Hunt Club neighbours lose fight to save healthy oaks

Despite a concerted effort by one neighbour to stop the Hunt Club golf course from cutting down 41 oak trees on the club’s property, Mark Denington said he learned late last month that the Hunt Club’s permit to remove the trees was granted by the city and the trees are likely to be removed by the end of February.

But he said he’s not going to stop fighting their removal – and that he will be keeping an eye on the club and the city in the future should they try to remove more.

Denington’s backyard backs onto the private golf course and a large amount of the trees slated for removal are directly adjacent to his property. But his rally against the removal of the trees and disappointment with the permit stem from several reasons, he said, not just how he will be affected.

“It’s going to dramatically affect the environment on my property. We are nature lovers, we have wildlife that comes onto our property,” he said. “But this is not just about me. There is a much bigger picture here.”

Of concern, he said, is that the city appears to be more stringent with applications from private citizens to remove trees than it is with entities like the golf course.

“The city has very clear rules in place and if you as a homeowner were to apply to the city to cut down a healthy tree from your property …  if the city deems that they are healthy, they are really, really reluctant to cut it down unless there is a really good reason,” Denington said. “And the golf course’s reason is so they can grow better grass.

“Do I really give a rat’s ass if they have nice grass to play golf on? And should that be a good enough reason for them to not play by the rules that everyone else has to play by?”

Denington had hoped for intervention from his city councillor, or a public meeting.

Instead, Denington received correspondence from Ward 36 councillor Gary Crawford  stating that the club initially wanted to remove 200 trees.

“This figure comprised a combination of healthy and diseased trees as well as trees significantly damaged by the ice storm of 2013,” Crawford wrote in a letter dated Jan. 29, but released Jan. 26. “I’ve met with senior staff from Urban Forestry, SJM Arboricultural Consulting, and the General Manager of the Hunt Club. Together we have reduced the number of proposed Private Tree Bylaw removals on the golf course to 21 healthy trees, and 19 diseased or damaged trees.”

Crawford wrote that the Hunt Club has more than 3,000 trees on their 100-acre property and that he was told by the club’s general manager that the club has spent $30,000 on replanting since 2012.

“The Hunt Club also outlined their move toward a more environmentally responsible model than the typical approach to golf course management. In 2013 they initiated a turf replanting program which involves less watering, and significantly less pesticide and fertilizer use.”

In an email last week, Crawford said his office “received roughly 30 calls/emails regarding this application – the majority of which were in opposition, while some constituents were just looking for more information.”

A letter from Toronto Urban Forestry’s Mark Ventresca points to the application to remove 200 trees, and the final tally of 41 to be removed as an example of why the city has tree removal by-laws in place – “to prevent the unnecessary removal of trees.”

“The City recognizes that it is less than ideal to remove healthy trees,” he wrote. “The Hunt Club represents an impressive green space in the middle of an urban community. Urban Forestry met with Councillor Crawford, the Hunt Club’s general manager and property manager, and their consulting arborist to ensure that timed and strategic plantings occur which provide for the continuous health of the City’s tree canopy.”

But Denington isn’t convinced. He said that he is fine with the removal of unhealthy trees, but is skeptical of the golf course’s plans for healthy trees in the future.

“My fear is that this isn’t over,” he said.


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8 comments

I have been representing a number of my neighbors who will be directly affected by this action. I was the spokesperson for the group, not acting a an individual. There was much support from the community at large. It took forever to learn from Urban Forestry that golf courses do in fact get special dispensation for maintaining “green space”. Numbers and statistics where thrown around with abandon. For example, What percentage of the trees are in the wooded ravine area that flows down to Fallingbrook? Where are all the trees they say they have planted located? I have lived here since 1986. There have been no trees planted on the east side of the course during that time. If they had a responsible maintenance program unhealthy trees could have been cut and replaced over time not destroyed all at once. Those replacement trees could now be up to 30 years old. To the Hunt Club “green space” means grass.

Who are the people deciding on this? We all know the golf courses are terrible environmentally to begin with. Even more to the point of this news, this decision in no way reflects the rules that individual property owners are subject to – there seem to be two sets of rules in fact. Our neighbour has a very old oak tree that is causing damage to her retaining wall and the foundation of her house and she was denied permission to take it down. We can see from photos that since 2011 this tree has begun to lean at least a foot closer to the south of her property as well. She is being forced to accept all liability for this tree and is becoming very stressed by a potential disaster occurring if the entire tree or even one of the huge branches comes down and demolishes the houses, cars etc to the south or even if someone is severely injured or killed due to it. This in fact happened with a tree next to her property – half came down on a calm August night, no wind, no storm, the tree was just too old and turned out to be rotten in the middle. We have photos of this – 4 cars were written off, more were damaged, as well as hydro lines coming down and neighbours being without power for a couple of days. This made the news. The city said they would not cover ANY damages as the tree had been inspected 2 years before. Obviously, their inspection was not done properly. Do we have to wait for this to happen again? It has to be recognized that trees have a life span and even if considered…

Hi Gareth. I think it’s a a question of balance and knowledge.Some small business owners are so involved in the moment, that they seldom get their head up and look at the bigger pittrre.Ocheus, (and this is very common) seem unaware of the need to focus on the development of their business, until it’s too late. I get a LOT of emails form people, who waited until it was too late before taking the development of their business seriously.

In The Star coverage of this at http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/02/03/city-approval-for-felling-41-oaks-rankles-golf-course-neighbours.html it says the Hunt Club has agreed to plant 285 trees? I find this hard to believe – what type of trees, where will they be planted? Obviously they are not going to plant them in the middle of the fairways.

Somebody should follow up on this and get the specifics to see how real this is and to make sure that the City holds them to this. Too often promises are not kept..

“The city has very clear rules in place and if you as a homeowner were to apply to the city to cut down a healthy tree from your property … if the city deems that they are healthy, they are really, really reluctant to cut it down unless there is a really good reason,”
I could not agree more with Mark. The city has different set of rules and for a homeowner to get a permit to take down a tree is nearly impossible. Ask my neighbor. Her 100 year old oak in the front of her house at 18 Courcelette is leaning dangerously towards our house and our neighbor’s to the south. Her stone garden wall that retains her yard dirt and support the tree is obviously in need of repairs and could collapse any day.
It happened 2 doors up at 22 Courcelette two years ago. It whipped out four cars including ours in our driveway.
Our elderly neighbor has been denied a permit from the city for the second time because the tree is healthy. It might be leaning dangerously they say but trees do that on a sloppy street and Courcelette is very steep to the south towards the lake. The tree that fell down 2 doors up had been cleared by the city inspector a few years before, so the city, they say, was not responsible for the damages to cars, properties nor Hydro lines repairs. There are hundreds of kids walking up and down Courcelette everyday on their way to school. A good thing nobody got killed that day because it would have been a different story. That oak was visibly rotten at the fork, I have…

If the city inspection failed to notice the tree was likely to fall in the next 2-4 years they definitely would have been considered to have responsibilities if they were a contractor who made the determination if they said the tree was safe and its , not I’m surprised they’re not liable.

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