Protestors cut short tree felling

Stintz joins angry neighbours to block tree removal at Chatsworth development site

The site of a proposed condominium development at 41 Chatsworth Dr. became the scene of an impromptu protest on a snowy Feb. 1, when a group of neighbours and local councillor Karen Stintz converged there to find out why a subcontractor was unexpectedly removing old-growth trees from the edge of the adjacent ravine.

“I saw the trees swinging, and a big steam shovel taking them down and thought, that’s wrong,” said local resident Stephen Gallay, who said he was awakened by the equipment at 7 a.m. and went to join the protest.

The site, southwest of Yonge Street and Lawrence Avenue West, saw demolition of the Fifth Church of Christ Scientist building in December to make way for a six-storey, 114-unit condo.

According to city senior planner Cathie Ferguson, demolition contractor Balder Corp., acting on behalf of an undisclosed developer, filed applications in December for amendments to both the city’s Official Plan and zoning bylaws to allow for construction of the condo.

Chatsworth is designated a neighbourhood zone in the Official Plan, capping the height of new structures at four storeys. Ferguson said the applicant asked for an amendment to allow for six storeys but had not proposed a change of designation.

A worker on site on Feb. 1 identified himself to the Town Crier as an employee of Lions Disposal, Excavation and Demolition and said his company was subcontracted by Balder Corp., but would not comment on the activity or the protest.

When Stintz was called in she asked workers to show her the permit for clearing the trees. The Ward 16 councillor says she advised them to stop when they couldn’t produce one.

Stintz said when workers began removing stumps and debris left by the cutting that had taken place the protestors formed a blockade.

“We blocked exits so that the trucks couldn’t remove the trees, and involved the police so the police could come and see what was happening,” she said. “These trees had been taken down without a permit, and that’s not allowed.”

“The developers clearly aren’t respecting this city’s zoning bylaws when it comes to removing trees,” argued Belinda Karsen, part of a core group of about eight still there when the gathering dissipated shortly before 2 p.m.

Sgt. Dave Eustace, out of 53 Division, said Lions workers had instructions to clear the area of debris, “including organic materials.” He called in Parks, Recreation and Forestry officials for advice on possible city bylaw infractions.

Forestry foreperson Tony Lucey arrived to document what had taken place.

Earl Provost, deputy mayor Norm Kelly’s chief of staff, came for a look-see as the protest was winding down but did not comment.

At press time it remained unclear whether a portion of the land was designated ravine land, as the protestors believed.

Gallay said they were told “bad” trees were being cut on the advice of the architect because their branches “could fall and hurt children.”

“We’d like to see if any of this process actually happened, because I don’t believe it did,” he said. “History would suggest it doesn’t happen on a Saturday morning at 7 o’clock.”

— With files from Dan Hoddinott and Shawn Star

About this article:

By: Eric Emin Wood
Posted: Feb 4 2014 1:01 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto