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Burlington City Council Unanimously Approves Private Tree Bylaw

City of Burlington photo.
City of Burlington photo.

*Please see below a media release issued by the City of Burlington.

Burlington, Ont. — Jan. 28, 2020 — The City of Burlington is taking exciting and important steps to battle climate change through preserving and growing the City’s tree canopy. As of Jan. 27, 2020, anyone within the City’s urban boundary will need to apply for a permit and on-site consultation to remove a tree greater than 20 centimetres in diameter (8”) measured at 1.4 metres from the ground, or if you would like to remove more than five trees between 10 and 20 cm (4-8”) measured at 1.4 m from the ground in a calendar year.

Heritage trees and endangered species are also protected.

Permits will also be needed for any activity that may injure or damage a tree. The permit application can be found online at

“Increasing the City’s tree canopy will require a two-pronged approach: preserving the valuable resource that we have, and adding to it for future growth. This legislation will discourage tree removal by regulating the removal of healthy mature trees, and also provide incentives to homeowners to plant more trees. Once we have the incentive program finalized, we will share the information.” — Steve Robinson, Manager of Forestry, City of Burlington

A private tree task-force is being assembled with a goal of creating an incentive program for homeowners to plant trees on their private property. Details of the task-force and the incentive program are still being finalized and will be shared once ready.

To read the full bylaw, including information on permits, protected trees, exemptions and fines, please visit

When do I NEED a permit and OWE fees/compensation?

(PLEASE NOTE the following condition below that are denoted with a single asterisk —  *Additional permits and regulations apply)

Property owners will need to apply for a Tree Removal Permit when removing:

  • A tree greater than 20 cm diameter measured at 1.4 m from the ground;
  • More than five trees between 10 and 20 cm measured at 1.4 m from the ground;
  • Any size of tree that is a designated Heritage Tree*; and
  • Any size of endangered, at risk, or threatened tree species*;

When do I NEED a permit and DON’T OWE fees/compensation?

(PLEASE NOTE the following condition below that are denoted with a double asterisk — **Permit is still required; but fees and compensation are waived.)

Property owners will need to apply for a Tree Removal Permit when removing:

  • If the tree is dead**;
  • If the tree is diseased with no chance of recovery**; and
  • If the tree is within 2 m of an occupied dwelling**.

When do I NOT NEED a permit?

  • Removing trees of less than 20 cm in diameter measured at 1.4 m above the ground (no more than four per year);
  • Tree maintenance (pruning);
  • For emergency work, such as utility repairs;
  • Trees at high-risk of injuring a person or damaging property;
  • If the tree is located in a nursery or orchard; and
  • If the tree is an invasive species* (please see above for single asterisk condition).

Replacement Trees

Trees that are injured or removed under the Tree Removal Permit will need to be replaced. The tree’s diameter, measured at 1.4 m above ground, as well as the overall condition rating will impact the total number of centimetres required to be replaced. Generally, one replacement tree is required for every 10 cm diameter removed. The on-site consultation will determine measurements and replacements.

If there is no room for the replacement trees to be planted on the property, there will be a charge of $400 per replacement tree. This money will be used toward the Private Tree Incentive Program where private homeowners will be encouraged to plant trees on their property.

Fees and Fines

  • Tree Permit, Development Related Application: $680/property
  • Tree Permit, Non-Development Related Application: $390/property
  • Cash-in-Lieu of Replacement Compensation (Cash-in-Lieu): $400/tree
  • Private Tree Bylaw fine: $680/tree

Public Information Sessions

Public information sessions are being planned to help educate residents and homeowners about the bylaw. When details are confirmed, information will be posted on, on the City’s social media as well as other methods.

For more information, including the online application form, go to


This is a historic moment and congratulations to staff, Council and our City for moving this forward. We have been debating this for 9 years and it almost always lost at Council in a 4-3 vote. This Council has moved thoughtfully, with logic and facts, informed by 9 years of debate and by researching other communities. We are learning from those communities and from the lived experience of our own community. We have also had several months of recent discussion, since September 2019, to get to where we are now with this bylaw. It is well-conceived.

The simple truth is, if you are trying to take down a healthy tree on your property, you’ll have to talk to our staff about that and get a permit to do so. The right of appeal for our residents is right here, in Council Chambers, by us, your elected officials. This is a historic moment for our City and we should all be proud.

