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City Council unanimously approved $1.5M exemption for Pratt Homes, while adding tree removal burdens & costs for residents

Last week’s Barrie City Council Meeting featured a discussion about the proposed Private Tree By-law, with five deputants, including three arborists, a resident, and Karen Hansen, co-owner of Barrie’s largest developer, Pratt Homes. The deputants provided their perspectives on the by-law, which aims to protect the city’s trees.

Mark Graves, owner of Logan Tree Experts, applauded Barrie’s progressive bylaws and stressed the significance of certified arborists. Matt Logan of Logan Tree Experts expressed support for amendments concerning arborist reports and preservation plans for development projects.

Johnny Corner of Northshore Tree Experts Inc, who had a meeting with Mayor Alex Nuttall, appreciated the recognition of certified arborists in the bylaw and emphasized the need to protect urban trees. He also suggested more clarity on private tree removals and pruning, and called for prioritizing tree planting with grant programs for residents. However, Corner acknowledged that “people will still be removing them (trees). The only advantage is that there will be a dollar amount on it.”

Despite 78% of city survey respondents expressing concerns about the financial burden on residents, the council unanimously approved the tightening of the arborist definition, which may increase costs for citizens. This move was made even though the three arborists present met the new requirements.

During the meeting, Karen Hansen requested an exemption from the new by-law for a 71-acre land purchased by Pratt Homes, which would save the developer approximately $1.5 million. Hansen argued that the amount would otherwise be “added to house prices.” Mayor Nuttall praised Hansen for sponsoring the air show, but no council member questioned the exemption’s fairness to existing homeowners or how many trees Pratt Group would cut without replanting.

Ward 10 Councillor Bryn Hamilton introduced an amendment in response to the deputations, updating the arborist definition and granting an exemption to Pratt Homes. The amendment passed unanimously, and the council is set to vote on the by-law’s final version in two weeks. The new by-law is a response to Bill 23, which removed county conservation authorities’ responsibility for tree removal replanting fees on private properties in the city.

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