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Dallas Road tree removed despite residents' pleas

The Week, May 10: Dallas Road loses another tree, while Oak Bay finds itself in hot water
This was the last residents would see of the old house and tree at 408 Dallas; both have now been removed.

Don’t worry — it wasn’t a meteor, but the new pockmark on Dallas Road is hard to miss. Yet it’s not the gaping hole in the ground or the relocation of an old heritage building that has residents upset — it’s the removal of a favoured old elm tree, now just a stump in front of that scar.

Despite neighbourhood pleas and one woman who took the complaints all the way to city council, the 80-year-old elm tree situated on city property in front of 408 Dallas Road has been removed. Susan Enefer, who spearheaded a campaign to save the tree back in March, went before council a week ago to “beg” them to use their power to save one of the last trees on the strip. Early last month, Enefer tied the tree in yellow ribbons with a “Please Do Not Cut” sign and asked neighbours to write in their concerns to council.

Then, five days later on April 30, the city’s chain saws came out and the tree came down. Enefer says she and neighbours watched from the sidelines with tears in their eyes as the tree was removed. Some, including Enefer, rolled slices of the trunk into their yards for memorial sake.

“I feel really let down by what I thought could be a fair community process — and it really wasn’t like that,” she says. “All but one council member really just dismissed me and basically said it’s a done deal. To me, it seems like something is not being said here.”

While there were no official requests to remove the tree when Monday covered the issue in April, Jarret Matanowitsch, acting assistant director to the City of Victoria’s Planning and Development department, says that the proposal was receive and approved at the end of last month. The applicant who owns the property, Don Mann Excavating Ltd., hired an arbourist who filed a report with the city stating that the tree was “unhealthy” and would not survive the construction needed. Council approved the application. Matanowitsch says the city did received compensation from the applicant to replant a tree in another location, as is usual with the removal process. He did not know if a tree would be planted in the same spot.

“There are not many trees along that strip of Dallas Road. I’ve been told they have a history of disappearing, because the residents want their views,” says Matanowitsch, who added that was not a factor in the decision about the elm tree. “Removing the tree was the conclusion the city deemed to be the safest option in this case, and would aid in saving the house.”

Don Mann President Steve Mann says the company has not yet received its building permit to create the proposed set of townhouses slated for the site. However, he says the decision to remove the tree was tied to getting the building safely off site so it could be salvaged instead of ending up in Hartland Landfill.

“As far as we heard, only one woman was upset about the tree being removed, but a lot more are happy to see this house saved. Council said it was worth sacrificing the city’s one tree for this, and we agree,” says Mann. “We are planning on having some trees in our building proposal on the site as well.”

The heritage building itself was removed from the site on Monday, May 7, by Nickel Bros Structural Movers, to be restored to a location up Island. A sign posted on the building boasted “40 trees were saved” by preserving the house. For those who missed the substantial feat, the move was filmed by the HGTV show Massive Moves to be aired on a future episode.

At the removal, a representative from Nickel Bros said the company could have worked around the tree — they’ve navigated through worse.

“It amazed me how well Nickel Bros was able to remove the house; it was quite something to see,” says Enefer. “They wove their way around lampposts and other trees without so much as a bump.”

Water, water everywhere

Oak Bay municipality is coming under some heat from residents after allowing a burst city water main to run all weekend long, draining an undetermined amount of city drinking water.

The burst main was reported after hours at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 4. Oak Bay Superintendent of Public Works Phil Barnett says a worker immediately addressed the issue by turning down the water pressure of the main, but could not turn it off completely without affecting residents in the area. He says that the decision to allow the water to run all weekend was a conscious one.

“Water’s cheap — it cost way less to let the burst pipe run all weekend than it did to have our workers come out on double overtime to fix it,” Barnett says. “Plus, it was draining into the beach, it wasn’t hurting anyone.”

Barnett says the main took four hours to fix on Monday morning, and involved “a truck, backhoe and three workers.” The city does not have an estimate of how much water was lost. M