Ask the Councillor Sept2017: Tree protection; rules on panhandling; GO station completion; smoking in parks

J.&D. M. Ask: We are concerned about the loss of urban canopy and trees during redevelopment. What protection can the city take to protect trees, and should changes to zoning and setbacks be considered?

Answer: In late 2016, Council approved the direction to exempt new single family homes (tear down/rebuilds) and major changes to individual residential lots from Site Plan Control (previously called a Minor Development or “MD”).  Since then, these types of projects only require a Zoning Clearance and a Grading and Drainage Clearance prior to applying for a building permit.
An Urban Forestry review of these sites is completed as part of the Grading and Drainage Clearance review.

There are 3 types of trees that the city can protect through this review:

  • City Trees (on public property, usually the road right of way or in parks). Bylaw (68-2013) protects these trees and is prescriptive with actions that are permitted around City trees.
  • Neighbouring trees (considered neighbouring property to be protected from direct damage). We cannot approve a site plan which would knowingly damage a neighbour’s property and place another owner in a litigious situation.  We usually require proof of an agreement to damage neighbouring property, including any agreement for restoration as warranted.  Alternatively we would accept a report from a certified arborist that concludes that damage to neighbouring property (trees in this case) would be minimal and survivable, OR we would require the applicant to revise the design of the site to minimize impacts.
  • Shared/Co-owned trees (protected by the Forestry Act of Ontario, Section 10. This applies to trees whose trunks are growing directly on a property line. This is usually confirmed by a survey completed by an OLS.  Damage to co-owned trees (as defined in the Forestry Act) must be agreed upon by both neighbours.  We require proof of an agreement to damage co-owned trees prior to approving a site grading plan that would cause damage. This does NOT apply to trees “within 3m of a property line serving a deemed purpose”, as used to be the case in the now defunct Minor Development review process.  Because these properties are now exempt from Site Plan Control (Section 41 of the Planning Act), and there is no applicable private tree bylaw, there are no legitimate means to prevent individual homeowners from removing trees located wholly on their property.

What the city can do is to provide advice to residential property owners on appropriate setbacks to protect private trees on their own property, should they wish to maintain them.  The city currently has no other means of protecting privately owned trees in absence of Site Plan Control or a Private Tree Bylaw.

D.S. Asks: I am noticing more panhandlers in Burlington, including people soliciting money at busy intersections. What is being done about this?

Answer: Police regularly connect with panhandlers and are noticing an increase in this activity in Burlington. It is difficult to say exactly why it is on the increase, but an educated guess would be because they are getting money from Burlington residents.  Police recently spoke to two panhandlers at Guelph Line and Fairview, who said they work until they make $100 each and that usually takes them about an hour and a half. The officer did ask about referring them to any social service agencies and they politely declined.  They said they were better off with the $100 each, which paid for a room for the night, food and cigarettes.

Regarding enforcement, there is Provincial legislation (Safe Streets Act), but if the persons are not aggressive and are not walking on the roads for the purpose of soliciting, then there is no offence. They must remain off the roadway, for example on a sidewalk or median. In observing the individuals at Guelph Line and Fairview, they did not go on the road to solicit, just to accept money.  They solicited from the median.  They were well versed in the law and knew they hadn’t breached it.

Below are the relevant sections of the Safe Streets Act which police follow in responding to panhandlers:


Solicit near public toilet facility

Set Fine: $50.00

Total Payable: $65.00

No person shall,
(b) solicit a person who is using or waiting to use a pay telephone or a public toilet facility;



Solicit near public transit stop

Set Fine: $50.00

Total Payable: $65.00

No person shall,
(c) solicit a person who is waiting at a taxi stand or a public transit stop



Solicit near public transit vehicle

Set Fine: $50.00

Total Payable: $65.00

No person shall,
(d) solicit a person who is in or on a public transit vehicle;



Solicit in parking lot

Set Fine: $50.00

Total Payable: $65.00

No person shall,
(e) solicit a person who is in the process of getting in, out of, on or off a vehicle or who is in a parking lot;



Solicit person in vehicle on roadway

Set Fine: $50.00

Total Payable: $65.00

No person shall,
(f) while on a roadway, solicit a person who is in or on a stopped, standing or parked vehicle.

