Plan to cut down trees draws ire

[attach]3752[/attach]The Canadian Film Centre is facing some staunch criticism of their latest project, including from the new councillor representing the Bayview area.

Councillor Jaye Robinson and some residents of her ward are opposing the removal of seven trees on the centre’s grounds that will make way for renovations and development on the former E.P. Taylor estate.

The city’s forestry and recreation department approved the removal of the trees that surround an old pool and cabana that is currently in a state of disrepair.

To offset the removal of the trees, the centre has promised to plant 65 saplings on the property.

At a February North York community council meeting Robinson was the only councillor to vote against the removal of the trees.

“I was comfortable with the trees that were not healthy, those coming down,” Robinson said days later. “The trees that I’m concerned about are very healthy, mature heritage trees.”

The development plan calls for the felling of the trees to make room for an actors’ conservatory to be built at the centre.

If the plan does go through it will not be a happy ending for some local residents including Bill Samotie, who frequents the centre’s open grounds and whose house is located 12 metres from the planned development.

“You’re destroying a beautiful area,” Samotie said in an interview. “In the summer it will be like someone has stabbed this park in the heart.”

Samotie fears construction of the conservatory could cause damage to the apple orchard located at the rear of the property.

He has also been critical of councillor David Shiner who he says has pushed for this motion to be passed while at the same time is a member of the centre’s board of directors. Samotie has written to the Attorney General suggesting that there may be a conflict of interest. Nothing has happened as a result, he says.

Shiner contends that his volunteer, non-paid position as board member for the centre does not constitute a conflict of interest.

“I’ve been publicly appointed by the city of Toronto to act as a member of the board there,” Shiner said. “There’s not conflict of interest and I receive no personal benefit out of it.”

He describes the renovations and development as “a very, very quiet use of the space” that “doesn’t infringe on the neighbours in any way.”

Newbie councillor Robinson, who was elected this past October, admits she has come in halfway through the plan’s process but has tried to find compromises that will satisfy the concerns of her constituents and those of the city as a whole.

“My question to staff was could the plans not just be adjusted to accommodate the trees and the response at North York council was that wasn’t feasible,” Robinson said.

“What I think would have been a better approach is when the plans were developed for how they were going to expand that they looked at where the tree placement was and accommodated the trees.”

City council will hold a vote on March 8 to determine the final fate of the trees.