October 22, 2016
By Paul Brydges
LO President

Paul BrydgesCongratulations to Mark Cullen on receiving the Order of Canada this past summer. What a tremendous achievement. No one better embodies the spirit of Canada and the willingness to commit to improving our beautiful country.

Each year brings its unique opportunities and challenges and this year is certainly no different. From the construction and design end, we are as busy as I have ever seen in my 30+ years of working in the green profession. Green is hardly the word to describe what we have been seeing in the landscape as the record breaking drought continues to wear down plant material, turf and teams working through the heat and humidity. I am very glad to see some companies have implemented training for staff on heat exhaustion and the need for more frequent water breaks.

It seems this heat wave has also caused many undecided clients to forge ahead with installing a swimming pool — or at least to literally jump in and start the process of designing a yard that includes a pool. More clients than ever are realizing the value of design and the need to think and plan ahead. The planning end of the process (which also includes permit applications) often takes as long, or even longer than the actual build. This rings especially true when speaking with colleagues who also have to deal with tree removal bylaws.

There are no consistencies between towns and municipalities when it comes to tree bylaws, setbacks, grading plan requirements and so on. As much as the Ontario Building Code serves as a guideline it is now governed by each municipality and their corresponding conservation authority. The biggest issue of this dissolution of common guidelines is the number of grey areas in each guideline or bylaw. Different municipalities and even different people within a municipality, read and interpret the wording of the rules differently. Often, they have never had to deal with a particular issue or question before and so they attempt to interpret the rules with limited background knowledge on the subject.

While I agree with conservation authorities having jurisdiction over much of what we do, it makes no sense to be governed by a body who has limited knowledge over the actual subject matter. This is an unfortunate by-product of government downloading and the transferring of liability. In most cases. municipalities defer to conservation authorities before issuing permits and conservation will only do site visits in optimum conditions for site reviews. In some cases, this has delayed projects for our clients well into the next construction season.

As an association, we have the depth of knowledge and expertise within all of our firms to try and put these pieces back in the proper order. Landscape Ontario’s partnership with the Fusion program, thanks to the tireless work of Sally Harvey, will pay-off in the long-term with solutions to some of the issues noted above. By helping to institute the guidelines we use to design and build, we will ultimately streamline the process into the efficient and effective way in which we all work.

As fall quickly approaches, many of us are already busy planning next year’s projects. I remind you all to also take the time to identify continuing education for yourself and your staff and take advantage of the countless learning opportunities available for our green professions.
Paul Brydges may be reached at paulbrydges.la@sympatico.ca.