The roadway refers to where the person soliciting money is standing. “Roadway” means the part of the highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, but does not include the shoulder or median.

B.F. Asks: When will the Burlington GO station construction be complete?

Answer: At last! The Burlington GO Station is nearing completion. Additional amenities on the south side of the station will open on Sat., Sept. 2 which includes: the bus loop, ticket booth and east tunnel. GO bus routes 12 and 18 will now stop at the south bus loop, while Burlington Transit will continue to stop on the north side.

Please see the customer communications notice that will be posted at the station this week: NowOpen_BurlingtonSouth_August2017

J.W. Asks: Who enforces the “no smoking” in public parks rules?

Answer: Enforcement is a shared responsibility between Halton Region and the City of Burlington.

A few years ago due to sign pollution, parks messaging in Burlington parks was combined onto one sign. When the Parks Bylaw was amended to include no smoking, stickers were added to our signs to create awareness of the bylaw amendments and a social media campaign was launched to communicate the new smoking restriction.

Prior to the amendment, enforcement was identified as being mostly self-regulated and self-enforcing and not by policing. Smoke Free Parks  City of Burlington Public Parks By-law 092-2013 prohibits tobacco smoking in the city parks and recreation properties. Enforcement of this bylaw is the responsibility of the City of Burlington staff.
Staff will be confirming the presence of No Smoking signs in parks, including the Smoke Free Ontario signs, required for the enforcement of the Provincial Smoke Free Ontario Act (SFOA).  The Health Unit at Halton Region is responsible for enforcing the Smoke Free Ontario Act and not the municipal By-law, (92-2013). The SFOA does cover parks as follows:
Children’s playgrounds and publicly owned sports fields
It is illegal to smoke on and within 20 metres of children’s playgrounds and publicly owned sport fields and surfaces (e.g., areas for basketball, baseball, soccer or beach volleyball, ice rinks, tennis courts, splash pads and swimming pools that are owned by a municipality, the province or a post secondary education institution).
To further seek compliance with the smoking restrictions in parks, Special Events staff have included the following initiatives:
  • Signs are placed at our events, and staff offer community groups the same signage for their events. The signage has the no smoking by-law symbol, by-law number and text.
  • Staff hand out cards with information regarding the by-law.
  • If anyone approaches a staff member during a City direct-delivered event regarding an individual smoking in the park, they will approach the individual who is smoking and inform/educate them of the by-law.
  • Event vendors, sponsors and entertainers are advised in their contracts/applications smoking in our parks is prohibited.
Where Operations staff see someone smoking or undertaking any other restricted park activity, we encourage the offending party be approached and informed/educated on the by-law.
To further promote awareness of No Smoking in parks, staff will work to introduce a social media campaign to remind our patrons of the Municipal and Provincial by-laws with a primary focus during the summer months.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.


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  1. A couple of important things about the GO station from that link:
    “Burlington Transit will still stop on the north side until further notice.”
    “If you transfer between GO and Burlington Transit, please give yourself a little
    extra time to make your connections.”

    I still don’t see anything resembling an expected completion date, or a guess as to when BT buses will start using the south loop, but I guess it’s progress?

  2. Hi Marianne – Regarding the panhandlers, why aren’t the police removing or fining them from the intersection @ Guelph Line and Fairview, if there is a By-Law in place? I noticed a police car parked @ intersection @ 8am on Tuesday this week, while a panhandler was out at the intersection stopping cars, looking for cash. This is not only dangerous, but a huge distraction for drivers. When can we see an end to this? Elaine

  3. Thank you for responding to these resident’s questions. I am pleased to see the Metrolink’s GO station finally open, and hope it will at least be functional (as it is certainly not that good looking)..

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