Quick history lesson on tree cutting in Dufferin:
2007 people starting calling the County Forrester reporting massive tree cutting on farmland in Melancthon-no action.
In 2009 NDACT attended County Council will 9 proven contraventions of the County bylaw by Highland Companies. They were contraventions because the existing County tree bylaw does NOT provide for cutting on agricultural land without a permit.
County refused to prosecute Highlands for the contraventions because it was revealed that although the bylaw didn't provide for exemptions, the Forrester had always allowed it to help the farmers out. County knew they would get their asses sued if they prosecuted Highlands.
Was it a bad thing that the Forrester was doing, helping out the farmers? No. Everyone played nice and I am sure it was appreciated. But it has come back to bite BIG time when she ran into a "farmer" who is not nice and is not doing a nice thing and is not in the farming business-he is in the aggregate business.
So instead of saying from now on we will enforce the existing bylaw as it stands, the County has spent spent thousands and thousands of OUR dollars in legal experts, staff time, meetings, more legal experts in drafting a new bylaw that will not require permits for agricultural cutting-meaning Highlands will continue merrily on their way stripping the land. This bylaw has not been passed yet, it is still proposed.
Problem is you can NOT get a true answer out of any of the County people, not staff not politicians. At the County meeting last winter when they decided not to prosecute Highlands for the 9 proven contraventions Warden Montgomery was asked if in fact NDACT had not proven its case. His response was: I am saying we have to support staff. Robbing Adams, Mayor of Orangeville went on to state (and I quote), "It isn't up to anyone to question staff"
Last week at the tree committee meeting, the Chair stated that there was no specific exemption in the existing bylaw for agricultural cutting because it is included in Provincial legislation, which supersedes municipal bylaws. He then provided an undertaking that staff would provide a link to the legislation that exempts agricultural from municipal tree cutting bylaws.
INCORRECT ON TWO POINTS
First the existing County tree cutting bylaw DOES NOT PROVIDE AN EXEMPTION FOR AGRICULTURAL cutting-if you cut you need to get a permit, well except if you are Higlands. There were three highly paid staff sitting at this meeting (usually there are five) and when a ratepayer asked if the County Forrester could respond to the question she declined and the Chair refused to allow it. Probably because the Forrester knows the Chair was wrong in his response. I have to ask what in the hell are we paying three to five senior staff members to attend this meeting, when they never open their mouths? The point is????
Second: That legislation will never be provided because in fact the province does NOT have an agricultural exemption in any legislation that supercedes municipal bylaws. In fact Section 135.1 of the Municipal Act, 2001 provides:
135. (1) Subject to subsection (4) and without limiting sections 9, 10 and 11, a local municipality may prohibit or regulate the destruction or injuring of trees
This clearly sets out the powers for tree regulation in the municipal realm, NOT the province.
What is wrong with this? The problem is when a Chair of a Committee or Warden provides, at a public meeting INCORRECT and WRONG information, and then it is never corrected, some people are going to take it as fact.
We need a public retraction of what the Chair said and we need the County to publically admit the nine contraventions occurred. Do I feel bad for the Forrester. Yes I do, she is a nice person who has found herself in a terrible situation, some out of her control. On the other hand when I spoke with her last January she told me that in fact Highlands was cutting as they were exempted under the bylaw. When I finally got around to reading the bylaw and found there WAS no exemption she then advised me that yes "technicially" that was true, but.....
And why is the County drafting a new bylaw? Not one person or organization asked for a new bylaw, they asked for the existing bylaw to be enforced.
Closing remarks: the Chair of the tree cutting committee said fundamentally there is no change in the proposed bylaw and the existing bylaw. My comment, then why in the hell are they proposing a new bylaw and what has it cost US.
Finally the Chair stated, in a public meeting that "The Council can't do what they can't do."
Honest to God...