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The Newmarket Chainsaw Massacre (continued)

Whilst Norm Stapley is busy chopping down mature trees at 181 Beechwood Crescent the rest of us are thinking how best we can preserve and protect our forests and woodlands.

This is how the property looked before Norm got to work with his chainsaw.

Chris Howie - who is taking a deputation to Newmarket's Committee of the Whole tomorrow - has launched a petition on change.org to save the trees, or what's left of them, from the predations of Mr Stapley. There is an arresting photograph of the felled trees.

Quite by coincidence, this coming Thursday (2 March 2017) York Regional Council will be considering a thought-provoking report on the state of the Region's forests - which includes woodlands, trees and shrubs in all urban and rural areas. It will be sent to Newmarket Council and to the other eight municipalities in due course.  

The report reminds us of the crucial contribution tress make to the wellbeing of the planet and to our immediate surroundings:

"The size and health of a tree greatly affects the benefits it provides. Large trees deliver greater household energy savings, air and water quality improvements, runoff reduction, visual impact, property value enhancements and carbon sequestration capacity.

In fact, one large healthy tree can store approximately 65 times more carbon and remove 15 times more air pollution annually than one small tree. Unlike most built infrastructure,trees are a great investment because as they grow their value and benefits increase."

It comes as no surprise, then, that the Region wants to increase the canopy cover from 31% at present to 35% by 2031 and 40% by 2051. Good for it.

Newmarket - a growing urban centre though relatively compact -  has the second smallest percentage tree cover in York Region, after Markham so we've got to be a very good steward of what we have.

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Clock Tower OMB Prehearing set for 3 May 2017

The future of Newmarket's historic Main Street is now in play.  

The OMB has set Wednesday 3 May 2017 as the provisional date for the Prehearing on the Clock Tower. It will be open to the public.

The venue has not as yet been decided.

The OMB tells us a prehearing is the meeting of Parties and Participants before a full hearing. Prehearings help to:

* identify issues, parties and participants

* organise complicated matters

* determine what documents need to be exchanged

* determine procedures before and during the hearing

* set future hearing dates

The Clock Tower developer, Bob "the Barbarian" Forrest, has appealed to the OMB on his original application - the one that was comprehensively rejected by councillors on 28 November 2016 with the decision confirmed by full Council on 5 December 2016.   

Forrest has hired the silver-tongued lawyer Ira Kagan to make the case for the Clock Tower development. I do not yet know who the Town will have in its corner - but he or she had better be good and totally up to speed.

Kagan is working from some pretty dodgy material but we know he is skilled in turning a sow's ear into a silk purse. He should not be underestimated.

He acted for the developer at the Slessor Square OMB Hearing. He appeared for Marianneville at the Glenway OMB Hearing and for Highland Gate Developments who are planning to build over the golf course in Aurora. From time to time he appears before committees at Queen's Park, arguing for changes to the Province's planning regime.

In June 2015 I sat next to him at the Glenway "lessons learned" meeting. Although he chose not to tell the meeting what he had learned he was open enough with me.

In those early days of innocence, I recall telling him how shocked I was that there was no transcript of the Glenway OMB Hearing. He casually remarked it was open to any of the Parties to commission one.

Seems to me the forthcoming Clock Tower Hearing deserves a transcript. It is a perfect case study on Heritage Conservation Districts and the threats they face.

Apart from the Town and the Developer we can expect other parties and participants to be involved in the OMB Hearing.

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Frank Scarpitti, the tease

Markham's mayor, Frank Scarpitti, has wisely decided that discretion is the better part of valour. 

He passed on the chance to represent Markham-Thornhill in the House of Commons where a by-election is to be held on April 3. The vacancy was created when the previous MP, John McCallum, was appointed Canada's ambassador to China.

The Liberal standard bearer, Mary Ng, has taken leave of absence from her job as the Prime Minister's head of appointments.

Scarpitti may run for Chair of York Region in 2018 - the first time the position will be up for election involving the voters at large - but who knows? It could be another dance of the seven veils.

Wayne Emmerson, the incumbent who was appointed by his Regional Council colleagues in a 16-4 vote in December 2014, has already declared he will run next year.

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The Newmarket Chainsaw Massacre

Yesterday (21 February) "protected" trees at 181 Beechwood Crescent (off Park Avenue in Newmarket) were clear cut and immediately removed with only the stumps remaining.

I am told the trees on the front and side of the property included a 125 year old Heritage Sugar Maple and several 75 year old beech trees. But how can they be protected when they have just been chopped down?

The photos below show (a) the Google street view of the property in 2015

and (b) the scene of the crime earlier today.

As I understand it, under the Town's planning regime, the property is big enough to be divided into two parcels for redevelopment - but the trees got in the way.

(The lot has a frontage of 39m and a lot area of 2,300 sq m. The zoning (R1-C) stipulates a minimum frontage of 18m and a minimum lot area of 743 sq m.)

The trees at the front of the property have now gone and, after the demolition of the house, the ones at the rear of the lot will, presumably, be next.

Unless someone, somewhere, does something about it.

The trees can't cry out for help.

In 2013, York Region passed a by-law

"to prohibit or regulate the destruction or injuring of trees in The Regional Municipality of York"

but we all wait to see what relevance it has to 181 Beechwood.

I am told that the treed area at the back of the lot falls within the area covered by the by-law.  

In a bitter irony, the first item on the agenda of the Town's Committee of the Whole on Monday 27 February is a PowerPoint presentation by planning staff on

"Tree Removal and Protection Policies and Regulations".

The timing is enough to make the poor old willow weep.

Included in the report's recommendations (at page 49) is one directing staff to  prepare and bring to a future Council meeting a by-law regulating and protecting significant trees on private property.

It is already too late for some.

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