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Biodiversity : Development News

8 Biodiversity Articles | Page:

Council votes for tougher enforcement of tree violations, less notice for tree removal

Earlier this month, City Council backed revisions to Toronto’s tree by-laws to improve enforcement and transparency, and to provide better, faster customer service.

The by-laws that protect trees on city property and privately owned trees of a certain size were last amended in 2011. The revisions would change how fees applied when a possible contravention of the by-laws takes place.

“The collection of fees will serve as a deterrent and make the contravention inspection process more equitable and efficient,” states the staff report. “Since the creation of the tree by-laws, their administration has been primarily based on an educational and compliance model. As a result, thousands of property owners, developers and builders have been educated on the importance of protecting and enhancing the city's urban forest. While most individuals respect and follow the tree by-laws, numerous contraventions are reported and investigated each year. Urban Forestry is aware of increasing community expectation that enhanced enforcement activities should be utilized as a tool to improve tree protection.”

Urban Forestry would have more clout in ordering that contravening activity be stopped or that work be done to correct the contravention. “Urban Forestry can also take legal action and pursue prosecution when warranted by the magnitude of the contravention.”

Urban Forestry issues approximately 5,600 permits annually, generating revenue of about $1.13 million. Although the changes are intended to improve response times and compliance, the staff report says the proposed amendments will not have an impact on total revenue. Organizations like the Swansea Area Ratepayers group have expressed concern about the new rates.

The action item would fine-tune several other regulations and policies regarding trees. For example, it would make by-laws more explicit about the definition of a “boundary tree” whose trunk crosses one or more property line, eliminate the need to post notices of application to injure healthy trees (notice will still be posted for the removal of trees), require that replacement trees be maintained in good condition for two years after planting, require that replacement trees that die or are in poor condition within two years shall be replaced and eliminate the current permit exception for injuring or destroying a tree for the purpose of erecting a fence. “In most cases a fence can be erected while protecting trees. Amendments are proposed that will eliminate this exception and require property owners to submit an application when a fence will be erected and trees may be injured or removed,” states the report.

Some community groups have expressed concern about reduce the notice process in “as of right” applications. “Basically, the recommendation would neuter councillors,” Jim Baker, president of the Avenue Road Eglinton Community Association, wrote to council. “It would make councillors the brunt of the public’s ire when the public becomes aware that a mature tree has been approved to be removed with just one day’s notice to the public advising of the approval.
Presently reducing the notice period from 14 days to 0 days is a substantive shift in the process.”

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City of Toronto

Leslie Spit wetland creation project hits new milestone

A long-term plan to create wetland habitat on the Leslie Street Spit, also known as Tommy Thompson Park, hits a milestone this month, as contaminated materials on the site are capped by clean material that will provide a foundation for the plants and vegetation that provide home for a range of fish, birds and wildlife.
 
In 2007, a seven-hectare area called Cell 1 was completed and currently provides a habitat for marsh birds, including nesting common terns, turtles, amphibians, small mammals and native fish in areas that were used as confined disposal. Work on the area known as Cell 2, which is about nine hectares, started late last year. A layer of soil and clay is being created with about 21,500 truckloads of excavated material to make sure the underlying contaminated material is biologically unavailable.  Rock and wood will also shape the landscape.

One of the project’s challenges is making sure the layers of soil have the right elevation relative to the water levels of Lake Ontario. “The vegetation that is within the wetlands is driven by water,” says Karen McDonald, project manager with Restoration and Infrastructure Services at Toronto and Region Conservation Autority (TRCA). “Water levels within the Great Lakes are managed, and the management doesn’t necessarily facilitate the development of coastal wetlands. The lakes are managed for ships, not necessarily for habitat.”
 
While there is a detailed plan for how the wetlands should look, materials and site conditions will drive the work. Right now, dump trucks and bulldozers are the main tools for shaping the wetlands, with excavation continuing until things are frozen hard over the winter. In the spring, the living components of the wetlands will be added to the landscape.
 
“It’s basically gardening in water,” says McDonald. “We’ll be installing aquatic vegetation like potted plant material, native cattails, bulrushes and bur-reed into the completed area and then letting nature do the rest.”
 
One big surprise came in July when workers discovered Asian grass carp, an invasive species that’s not particularly welcome in the wetlands, in one of the contained ponds.
 
