Neighbours feel betrayed by city after mature maple tree cut down

The city issued a special permit for a mature maple tree to be taken down despite pressure for neighbours and a promise from the developer to protect it.

The infill developer had told city committee tree would be able to stay on Connaught Avenue

Joanne Roulston has lived next to this lot for 17 years and she was part of the effort to save the mature maple tree in the front yard. She said neighbours feel 'betrayed' by the city, which allowed it to be taken down. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The city issued a special permit for a mature maple tree to be taken down despite pressure from neighbours and what they say was a promise from the developer to protect it.

On Wednesday, residents on Connaught Avenue found out the tree was coming down. Now it lies in pieces on the front lawn of 859 Connaught Ave.

The developer is building an infill townhouse, and neighbours had expressed concerns that a mature maple tree on the lot — likely around 70 years old — would be felled during construction.

Joanne Roulston has lived next door to the property for 17 years. She was among the neighbours who spoke at the committee of adjustment and saw the developer's promise to protect the tree noted in the minutes.

"We thought we had a deal with the city and with the developer," Roulston said.

Roulston said she watched the developer work around the maple tree for both demolition and construction. She also called bylaw when she was worried digging had come too close to the tree — and the developer co-operated.

"As far as I'm concerned, the neighbours and the developer, we did our part. It's the city that failed us on this one."

Lack of communication

Bay Coun. Theresa Kavanagh said the city approved a special permit to take down the mature tree because it was blocking connections to city services.

"They may have had very good reasons to do it, but that was not communicated to people at all. They were under the impression the trees could be saved. Of course they're angry," Kavanagh said.

 "I'm very frustrated. I wish I could glue the tree back and put it back."

Bay ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh said neighbours expected the tree to be saved and were not given any explanation as to why it was cut down. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The city said there was no planning agreement in place for the property.

In a written statement from the forestry department, they said the developer made the request to remove the private tree and city staff verified the recommendations of the developer's arborist. The permit was issued on Feb. 11.

A representative for the developer, MJ Perfectus, declined to comment.

Matter of trust

Kavanagh said the lack of communication corrodes faith in the system, something that's especially a problem as the city drafts its new master plan.

"If we want to be trusted, we have to do the right thing and make sure people know what's going on and not just leave it to chance," she said.

Developer MJ Perfectus kept the tree up during demolition and construction on the lot, but it was taken down earlier this week. The developer declined CBC's request for comment. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Roulston said she is worried about the effect this kind of decision making will have on the environment, the tree canopy and the feel of her neighbourhood. 

She said it also calls into question why the community should participate in city processes when the city doesn't enforce its commitments.

"This neighbourhood is going to have a lot of development with the [LRT] trains coming in behind us," she said. "There's a lot of work to be done that needs the co-operation of the neighbours and the developers and the city."