to plant a replacement tree,” De Silva said during his opening remarks, clarifying that the city’s Right of Way Tree Bylaw dictates that when city trees come down they are replaced. That is, “unless the General Manager determines that it is inappropriate in the circumstances to do so.”
The felled linden tree was approximately two metres away from Murray’s driveway. Its aggressive root system resulted in some damage to the asphalt, but De Silva noted the Japanese lilac tree proposed for the property would be positioned on the city allowance at the centre of the greenspace farther from the driveway. Plus, this type of tree has a much smaller root system.
“The root system is not going to pose any risk for the new tree, nor is the new tree root system going to pose any risk of either resurfacing or uprooting the currently depleted root system,” citywide foreperson Chris Sheehan said. “There won’t be any further risk from that root system.”
As for allergy concerns, city manager of growth and infrastructure Tony Cecutti clarified that the city would work with the resident to select an alternate tree from a list of 10 approved species of tree.
Among the three committee members to vote on the matter (Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini’s livestream connection dropped him so he was unable to vote), only Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre spoke in favour of having a tree planted.
“We have to think of 50 years down the road,” he said. “I think it’s important that we keep a lot of trees in our neighbourhoods, because they do make an impact on our environment and they do make an impact on the resale of homes and on the neighbourhoods.”
Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier, and Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, who chaired the night’s meeting, voted against having the tree planted.
“It’s frankly … my disappointment that we, on the city side, could not navigate this with a resident without it getting to this stage,” Cormier said at the close of the committee’s half-hour discussion on the matter. During another point in the meeting he referred to the situation as “unfortunate.”
The hearing committee’s recommendation that a Japanese lilac tree not be planted will be forwarded to a future city council meeting for a final decision.
Murray declined to comment when Sudbury.com reached out by phone on Thursday.
In addition to the Right of Way Tree Bylaw, the city has maintained a longstanding environmental regreening effort to heal its industrially scarred landscape and adopted the Community Energy and Emissions Plan in 2019, which came as a result of city council unanimously declaring a climate emergency and affirms the importance of planting trees as a means of carbon sequestration.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and municipal affairs for Sudbury.com.