The Leslie spit’s job as a disposal site isn’t yet over. The final cell, called Cell 3, continues to be used for dredged materials, with approximately 30 to 40 years of capacity remaining.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Karen McDonald

Adi Development's Link2 brings an urban vibe to suburban Burlington

Burlington is not the first city—or perhaps even the 100th—that comes to mind when you think of contemporary design or urban density. That’s been changing slowly. Long seen as a bedroom community of housing loops sprawling between Oakville and Hamilton, Burlington is considered to be built out as far as it should go, especially considering how closely the city rubs against Ontario’s protected Greenbelt. But, in the last few years, the city has been working to urbanize its downtown core and increase residential density to make Burlington more walkable and amenable to transit.
 
This means that the timing’s been right for Burlington-based Adi Development Group to make a splash. When the group  launched in 2007, it brought a far more urban sensibility than the city was used to. But in 2015, Burlington is quickly catching up.
 
“The market has finally departed from the old sloped-roof, siding and brick stuff and is looking for new design-driven development,” says CEO Tariq Adi, who runs the business with brother Saud, who is COO.
 
With 143 units, their new Link2 Condominiums and Lofts project at Dundas West and Sutton breaks ground with a neighbourhood party this week. Named for the bridges that connect a series of six-storey buildings, the links allow the amenities to be centralized and also hide some of the driveways from view.
 
But more interesting is the way the project, designed by Toronto’s RAW Design, reimagines a pretty banal suburban corner as something of a hub. Though it’s next door to a cookie-cutter subdivision of single-family homes, Link2 makes a virtue of not only being close to Highway 407, but walking distance to a school, shopping (it will have its own commercial space at street level) and Bronte Creek Provincial Park. The three-acre property backs onto the protected green space, which required special consideration in design and construction.
 
“We had to create a buffer because it’s an environmentally protected zone,” says Adi. “We had to be careful with our lighting not to disturb the natural habitat that’s currently in the creek—birds, insects or even plant life. We had to work with conservation to create that point of demarcation.”
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Tariq Adi

Matador Ballroom headed for potential heritage designation

As the owner of the Matador Ballroom on Dovercourt Road renovates the legendary location, Toronto City Council has adopted a couple of motions that throw wrinkles into what might happen at the property.
 
Last year owner Paul McCaughey told media he was planning to turn the former music venue, which he had bought in 2012, into a high-end event space. The property was built in 1915 and for decades was used as an assembly hall with residential space on the second floor. As the Matador Club starting in 1964, the venue hosted the likes of Johnny Cash, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. By the time the Matador closed in 2007, it was known as an after-hours club.
 
This spring city council voted to advise the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario that issuing a liquor licence for the Matador, “is not in the public interest having regard to the needs and wishes of the residents, and that the registrar should issue a Proposal to Review the liquor licence application,” reads the backgrounder on the motion brought forward by Ward 18 Councillor Ana Bailão. “Neighbouring residents and the local councillor’s office are concerned that the operation of a licenced entertainment facility, including, but not limited to a concert hall and special event facility with a capacity of 804 patrons will negatively impact neighbouring residents.”
 
Meanwhile, Bailão also successfully got a motion adopted to have the city move to designate the property as a heritage building.
 
“The building features a beautiful interior that was recently discovered as part of renovation work by the current owner,” states the backgrounder. “The local community is aware of these unique heritage characteristics and would like to ensure that the historical richness of this property is protected, regardless of future change of use and/or development,” states the motion.
 
The Director of Urban Design will evaluate the property for potential inclusion in the city’s Heritage Registrar and report back to the Preservation Board and Toronto and East York Community Council.
 
At one point, just after the Matador closed, the city considered expropriating the property, demolishing it and turning it into a parking lot.
 
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: City Council

Landscape architects to discuss master plan for Toronto's ravines

Toronto's ravines take up 10 times the amount of acreage of Manhattan's entire park system. And given that Manhattan and Toronto have roughly the same daytime population - about 3 million — we have a lot of grass to frolic in.

But the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority doesn't think we're taking full advantage of this aspect of the urban ecosystem.

"We have all these wonderful ravines running through our city and a lot of people don't know they're there," says Steven Heuchert, the TRCA's senior manager of planning and development.

Though he thinks the city's done "a pretty good job" of keeping the system reasonably natural, Heuchert thinks the next step is incorporation the ravines into the city, and the city into the ravines.

"For example, a lot of entrances to these ravines are nothing more than a little pathway put there to accommodate some sort of infrastructure," he says. "There may be a pipe there and maintenance people need to get in to work on the pipe, but we don't make these things generally accessible to the public."

Heuchert gave a talk on Oct. 9, hosted by the TRCA, on his thoughts about where the ravines have come from, and where they ought to be going to. It was part of a series of talks in the Ravine Portal exhibition that will be continued tomorrow night by the landscape architects of the Lower Don Master Plan, which Heuchert says puts into practice on a relatively small scale the ideas he thinks should be extended to the entire ravine system.

