West Rouge trees cut without proper permit

An investigation into development on a site in West Rouge has revealed that trees were being cut down illegally. What’s not known though is who did it.

A stop-work order was issued last fall to a company that began work on 17 Island Rd., as they were suspected of violating several bylaws, said Peter Vanderyagt, constituent assistant to Ward 44 councillor Ron Moeser.

An investigation that started last year revealed that no grading or water bylaws were broken, but trees protected by the city had been cut down without a permit, according to a recent city council report.

“They were very mature trees — you can’t grow trees back in a year or so,” Moeser said. “We want to send the message that this is totally inappropriate.”

Parks Forestry and Recreation determined three trees with a diameter of over 40 centimetres have been removed. Under Toronto’s bylaws, a permit is required to remove a tree with a diameter larger than 30 cm on private property. The investigation found an application for a permit was not submitted.

Toronto Legal Services Solicitor Brendan O’Callaghan, said that the investigation is closer to completion, but it is not entirely clear who is responsible.

“The investigators have to satisfy themselves who did it — on whose authority it was done,” O’Callaghan said.

He said the fine for cutting down protected trees without a permit is as high as $100,000, although a sum that large has never been issued.

“We’re definitely going to do something about it,” O’Callaghan said. “We’re not going to let it go.”

City trees provide many benefits to people, including cleaner air, less UV exposure, shade and aesthetics, said Richard Ubbens, director of Toronto Urban Forestry.

Currently the city is trying to double its tree canopy.

“Everybody right away thinks: plant more trees,” Ubbens said. “But one of the very best ways to sustain the urban forest and to make it grow is to do a good job of maintaining it and protecting it.”

Toronto Private Tree Bylaw protects trees with trunks larger than 30cm. (ALINA SMIRNOVA/TORONTO OBSERVER)