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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Severance plan could mean loss of old trees
Resident Keith Kennedy lists a few concerns he has for the proposed severance, among them impacts on the old trees on the lot. EVAN LOREE

Residents are not ready to say goodbye to trees in one Old Town neighbourhood.

A handful of people voiced some opposition to a request from custom home builder Dave Funk to make two lots out of one at 474 Simcoe St. at a council meeting Nov. 7.

Before he can demolish the existing house and build two new ones, the lot needs to be severed and rezoned.

That was the request before council.

Several residents, and some councillors, raised concerns that when the existing house comes down to make room for two new ones it will mean the death of healthy and well-established trees on the lot.

“In that block, those trees, they really form lots of shade. And they’re really mature,” said Coun. Wendy Cheropita.

Resident Keith Kennedy said larger trees store more carbon dioxide and do more to keep the air clean than small trees.

“The bigger the tree gets, the better it is for climate,” he said.

He voiced concerns about how the tree loss would impact water drainage in the area. 

William Heikoop, a planner representing Funk, said eight trees would need to be removed for the project to go forward. Three of them are in the front yard.

Heikoop said he and his team could revisit their tree protection plan when designing the driveways for the two homes. 

The oldest tree is 102 years old, according to an arborist report submitted with the planning application.

Resident Stuart McCormack said the town has an obligation under its official plan to preserve healthy trees. 

“Existing trees must not be unnecessarily removed and that wherever possible existing trees should be preserved and protected,” the official plan states.

The plan also states that when trees “must be removed,” new ones should be planted to replace them. 

“This proposal maximizes tree loss,” McCormack said.

This was an environmental issue for Simcoe Street resident Beatrice Ombuki-Berman.

Canada is getting warmer and she’s seeing less snow than she used to.

“Due to climate change, we all have to care,” Ombuki-Berman said.

Coun. Maria Mavridis said some of the neighbouring houses were new and trees had been cut down to make way for them in the past.

“It was OK then but not OK now?” she asked.

Head planner Kirsten McCauley said each application is reviewed on its own merits and surrounding properties are considered as part of the review.

McCormack also said the proposal to split the lot is a classic case of an owner wanting to “make not more money, but the most money” on a property.

This elicited applause from the audience.

It’s not council’s responsibility to help developers maximize profits on their investments, he argued.

The two new houses would be “sticking out like sore thumbs” if they are built, he added. 

Resident Barry Solomon also objected to what he saw as developers taking “no interest in the people who are going to be living looking at the structures they make.”

He and Ombuki-Berman both took issue with the lack of architectural drawings submitted with Funk’s severance application.

“Why is that information is being hid from us?” Ombuki-Berman asked.

She suggested it’s because the owner doesn’t want people to see the potential “damage” from the planned houses. 

Heikoop said he had no drawings to share because there are no buyers for the future lots yet and the homes would be custom-built. 

The request to sever the lot would come with a later application, Heikoop explained.

But in the meantime, he is asking for zoning changes that would allow the builder to make homes with 36 per cent lot coverage instead of 33 per cent. 

He said this would allow the builder to install decks and covered porches.

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