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Elmira
Friday, July 10, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Woolwich adopts new landscape guidelines for subdivisions as part of greening initiatives

Talk of trees right now typically involved the adjective Christmas, but Woolwich council is focusing just now on guidelines for planting in new subdivisions, new rules that will give trees such as those lining boulevards a better chance of survival.

Chief among the new standards are much deeper topsoil layers, increasing the current six-inch (15 centimetre) depth to 18 inches (45 cm). While a staff report called for the guidelines to apply only to public land in new subdivisions, including boulevards and parks, councillors pushed for all yards to be included right away, rather than waiting for a separate policy to be developed next year.

“I don’t understand why we can’t come up with a standard for new subdivisions,” said Coun. Larry Shantz, saying he was “disappointed” with the reports’ lack of more sweeping topsoil guidelines.

“We can work with that,” said manager of planning Jeremy Vink of immediately going with the 0.45-metre depth of topsoil.

Shantz also stressed the need for screened topsoil, noting developers often just dump any kind of fill, including junk, underneath a thin layer of topsoil.

“We need it to be screened topsoil,” he said. “I think we have to be a little more harsh on that.”

Coun. Patrick Merlihan presented photographs of debris-strewn front yards that appear to have been readied for topsoil, noting he ran into that problem with a new home he owned in Elmira: digging in the garden revealed the likes of broken bricks and coffee cups.

Vink noted that’s not acceptable even under existing guidelines.

“It should be cleared out,” he said of the yard. “Debris … shouldn’t be left behind.”

“We owe it to the people who buy the properties … to make sure the standards are met,” Shantz added.

Deeper, cleaner soil would help newly planted trees have a better chance of survival, said Vink, whose report also includes new guidelines for trees in new subdivisions, another offshoot of a township greening plan adopted last year.

The new measures include tree species, the amount of space allowed for trees and their placement, particularly along boulevards.

“We did change up our trees – planting design for street trees,” said Vink.

While adopting some of the suggestions from the greening plan, the planning staff proposal allows more wiggle room. With tree species, for instance, restricting the list to native species isn’t always advised given the harsh conditions along roadways. Size and root spread are also concerns.

In each new subdivision, landscape planners will have to work with the space available, which includes competition for the likes of hydro poles and utility boxes, Vink explained.

“We have to be realistic about what we’re planting.”

The new guidelines go beyond those established first in 2010 for setting the landscaping component of various site plan and subdivision developments.

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