Iconic Long Branch Maple May Be Cut Soon To Make Way For A New Home
The fate of a silver maple that some residents say is among Long Branch’s oldest trees is now in the hands of a local planning body – and it could soon be cut down if a local owner gets the green light .
The Black Barn Maple, located in a backyard on James Street in the West End of Toronto, will be pulled down if the owner’s request to redevelop his property is approved by the Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB), a decision that could come in at any time.
“It would be a huge loss to the area if this tree were unfortunately felled,” said Sheila Carmichael of the Black Barn Maple Committee. Groups of residents say the tree is 160 years old – a claim disputed by the owner.
“It adds to everything we consider special about Long Branch. It has become a rallying point for a lot of people,” added Carmichael.
Adding to the controversy is a letter the owner’s lawyer sent to local residents as well as others who were involved in the fight for the tree. Some of the maple advocates described the letter as intimidation and an attempt to silence opposition to the owner’s plans.
The eight-page letter sets out the owner’s claim that the silver maple is not as old as residents believe, nor is it considered a city-designated heritage tree, making it would protect from destruction.
Lawyer Mark Klaiman, who wrote the letter, said the tree was likely planted in the 1920s when the James Street house was built, not in 1860, as argued by the Long Branch Neighborhood Association (LBNA), which also wants the tree to be saved. .
He also wondered if the tree had heritage value for the community, as the association also claims.
But there is one passage in the letter that seems to have really angered the tree’s supporters.
“The owner will pursue all available civil remedies if an alleged appointment [of the maple as a protected heritage tree] is accepted or approved, ”the letter reads.
“These remedies include an injunction, an application for judicial review and a lawsuit for damages for the annihilation of the owner’s private property right to redevelop the property in question.”
‘I was dazzled’
One of the Long Branch Residents Association councilors, former Ontario Municipal Commission adjudicator Barbara Heidenreich, was so upset by the letter that she filed an objection with the Law Society of Ontario.
She described the letter as “pages of bullying, bullying … denigrating our credentials.
“I was blown away,” she said.
“To be honest, any form of intimidation of citizens trying to exercise their right to comment on something – it’s not appropriate. I was extremely angry,” she said.
But attorney Mark Klaiman says the letter is nothing more than “a professional courtesy”; let those who try to block his client’s project know what the owner’s position is.
“Ms. Heidenreich may have felt offended by the letter, but I can’t control what people think of letters a lawyer sends to anyone,” Klaiman told CBC Toronto.
“The way they react is the way they react. All I can do is represent my client’s interests.”
As for the complaint to the bar, Klaiman says he heard nothing from it.
A spokesperson for the Bar said information about complaints and investigations remains confidential unless it leads to a public hearing, which in this case did not take place.
The controversy began about four years ago when the owner, who spoke only through Klaiman, requested a minor exemption to have the small house on the land demolished and replaced with a much larger structure.
That would mean cutting down the tree, which is right in his garden.
Although the city officially opposed the plan originally, an adjustment committee sided with the owner.
It was then that the neighborhood association appealed the committee’s decision to the TLAB.
The appeal was heard between February and April. A decision has yet to be rendered.
“It’s not that you can’t make a change,” Carmichael said. “But we are looking for a significant change.”
LBNA member Sandy Donald said the tree deserved protected status because it had meant so much to the community for so long.
He said an arborist from LBNA estimated the tree to be around 160 years old. It once grew near a long-destroyed black barn and was a landmark that travelers to the city from the west used to judge their proximity to Toronto.
If the owner’s request is approved, Donald said his group could have a final ace up their sleeve. He said the general manager of the city’s parks department had the power to unilaterally deny a request to cut a tree.
But in an email to CBC Toronto, city staff said no requests to destroy the tree had yet been received by the city.
“Always full of hope”
“If and when the City receives such a request, the City will consider the request taking into account the criteria set out in the tree bylaw and in accordance with its current policies and procedures,” the statement said.
But it seems likely that once received a request to destroy the tree, the city would not object.
Local councilor Mark Grimes said in a statement to CBC Toronto that he had “had countless meetings and explored all possible avenues to save this tree, but it is located on private property inside the ‘owner’s right building footprint, so the City is limited in what it can do legally.
“I still hope all this media attention and public pressure will encourage the owner to come up with a plan to save the tree,” the Grimes statement read.