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Markham axes residents' requests to remove trees from own property
March 12, 2015
By Laura Finney

Three trees on local residential properties have been saved by Markham council.

One of the trees is an 80-year-old American elm, something that is very rare in Markham because of Dutch elm disease.

“Less than 2 per cent of trees in Markham are actually American elms,” said Brenda Librecz, Commissioner of Community & Fire Services during the March 10 council meeting.

The 80-year-old tree is on a residential property on Orchard Street in Markham Village.

It is approximately 82 feet tall, is healthy and it is structurally sound, said Librecz.

“You would almost call this a prize tree” she said, and added in other municipalities it could be designated a heritage tree. “We don’t have that classification, but this certainly would be one because of the size of it and because of the Dutch elm issues (Dutch elm disease devastated elm trees in Ontario and elsewhere).”

She said it is an asset to the community because it is the equivalent of 100 new trees to the overall canopy. And it can potentially be used as a future source for repopulation.

“It’s a beautiful tree,” said deputy mayor Jack Heath, and many other councilors agreed. Heath also said many community residents want the tree to stay.

Councillor Amanda Collucci said in addition to the benefits of the tree, for insurance purposes it adds $3,600 to the property, and has the cooling effect of five air conditioning units.

The property owners wanted the tree removed because they are rebuilding a home on the property.

But the recommendation from the Licensing Committee Hearing on Feb. 24 was to deny the request under the city’s tree bylaw, which requires city permission to cut down larger trees.

Librecz admitted it’s an unusual case, but staff has worked with the homeowners to make compromises to keep the tree, waive fees and get any work done as quickly as possible.

While Councillor Karen Rea was supportive if the homeowners and neighbours were happy, she later asked if city council would ask developers to make compromises for trees on their properties.

“We allow developers to cut down every single tree when they purchase property,” she said.

One of the homeowners was at the council meeting and he said the home was purchased in “as is” condition two years ago, and it has taken that long to get things going.

Their family is growing, and they are eager to get work done.

“The tree seems to be more important to the city than it does to us,” he said. “We are building from scratch, we’re open to this compromise, but we are not attached to the tree as much as everyone else seems to be.”

Council voted to deny the request to remove the tree and waive the committee of adjustment fees.

A second request was for two trees on a property located Wrenwood Court

The two blue spruce trees are in good condition, according to Librecz.

The homeowners wanted the trees removed because they blocked views, and they had planted another tree with the expectation that the spruces would be removed.

But the licensing committee also recommended these trees not be cut down.

“The staff have indicated the loss of the tree in the urban canopy, after cutting down close to 9,000 trees as a result of emerald ash borer, is concerning,” she said. “We are losing our canopy very rapidly and it’s very difficult to replace.”

Council voted to keep the trees, but to help the homeowners with pruning.