by Sheri Selway

You might have heard of BIG changes happening in our neighbourhood as new developments are planned and a new community is built on the piers on the northern end of our neighbourhood.   But changes are also happening WITHIN our neighbourhood.  Sometimes old houses are being fixed up and sometimes old houses are being torn down and new houses are built.

You might have received a notice in your mail about developments close to you, because usually, a builder or developer has to go to the “Committee of Adjustment” to get approval for changes that don’t quite fit into the current plans/bylaws.  If you live within 60 metres of the planned project, you will receive the notice with details of the proposed changes.  DO NOT IGNORE THE NOTICE.  You can make a difference.

My neighbours and I all received notices about the “old house on the hill” on Mary near Ferrie, which we knew as Betty’s old house.  Betty and her brother lived there together before he passed away several years ago. They grew up there along with a sister. Betty eventually was no longer able to live there alone.  The house was sold. The new owner planned to tear this old brick house down, and build 2 houses on the lot.  We worried about the old trees.

Several of us went to the Committee of Adjustment with our arguments.  We are not experts in planning bylaws, but we knew what worked on our street and what we wanted.  We did not oppose the new houses.  We did argue forcefully that putting 4 parking pads in front of the new houses  would harm current residents and the neighbourhood, as we all rely on street parking.  Our street parking more or less works.  We also argued strongly that we need trees for shade and air quality and the importance of the tree canopy.

The Committee must have liked our argument, because they allowed the builder to build 2 houses with 2 units in each house, with only 2 parking pads (by-law requires 1 pad per unit).  We met with the builder, shook hands and discussed which tree to cut down and which to save.

We were shocked to learn in March that BOTH trees would be cut down.  Earth Day weekend, I had to watch both trees be cut down!  The builder and the City (Forestry) agreed that the house could not be built and save the trees.  The builder explained he tried several plans to try to make it work.  In the end, the builder had to pay for the removal of the trees, has to pay compensation to the city for additional tree planting, and is required to plant 2 new trees.

None the less, it hurts…. a lot. I still miss those old trees.  So do many neighbours. I put the book, THE LORAX up in my window and put a sign on my front lawn. I met several people who dropped by to read my sign and talk.  Some students had great arguments “Don’t they know that trees clean our air?”

Although we lost the trees, we did win one thing.  The development is supposed to put in only 2 parking pads in the front (instead of 4).  Next time, I will ask for permeable parking pads, and ask for both parking pads to be together to make the sidewalk ramping easier on pedestrians.