Clarification from the owner of 55 Delhi:
I understand from various conversations with city staff and others that a concern has been raised about the trees coming down at 55 Delhi. I would respectfully like to clarify the rationale behind this.
First, as you know, an arborist who visited the site in the fall of 2013 informed us that these trees were in decline and in danger of coming down. As a result of this report, we stated our intention to remove these trees. In fact, when inspecting these trees in April 2014, we had found that this severe winter had caused substantial additional damage to these trees. In fact, three of the trees had their trunks split and one of the large spruces had a major branch come down which took out a section of the core trunk. As a result, we made a determination that this was a health and safety issue and that these trees needed to come down immediately to secure the building and avoid any negligence on our part. Since the arborists report was public knowledge and should damage to the building occur, we felt that we could potentially be incurring liability for the damages which would not be covered by our insurance as we were aware of the problem and if we did nothing. In addition, since the trees were grouped much too close together and were choking each other to death, there was no possible way to simply remove the damaged trees while preserving the less damaged trees. Please note that we did NOT take down the healthy trees that were identified in the arborists report, but rather ONLY the declining and damaged trees which unfortunately were the most visible ones.
Secondly, since the council meeting in October 2013, we have been working closely with the neighbourhood group that was present at the council meeting and have had regular communications over the past six months. On December 17th, 2013, approximately 2 months after the original public meeting, I personally wrote to all the neighbours saying:
We will still need to remove most of the trees on the front as most of those trees are dying (we might be able to save
one or two). Our biggest concern is that some of the trees are leaning towards the building and could come crashing
down onto the building should we have a heavy wind or ice storm. If there are any concerns about this, I would be
happy to discuss this with you, show you our concerns while having a certified arborist present to answer any questions
you might have. Please note that along with the development, we will be replacing the trees that will need to be
removed with new trees, approximately 10-12 feet tall, so as to get an immediate effect on the property. Due to the
danger posed by some of these trees, we’d like to take them down sooner rather than later, so if there is a concern,
please let me know as soon as possible.
I received nothing but support from the neighbours including the following response from one of the neighbours, which was sent to all the other neighbours as well.
As far as cutting down the trees, I have no problem with that, particularly if they are going to be replaced with healthy,
attractive new trees. Many of the existing trees are old, and some are in very bad shape. They hide the building, and some
could damage your building (or Ed’s home) if they were to blow over. The issue for me (and others) was never the trees; it
was the prospect of a parking lot in the front yard. If you would like a local referral, many of us in the neighbourhood rely on
Ed Steel (Full Circle Tree Service) for that kind of work. He’s a good arborist, and his prices are reasonable.
Not only did we get the support of the neighbours, but we were also given the name of a local contractor to do the work.
On January 11th, 2014 I personally gave a tour of the building to approximately a dozen neighbours. During this visit, we showed them our revised landscape plans which showed that there would be no parking in the front other than the existing five spots. Again the issue of the existing trees came up and again there was widespread support for these trees coming down
On April 17th, 2014, I wrote another e-mail to the neighbours stating:
Third, we will be taking down the dead and dying trees around the building before the end of this month. We will also be
removing the bushes close to the building as the roots have penetrated through the mortar in the walls resulting in
water leaking into the building. We will however be replacing these trees with a beautiful aesthetic landscape that a
spectacular building of this age deserves. Our landscape architect will shortly begin to revise the original landscape
design to remove the parking lot and create a front-yard that would compliment this stunning building. At this time we
are thinking about a tree lined (starting with 6-12 feet tall trees), stonecobbled walkway, pillars at the entrance with
either mature bushes and/or a blackiron fence round the building. Once we have these plans created, I will happily send
them to you for your views/inputs.
Again, I received responses from EVERY neighbor present at the November 2013 public meeting and again I got nothing but support from this. For example, one of the responses I received was:
Thank you for this detailed update, Robert. No doubt everyone will be glad to hear that everything seems to be falling into
place (at last) with the City, the purchase of the rear parking lot, etc. For my part, I look forward to seeing the front yard
restored to its original grandeur! It will be nice to see that beautiful building come back to life.
I still waited another 3 ½ weeks before removing these trees so that everyone would have an opportunity to rethink this and raise any objections. So after 5 discussions over the past six months with all the neighbours who were present at the public meeting, we decided to remove these trees on Friday May 9th.
On May 9th, when the trees were being taken down, three of the immediate neighbours came out and observed the work being done. The comments we received were “Wow, this looks so much better” and “now you can actually see this beautiful building”. Again, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
Please note that I have sent copies of all the original e-mails quoted in this message to Michael Witmer as well as some of the approximately 30 email responses that I have received from the neighbours supporting this.
Third, the concern has been raised about who authorized the removal of these damaged trees. To clarify, we did contact the city previously regarding cutting down these trees and we were informed that since the property was less than 0.2 hectares, we would not require a permit for the removal of these trees. And so we did not make any application to remove these trees as we were told it was not necessary.
Finally, please note that it is our intention to replace these trees with a landscape that will complement a stunningly beautiful historical building such as this. We are currently envisioning a tree-lined walkway, shrubs around the perimeter and a stone walkway. While the plans have not been finalized, I am confident that once the final landscape plans are available and have been implemented, there will be widespread support for what we have done, as we will not only have restored the building to its original heritage state, but we will also have restored the landscape to the original 1910 design which we have been able to see from a photograph taken at that time. Please note that these trees were not from 1910 but rather were planted about 20-30 years ago, so in the 1980s to 1990s.
1) The neighbours were intensively consulted 5 times on this issue during the previous 6 months and not once, once the parking issue had been resolved, did I receive a single concern about these trees being removed
2) We had no choice but to remove these trees as a result of the additional damage caused this winter as it was a health and safety issue, which can be confirmed by the arborist who conducted the removal
3) We did not seek approval from the city as were told that it woul not be required
4) We will be replacing these trees with newer, healthy trees that will be properly planted to accentuate the beauty of this building
As a final note, I am surprised that there are now concerns being raised at this time as we have had extensive consultations with all the parties involved. I can only imagine that these concerns are being brought forward by individuals who are not directly connected with the project and that we are not aware of. However, that said, I sincerely apologize for any concern and/or distress that I may have been caused by our actions. RE