The tree is apparently sited for removal/destruction because the John Gibson House is installing wheelchair access at the front of their building as part of the upcoming three-storey addition on the back of the building. According to Marian Prejel at City Planning (416 392 9337), the barrier-free ramp has been separated out as a separate proposal by City Planning because LOFT (which runs Gibson House and its programs) has received financing which must be used before March 31st, 2013 to build the ramp. Prejel adds that the proposal calls for a replacement tree to be planted.
Per Ms. Prejel the site plan aproval** is NOT a public process, but according to Mr. LeBlanc the tree removal is being treated as a tree on private property (which requires public notice) because LOFT is a private company -- although operating on city-owned land.
According to Ms. Prejel, the three story development (many neighbors attended a public meeting in 2009/2010) is currently going through a technical process with various city departments (City Planning, Heritage, Technical services like water and sewage, etc) and will take upwards of 6 months to a year before approval -- but the barrier free ramp has already received sign-off from those departments.
Many of you remember that the original proposal* stated categorically that NO trees would be removed.
The city's Heritage Department may be the most responsible for the tree's destruction because, as a designated Heritage Building, they have limited what can be done off the front of the building with regard to this ramp. UPDATE: Heritage division says "the heritage status of the property did not necessitate the addition of a ramp in that particular location."
Are there other options for the ramp besides cutting down the tree? The city's planning department seems to suggest not, and to see the drawings and plans for the ramp one must call Ms. Prejel and book an appointment.
But in a time when the city has a mandate to increase the tree canopy of the city it seems counterproductive to remove healthy trees from public parks. It takes only a few days to build a ramp or to design something that complements the building's 1800s-era design -- but some 25 to 30 years to grow another tree.
What do you think?
* Here is a copy of the plans as presented to the community at that time.
Here is the current proposal of ramp that requires the tree to be cut down:
Here are two alternative drawings for the ramp, without cutting down the tree;
Here is link to TBCA addition info:
** Here is a link the JGH development application status. If you wish to view the file (with current plans, etc) you may set up an appointment by contacting Marian Prejel, Senior Planner, (416) 392-9337, email Prejel, Marian