Old elm on the chop after all

The Week: April 12-18 — Residents’ worst fears confirmed when a public forum alerts neighbours they may lose a favoured city tree

More than 20 residents showed up to a public forum at 408 Dallas Road last week to discuss the oncoming construction project and the fate of one old heritage tree.

Some residents’ worst fears were confirmed last week when a public forum alerted neighbours that a beloved old elm tree on city property will be on the chopping block to make way for a new development project slated for Dallas Road.

Last week, Monday reported on the 80-year-old tree that has seen locals lace its trunk with yellow ribbons and a “Please Do Not Cut” sign in mind of the oncoming demolition project, which will replace a now-condemned heritage building with a new townhouse development — if developers have their way.

Over 20 residents attended the forum held by Don Mann Excavating Ltd., who now has possession of the property, with questions ranging from building and landscaping plans to the old tree’s status. A representative stated that the tree would have to be removed to make way for the driveway and landscaping plans, and said that its root system runs too deep and would be too damaged by the construction to survive. While some residents parroted a desire to see the tree removed due to its encroaching root system and its age, multiple neighbours were visibly upset by the announcement.

“From what I heard at the forum, it seems clear that the tree does not have to go, it really doesn’t, and it would take very little effort on the part of the excavating company to save it,” says Susan Enefer, who was one of the first residents to draw awareness to the tree’s dilemma. “It would really take very little for all sides to be happy on this issue.”

Yet Jarret Matanowitsch, acting assistant director of the city’s Planning and Development department who has reviewed the application for 408 Dallas Road, says that the city will have the final say on the future of the tree and the development.

“Right now, the application still has to go through city council because the applicant has requested a height variance, meaning the proposed building would be taller than the allowed height limits in the area,” says Matanowitsch. “So if council approves that, we could see this all happen within the next six months, but if they don’t then it’s a moot point.”

Matanowitsch says review of the tree in question is part of the application process, as with any building application, and that, if requested, the company will have to pay for a city surveyor to assess the health and vitality of the tree. If it’s determined that the tree cannot survive the construction, it will be removed and a new tree will replace it, at the applicant’s expense, likely in an alternate location.

While there is a city bylaw that protects certain heritage trees, the tree must meet a specific circumference and other measures, which Matanowitsch says the tree on Dallas Road likely does not. Aside from assessing the health of the tree, Matanowitsch says the city will consider removing city trees that impede driveways or other immovable elements of development.

“Trees are very important to Victorians, and we try our best to protect all the boulevard trees we can,” says Matanowitsch. “If we can’t, we do replace them.” M

— With files from Tina Griffith

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