Attacks on Trees

It was a bad week for trees in Ottawa as the city was victim to two incidents of old trees being sacrificed for development. On Thursday, residents of Rodney Crescent in Alta Vista witnessed 50-year-old trees being abused and limbs being cut off in order to move a bungalow off a private residence. Rodney Crescent is a lovely little street, and some residents weren’t too happy about the actions of the house movers:

Margaret Buist, 55, who lives across the street, was concerned about the project and said she previously asked the city to send an arborist to monitor the move, but the first signs of trouble came around 12:30 p.m. as workers manoeuvred the truck carrying the home down the narrow street.

“It’s a beautiful, quiet, green neighbourhood with old mature trees and these neighbourhoods are rarer and rarer in the city,” she said, adding that many of the trees were planted in the 1950s when the subdivision was built.

When a city arborist arrived on scene shortly before 1:15 p.m., one of his first comments was that the situation seemed very unprofessional. His supervisor, who arrived on scene shortly after, refused to comment.

The Citizen‘s Andrew Nguyen tweeted a photo of the some of the wreckage:

Sadly, the owner of the property had good intentions; he is building a new home on the lot and didn’t want the old bungalow to become landfill, so he sold it. It is unfortunate that his attempt at conservation had some opposite effects. It also seems as though the moving company was less than honest with him about the process.

In a much more nefarious situation, Metcalfe Realty surreptitiously destroyed an old forest in Kanata. The forest was scheduled to be assessed for heritage status, but in a clear move to skirt the law, Metcalfe had their henchmen clearcut the middle of the forest, leaving tree cover at the property’s edge so as not to be detected. Neighbours heard the noise, but city officials could not respond in time to stop the destruction.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a developer destroy forests in an attempt to force development. It’s a clear it’s easier to seek forgiveness (or pay a token fine) than ask permission. Metcalfe can be fined up to $100,000 for their transgression, but that’s merely the cost of doing business. If it allows them to build a shiny new development, it’ll be worth it.

Clearly, the maximum fine isn’t enough. Perhaps a maximum fine of $100,000 per tree would be better. We should probably also repossess the land, whether it’s granted heritage status or not. Metcalfe clearly can’t be trusted.

Teron Road Development Update

At yesterday’s city council meeting, the proposed development at 1131 Teron Road was debated. It was originally on the planning committee’s docket two weeks ago, but it was decided that it would be tabled for two weeks while the founder of Beaverbrook, Bill Teron, could come up with a design that, well, he liked.

Two days ago, Teron presented his vision to the planning committee.

Of course, Teron isn’t a resident of Beaverbrook. He’s not the mayor of Kanata. And he’s not some noble lord who oversees a fiefdom a few kilometers west along the 417. But at city hall, he still holds considerable sway.

The only picture of Teron’s proposal that I saw was an aerial shot. Aerial shots can look pretty, and developers get to make pretty designs on a macro level, but they’re close to useless. No one uses or experiences a neighbourhood from the air. We experience from street level. So, without such a view, I cannot pass judgement on Teron’s proposal.

I will, however, pass judgement on Teron’s argument. First off, he should be afforded no special treatment by council, though he is. The maximum speaking time is supposed to be five minutes. Teron blew right through that, speaking for 15 minutes (to council’s credit, they allowed the developer to speak for 15 minutes, as well). There was a time Teron was a stakeholder in Beaverbrook, but no longer.

(Note: regardless of the merits of his proposal, it is laudable that Teron still cares this much about Beaverbrook.)

Next, the very basis of his argument undercuts his credibility on the matter. Teron continued to press the notion that the development should adhere to his vision of Kanata as a Garden City. But Kanata is not a Garden City. Garden Cities are self-sustaining. They were conceptualized to allow the working class a pleasant place to live. The green space around the city was to be used for agriculture to help feed the city.

Kanata is a garden suburb. It is the antithesis of the garden city. Kanata is not self-sustaining; despite some industry, it is still, primarily, a bedroom community. Industry and commerce do not intermingle with residences, and the green spaces–the gardens–work to separate neighbours, rather than enclose the community.

If Bill Teron wanted to create a Garden City, he failed. If he did not actually know what a Garden City is, he should not be considered an expert on urban development. Either way, his arguments are inherently compromised.

I don’t mean to pile onto Teron. His design may have been lovely, but he has no skin in the game, and his whims shouldn’t dictate what other people can do with their land. His adherence to a compromised vision shouldn’t prevent the city from being able to intensify within Kanata, a move that–either through increased transit use or demand for mix-use development–could mitigate the errors of this “Garden City”.

The planning committee, in the end, approved the development. Yesterday, it was debated at council. Kanata North councillor Marianne Wilkinson won a small conscession when the setback for the development was increased from three meters to six meters. This seems like a reasonable compromise between the developers plan, the city’s goals and the concerns of residents. Added greenery will help maintain whatever “garden” vision the neighbourhood has, but it won’t be at the expense of needed development.

Wilkinson has also graciously promised to not take the city to the OMB over this democratic decision.

Suburban Heritage

One bit of silliness that arose from development proposal for 1131 Teron Road:

[Kanata North Councilor Marianne Wilkinson] wants the Beaverbrook community to be formally declared a heritage district and the city to maintain the original “garden city” vision of the area.

First, Kanata is not a Garden City; it turned out a Garden Suburb, so it didn’t even adhere to its original vision.

Second, it is beyond ridiculous to suggest that a 50-year-old suburb deserves heritage status. It strips the word of all meaning.

Legacy Stakeholders

A proposed development in Kanata has hit a bit of a snag. The proposal for 1131 Teron Road calls for some rather tall buildings, and these buildings may not completely jibe with the overall vision of the neighbourhood. The city, treading carefully, has decided a little more reflection would be wise:

A decision on a proposed nine-storey building in Kanata was deferred Tuesday at planning committee for two weeks to give the community’s venerable founder Bill Teron time to design something nearby residents might like better.

Two quick thoughts:

1. Concerns of residents are important, but not paramount. Anecdotally, it seems that council is getting more interested in community consultations for development plans. This is a good trend. Residents of a neighbourhood are stakeholders in the project, even if they don’t own the land or won’t have their property directly affected by the development. A development that could have a radically negative impact on the life of the community should be undertaken with caution. Continue reading