Angell Woods ‘preservation’ status means more EAB by-law questions
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Emerald Ash Borer specimens were on hand for identification as Beaconsfield residents prepare to try and head off the invasive species from destroying the large number of Ash trees in the city.
Residents’ questions posed at the September 22 Beaconsfield public consultation session prior to the monthly council meeting suggest everyone is on a steep learning curve when it comes to dealing with the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer. And further news that the Montreal Agglomeration Committee has given the mostly privately-owned Angell Woods, with its thousands of ash trees, a ‘preservation’ status only increases the spectra of uncertainty, particularly for the landowners.
“I consider this by-law divisive and I’m not at all certain it’s going to get the job done,” said resident Mike Purvis of the proposed by-law that restricts ash pruning to winter months, and seeks to fi ne residents $750 for not treating or cutting down an infected tree. Purvis pointed out that the total costs to inoculate Beaconsfield’s entire ash population could run up to $4 million and asked how council plans to deal with senior residents and those on fixed income.
“I think it’s important from a social aspect. In my view, this is an involuntary tax because we don’t have a choice. Whether we treat the tree or cut it down – either way, there’s a cost to the landowner.” While the majority of Beaconsfield landowners have no ash trees on their property, a very small percentage, 0.12, have an excess of 30 trees including one homeowner who has 113 trees on his Sherbrooke Street property.
Other residents questioned council on whether it was possible to negotiate a better rate than the currently estimated $5/cm in trunk diameter and one pointed out that with all residents seeking licensed TreeAzin specialists within the same inoculation period demand may outstrip supply. “These are all things we’re going to take into consideration when we come up with an action plan,” said Mayor Georges Bourelle.
Resident Henry Kaszel asked council to consider removing, “... that Gestapo fi ne of $750. I believe the citizens of Beaconsfield are honourable and we don’t need people sneaking around and having that threat of a fine,” while another resident said Beaconsfield, “... is the only municipality that’s proposing punitive and coercive legislation.
“Other municipalities are not doing this and Dorval is even helping defray the costs. So what is wrong with Beaconsfield?” “If everybody’s honourable,” said Bourelle, “then nobody will get fined.” Another twist in the ongoing Angell Woods saga was revealed towards the end of the meeting when the mayor announced the Agglomeration Committee granted the woods a preservation status.
At the September 18 meeting, the schéma d’aménagement et de développement de Montréal was tabled and Bourelle said it was announced that an interim control by-law to freeze any development or activity on the ‘bois d’intérêt métropolitain’ will include Angell Woods. “The bulk of Angell Woods, except for a small portion at the bottom, will be zoned ‘conservation’ which means absolutely no development in the woods,” said Bourelle.
A small portion at the bottom near Beaurepaire train station will permit residential zoning without the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zoning guidelines as defi ned in the Plan Métropolitain d’aménagement et de Développement (PMAD). “It still remains private land,” said Bourelle, “and the owners can sell it. Montreal remains very willing to buy the land.”
The news came as a shock to Diana Shahmoon, President of Seda Holdings Ltd. that owns just under 2 million square feet of the woods, who said this is the second time she found out about important decisions made over her property from the media. When asked how the EAB by-law will be addressed concerning the large portions of woods privately-owned by both Seda Holdings Ltd. and Yale Properties Ltd. the mayor responded, “The same as we would for any other resident. You either treat or fell your trees, and if you don’t, you will be fined, per tree.”
Bourelle clarified the fine levied is $750 for the first tree and $200 per subsequent tree. The mayor said the town is open to other options including implementing a tax on all residents in order to save the canopy as much as possible, but nothing has been finalized.