"The Lower Don Master Plan and the work that Evergreen is doing to try to connect their site into the city a little better are good examples of what I was speaking to in my presentation," Heuchert says, "looking at design solutions to make people recognize that the ravines are there, getting them in in a co-ordinated fashion."

Tomorrow's talk, titled "Possible Futures," will include Seana Irvine, Chief Operating Officer of Evergreen, with Bryce Miranda and Brent Raymond, landscape architects and partners at DTAH.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Steven Heuchert

Ontario Place considering new park

The first step in the reimagining of what was once Ontario Place is underway, and the province is presenting its initial ideas to the public on the 22nd.

This is the second of four planned public meetings on the subject. The first, in early December, introduced interested folks to the design team.

The first phase of a multi-year redevelopment, according to an announcement the province made in June, will be a new park and waterfront trail.

"The new public space will be open and accessible to Ontarians, creating much-needed green space and access to the waterfront," says Charles Millett, a manager with the communications branch of the Ontario government. "The new park and trail will serve as an anchor for future development on the rest of the site."

The consultations will continue through the spring, at which point a decision will be made as to what, exactly, will be done.

"Engaging with Ontarians on the park design is a priority for us," Millet says. "The design process for the park will be collaborative to ensure that Ontarians’ ideas and comments are reflected in the final design."

The current goal is to have the park and trail completed by 2015.

And what then?

"The scale and complexity of this project means that it needs to be completed in phases to ensure the transformation is done in the best possible way," says Millett. "It is too early to say what the next phase of revitalization will include. The new public park and waterfront trail will serve as an anchor for future development on the site."

Writer; Bert Archer
Source: Charlene Millett

Photo by Tanja-Tiziana.

Tommy Thompson Park gets three new buildings

Three small buildings opened on Leslie Spit last week, giving an air of permanence and purpose to what’s been called an accidental urban wilderness.

According to James Roche, director of parks, design and construction at Waterfront Toronto, the spit was created as a breakwater for the outer harbour, part of a shipping plan for the Port of Toronto that was made obsolete before it was completed by the development of container ships.

Since the 1950s, it has been a dumping ground for building materials, and has grown into a multi-armed agglomeration that over the years has cultivated its own ecosystem.

"A lot of different species of animals live there now," Roche says, "and it’s a very important flyover stop for birds going to South America."

The three buildings -- a staff booth, an environmental shelter and a bird-banding hut -- are an attempt to make official the casual uses it's been put to. The staff booth will serve as a monitored entryway, enforcing the park's hours. The environmental hut will be a sort of interpretive centre, with information about the spit and its species, that also serves as a way to get out of the sun, rain or snow. The bird-banding hut will centralize the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s efforts in that area, just in time for the Tommy Thompson Spring Bird Festival on Saturday.

Work started on the project in the fall of 2010, and Roche says the entire project, including a spiffing up of several kilometres of walking and bike paths, cost $8 million.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: James Roche

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.

Glen Stewart Ravine reclamation work completed

Reclamation and preservation work on one of the city's most ecologically diverse habitats is now more or less complete.

Over the years, the ravine became a popular dog-walking spot, which caused a lot of damage to the plants, as well as considerable erosion of the sloping topography.

Work to shore up and reclaim the area began in September, and included the building of a 114-step staircase and a 120-metre boardwalk. A fenced in off-leash dog area has also been marked out, to contain both canine and human activity in the area.

The Glen Stewart Ravine, which runs from Kingston Road down to Pine Glen Road between Glen Manor Drive and Balsam, not only provides one of the city's most idyllically scenic post, it is also 11 hectares of tree canopy. Because of its combination of dry and very damp terrain, it is one of the only places in the GTA to be home to such a wide variety of flora.

"In this place, there's groundwater seepage," says Ruthanne Henry, an urban forestry planner with the city, "so there are a lot of plants that like saturated roots, plants that attract butterflies, which are a naturally deterrent to poison ivy, for example." She says there are four species of tree in the ravine that are considered rare, including white oak and red oak.

Once the groundwork is completed this week, 250 herbaceous plants will be planted in the retaining structure along the slopes to prevent further erosion, part of a total of 3,300 plants being put in this month which, Henry says, "need your protection from trampling."

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Ruthanne Henry

Do you know of a new building going up, a business expanding or being renovated, a park in the works or even a new house being built in the neighbourhood? Please send your development news tips to bert@yongestreetmedia.ca.

8 Biodiversity Articles | Page:
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