A few weeks passed since the June 23rd, 2015 Aurora Town Council meeting. I am bothered. I am bothered alot by the almost unanimous vote (by one) for the permit application MV-2015-05A-C to cut down forty-eight trees and potentially damage another sixteen trees in the process of building a new accessible home that would accommodate a family with a special needs child.
“But now,” says the Once-ler, “Now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Clearly there was no dilemma among Town Council to go ahead or not to go ahead with the tree removal permit. The Town staff were also in full support. The applicant expressed appreciation for the expert guidance and advice received from Town staff prior to the property purchase. There were only two Aurora residents speaking against the permit application. This case was in front of the Aurora Committee of Adjustment back in April 2015. I didn’t attend all the meetings so I don’t know what happened. However, I found myself facing a strange dilemma when watching that night as the decision was being made to allow the removal of so many trees. “What would I do?” Perhaps re-reading Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax story helped.
This is for your information, a friendly reminder. I know you know it. I know it too: “Trees play a significant role in reducing erosion and moderating the climate. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store large quantities of carbon in their tissues. Trees and forests provide a habitat for many species of animals and plants. … In parts of the world, forests are shrinking as trees are cleared to increase the amount of land available for agriculture.” Source: Tree, Wikipedia.
However, not just for agriculture. Here in the Town of Aurora trees are removed/die on a regular basis. A big chunk of trees can be and have been removed for larger scale developments, as allowed by our tree removal by-law. Trees can be and have been removed for small scale developments as well, so large footprint houses can be built; as allowed when applicants apply for permits. Trees die of invasive species infestations (Emerald Ash Borer). Trees die from ice storms and harsh winters. Trees are damaged during storms, thus are removed for safety reasons. Trees also die of old age. Of course we plant thousands of new trees here in Aurora during the spring season; but many do not survive. But that is not the point. The point here is the removal of established full grown trees and the impact on the ecosystems they are part of, again and again.
For your information this is another great reminder from the Town of Aurora site this time. I know Town Staff knows it because they wrote it. “Large healthy trees increase property value by 10 to 20 per cent. Trees can save energy costs by shading homes and decreasing heat absorption during summer and blocking and redirecting wind flow during the winter. Well-placed landscaping can reduce air-conditioning costs by up to 20 per cent. Large tree canopies reduce noise pollution. Trees provide food and protection for many types of wildlife. Trees fight the atmosphere greenhouse effect by absorbing carbon dioxide and capturing pollution in leaves. Trees trap and hold harmful pollution. Trees produce oxygen. Trees conserve water and reduce soil erosion. Trees modify the local climate. Trees have a psychological impact, thus reducing stress.” Source: Benefits of Trees, Town of Aurora.
Destruction of Trees By-law Number 4474-03.D states: “No person shall injure or destroy five (5) or more trees each with either a tree diameter greater than 20 cm or a base diameter greater than 40 cm on a lot within any one year period without first obtaining a permit pursuant to this By-law.“
I find the Town Council decision combined with all above information a bit ironic. We have by-laws to protect trees. We know how good trees are for the environment. Yet we allow a substantial number of mature and established trees to be removed. Perhaps this case is more about sympathy and revenues, and not so much about community and environment. I will let you decide.
“Mister!” he said with a sawdusty sneeze, “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. ~ The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
During a delegation at June 23rd, 2015 Town Council meeting a man took the stand to tell the story and provide reasons/facts in support of the permit application to remove trees from his property. His family has a child with special needs. They need to build a custom and accessible home for their child with special needs. The existing 40 year old large footprint home is going to be demolished. A new home with a larger footprint will be more environmentally friendly, the father claims. Forty-eight trees need to be removed, and potentially sixteen more will be damaged during construction. The trees will be replaced. A couple of residents spoke against the tree removal application. Very little has been written in the Town Council meeting minutes from June 23, 2015 about this tree removal case. The permit application was technical and hard to understand. The tree removal permit was approved that night. Forty-eight trees will be gone and potentially more damaged. Nobody will ever talk about it until the next applicant comes along. “We did it for the last applicant, we have to approve this one,” seems to be the rationale. Written meeting minutes are designed to be boring. The Council meeting video from that day had only 18 viewers, last time I checked. The case is already forgotten.
So “What would I do?” if I was that parent. Perhaps we need a paradigm shift. Perhaps we need to think more about community and about future generations to come. During the Canada Day celebrations on July 1st a few weeks ago we had a First Nationspresentation. Hopefully you listened. During the narration something interesting was explained, the concept of 7 generation sustainability – when making decisions First Nations people are taught to consider if the decisions they make today would benefit their children 7 generations into the future. If you were there, did you hear it? Yes, the 7th generation in the future is about 140 years!
So if I was that parent of a child with special needs I don’t know what I would do besides give all my love. However, I know what I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t do anything that would have a negative impact on the generations to come. Constantly removing mature trees in our community will have a negative impact on the generations to come. You know, there is always that other choice, and that choice is to be socially responsible; but for now 48 trees are soon to be gone.
Anna Lozyk Romeo