Kingston Bylaws – Trees

Tree cutting, bylaw, Kingston, OntarioAbout a year ago, during a windy thunderstorm, a tree snapped in half and landed on a house on our street. Thankfully no one was hurt, but enough damage was done to force the tenants to find a new home. Happily, the home has since been restored and the tenants have moved back in. This event got Harvey and I looking at our trees in a new light. We have two large, old trees on our property. The one in the back of our home regularly drops branches in our yard, making us pretty nervous. As new homeowners we weren’t sure what steps were necessary in dealing with these trees so I gave the City a call and spoke with someone in the Public Works Department.

It turns out that trees growing close to the road, even if they are on your property, can be considered City Trees. The City sent two workers to assess our trees and, luckily for us, they both fell into this category. I say “luckily” because now responsibility (and cost) of making sure they are properly trimmed falls on the City. It took them several months to finally come and clean up our trees but we were very grateful when they did. When I called to inquire as to why they hadn’t come yet, it was explained to me that trees are dealt with in priority sequence and since we’d recently had a few wind storms, they had other messes to deal with. When I noticed a branch on our tree had snapped and was hanging precariously, I called again and workers were at my home the very next day.

So what happens if your trees don’t belong to the City? If a tree is deemed to be entirely on your property, then according to City by law, you can do whatever you like with it (at your own cost, of course) without a permit. You can remove dead trees, cut trees down for personal use (meaning firewood that you would be burning yourself and not selling), remove trees to clear land for farming purposes or for the installation of a new driveway or public or private utilities.

A permit is required if your tree has a diameter of 15cm or more; is growing in an Environmental Protection Area; is endangered or at risk, or is considered a “distinctive” tree such as a Black Walnut, Blue Ash or a Douglas-Fir. You can see a more complete list here.

This is one of those things that a lot of us don’t think too much about until it’s too late. Take a look at your property, if you have a tree that looks even slightly worrisome, have it checked out. Just having that piece of mind when the next windy night comes is worth it.

Thanks Greene/Ellis for today’s photo.

Danielle Lennon

Danielle Lennon is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. She was the Editor, Community Event Coordinator and Contributor at-large (2008-2018). She is otherwise employed as a section violinist with the Kingston Symphony, violin teacher, studio musician and cat lover. Learn more about Danielle...

4 thoughts on “Kingston Bylaws – Trees

  • Paragraph 4 makes it seem as though I would require a permit under any of those conditions; my interpretation is that as long as it is on my private residential property, I can do whatever I want and never need a permit. Which is it?

    • To be honest, the way the bylaw is written isn't entirely clear. The way I interpret what I read is that a tree that straddles the line between private property and municipal property requires a permit for removal (if it fits the description of the trees mentioned in para 4). Any trees that are entirely on your property do not. It doesn't clarify if you need a permit to remove an endangered tree from within your property boundaries so I would say that you can do so without a permit. If you have an issue regarding a tree, it's best to make a quick call to the city to be sure you are working within the law.

    • Best to ask a lawyer that question, but if you own a rental property, I would suggest finding out who is responsible for your trees and to keep an eye on them.

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