What’s in a tree? New landscaping rules for homeowners take root in Edmonton


What has that tree done for you lately? The answer is, a lot.

When you think of some of Edmonton’s best neighbourhoods, what characteristics come to mind? The road, the sidewalk, the different houses… anything else?

Have you ever walked through a neighbourhood filled with trees and shrubs? Have you walked through one without? There’s a difference.

Trees aren’t just nice to look at. While they are beautiful, they also offer many important benefits beyond what first meets the eye. The physical and psychological benefits of urban trees are numerous. They give life to urban spaces, help clean our air, offer shade and privacy, provide natural drainage support and water retention – the list goes on. Those fortunate enough to live in communities where there is an established tree canopy tend to walk the neighbourhood more too. Humans are literally hardwired to be around them.

Edmonton is home to the largest stretch of urban parkland in Canada. That’s something that makes us unique and it’s not by accident. Edmonton made a deliberate decision several years ago to maintain our sprawling green spaces along the river valley because Edmontonians value our connection with our environment. That sentiment spills over into our neighbourhoods too. It came out loud and clear when the City consulted Edmontonians on The Way We Green (The City’s Environmental Strategic Plan) and The Way We Grow (The City’s Municipal Development Plan).

Trees are important to Edmontonians and they are a key part of Edmonton’s character. That’s one of the reasons why City Council asked City staff in August 2015 to start looking at changes to landscaping regulations and added a request for an incentive to protect mature trees in November. The challenge for City staff working on the project was determining which approach, incentives or bylaws could strike the right balance between owner’s development rights and tree retention. So, they started by asking homeowners for their thoughts.

An open house was held on December 8, 2015, stakeholders in attendance supported two actions:

  • the Zoning Bylaw should set out requirements for the number of trees and shrubs in all low density residential zones
  • the City should use its resources and authority to maximize mature tree preservation

Over one thousand residents also participated in two online surveys about the bylaw changes:

Armed with this feedback and other research, planners worked diligently over several months to draft amendments to the existing bylaw, which were presented to Council at a public hearing on June 27, 2016. Council passed the bylaw amendments to change landscaping requirements across the City for any new homes. The changes have now taken effect and it’s good news for greening Edmonton.

The changes also work to address infill concerns as preserved mature trees can now be credited towards the new minimum landscaping requirements, rather than being cut down. Before this, there were no tree and shrub planting requirements in place for new homes and no formal incentive to work around existing trees when building new homes. The new incentive program is paired with information and planting suggestions meant to help educate developers and homeowners on the benefits and value of retaining trees. There is also a new mandatory form required for infill development which clearly outlines laws and expected construction practices.

Now, as Edmonton continues to grow, we know that measures are in place to have consistently green neighbourhoods, while working to preserve the amazing trees that make Edmonton the place we know and love to call home.

New Landscaping Requirements

All new low-density residential homes in the RF1, RF2, RF3, and RSL zones are now required to plant trees and shrubs according to the table below.

Copy of Trees Chart_300

Incentives to Retain Trees

Copy of Tree Chart02-300

When applying for a development permit to construct a new home, submit a site plan listing the following:

  • Existing trees (if applicable)
  • Number, size and type of new and preserved trees
  • Seed/sod or alternative ground cover

Please visit edmonton.ca/treeplantingrequirements for more information.