I think we heard very compelling evidence about why the rural area should be thought of in a very different context than our urban areas. There are already regulations in the rural area, there is forestry activity there, people use trees for heating and fuels; they are also large lots. The issue of the canopy and needing to replace it is definitely in the urban area. Land in the rural needs to be used for agricultural purposes. Trees really are a different thing in a rural than urban setting. I look forward to hearing from our rural folks on what gaps we need to fill. We know the issue is that people are taking down trees at a time we’re trying to achieve a 35% tree canopy. We need to get on with it and I was and am comfortable with the Jan. 27 implementation date for this bylaw. But I don’t want it to be a financial burden. We want a reasonable, fair approach to preserving what’s there and contributing to the fund to plant more trees. Trees are a shared resource, so I’m fine with the city contributing to that fund. It’s never been either we plant trees or we protect them – it has to be both.

I’m proud of our Council, city staff and citizens for putting in the hard work to make this bylaw a truly made-in Burlington model and I’m proud of how well members of Council represented the diverse views of their constituents at the Council table.


*Posted by John Bkila, Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist

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12 thoughts on “Burlington City Council Unanimously Approves Private Tree Bylaw”

  1. I went in to a Pool Company so I could get a pool only to find out about the new tree bylaw. My trees are away from where the pool would be but I am too afraid to now put one in because if the tree dies that’s a whole lot of money to pay fines/replacement of the trees. I am very disappointed in this bylaw. I understand why it was passed but it makes it very difficult for homeowners like me to do something to my own property. This was a big letdown for my kids after telling them we were getting a pool…

    1. Hi Nick, this is John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist. We understand that the City’s private tree bylaw can negatively impact some residents and their plans for their property. I do recommend reaching out to the City’s Roads, Parks and Forestry Department and speaking to someone on staff about your particular situation for any assistance, if possible. They can be reached by phone at 905-333-6166, or via email at Thank you for reaching out to Mayor Meed Ward via her website.

  2. Great idea, however, confusing forms for average homeowner to complete and difficult to get any assistance or even a return phone call.

  3. I thought I lived in a free society until I read the new tree bylaw. A permit to remove a dead tree, for heavens sake!! And you have to plant a new one! Yes, we need to keep as much tree cover as we can can but this is just too much of an attack on our personal freedoms. The take away for me is: “To keep out of trouble with the City, don’t have trees on your property.”

    1. Hi Brian, this is John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist. As we’ve understood the new bylaw, one of the reasons you would still need to apply for a permit to remove a dead tree is to help the City better measure how the urban tree canopy is either growing or decreasing. All fees and compensations for the removal of a dead tree are waived. However, we do understand your concerns and we encourage you to please connect with the City’s Roads, Parks, & Forestry department with any questions and/or concerns you may have with the private tree bylaw at 905-333-6166, or via email at Thank you for commenting on the Mayor’s website.

  4. This by law is a good start, but it has been watered down sooo much that it appears there are no real deterrents (read Big Fees/Fines) to stop developers from cutting down trees. They will just pay the small fees/fines and tack it onto the cost of building a home (and thus driving housing prices even higher).
    Let’s see how this pans out and maybe council will have to revisit this bylaw, sooner rather than later, to up the fees/fines to give this bylaw some real teeth.

  5. Charlie Schwartz

    One wonders who dreamed up the charges being levelled on the property owner especially if a tree dies or becomes a danger to a dwelling, etc.

    1. Hi Charlie,
      This is John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist.
      As it states in the media release issued by the City of Burlington that the Mayor is sharing on her website, if a tree is dead; diseased with no chance of recovery; and/or if the tree is within 2 m of an occupied dwelling, a permit to remove the tree is still required, but any related fees and/or compensation are waived.
      Thank you for commenting on the Mayor’s website.

      1. I was unable to find any details about the incentive program other then it will be funded by revenue generated by permits. Did I miss it?

        1. Hi Andrew, this is John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist. I believe staff are working on the incentive program piece to the private tree bylaw and tree-planting. However, Roads, Parks and Forestry staff may have more insight — please feel to connect with them on this and any other inquiries about the Private Tree Bylaw you may have either by phone at 905-333-6166, or email at In addition, and as always, the Mayor will share any updates from the City on her website and her social media platforms. Thank you for commenting on the Mayor’s website.

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