A Scarborough city councillor is floating a controversial plan to cut down on the number of lawsuits the city faces, even if it means cutting down some trees.

At Tuesday's meeting of Scarborough community council, staff reported that almost 8,000 tripping hazards had been identified on Scarborough sidewalks last year — and more than a third of them were caused, at least in part, by overgrown tree roots causing the pavement to heave.

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City staff report Scarborough had about 8,000 hazardous sidewalk cracks last year. (City of Toronto)

Later, Coun. Jim Karygiannis, who represents Ward 39. Scarborough-Agincourt, suggested that in some cases those trees should be cut down and replaced with species that are less intrusive.

"No, no  and no," was the response of fellow Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre). "You can easily replace a sidewalk, level it, put in the new concrete and everything's fine. There really is no reason to ever remove a tree."

But Karygiannis, who said he raised the issue because a close family member suffered a badly broken leg after stumbling over a sidewalk crack, said people come first. 

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Scarborough Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker opposes the idea of sidestepping problems with heaved sidewalks by cutting down offending trees. (Mike Smee/CBC News)

It's not that I hate trees," he said. "It's just that I want to make sure pedestrians are safe when they come home at night."

Karygiannis said he'd rather use other measures to make sidewalks safer, such as using more resilient building materials, as staff suggested during Tuesday's meeting,  but he said the city should have the option of cutting down problem trees,

"I think if it's causing this kind of problem we have to find a solution and if they cannot be amended they have to be replaced with trees that are not as invasive."

He said he's concerned about how much heaving tree roots cost the city, not just in damage to the sidewalks, but in the lawsuits that result from people who trip over broken pavement.

Karygiannis asked staff to determine the number of lawsuits that have been filed by people who tripped over Scarborough's damaged sidewalks. and how much money it has cost the city over the past year.

They're expected to report on those numbers at next month's meeting of Scarborough's community council.