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Trees vs. homes: Round 3 of developer’s woodlot plan headed backed to council

Cathy Dobson Peter Lynch can’t believe he’s going back to City Hall to debate development of a picturesque woodlot next to his home on Tudor Close West.
Council is expected to determine the future of this long, treed woodlot at 834 Lakeshore Rd. on Monday. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson  

Peter Lynch can’t believe he’s going back to City Hall to debate development of a picturesque woodlot next to his home on Tudor Close West.

“We thought we had a deal with this town and now we find out the developer didn’t follow city council’s directions,” said Lynch.

“This is just an ongoing saga. Now we’re frustrated.”

Peter Lynch

City council agreed in September to allow developer Paul Wicks to build four executive-style homes on the 1.3-hectare (3.3-acre) treed lot he owns at 834 Lakeshore Rd.

At the time, council was satisfied that enough of the woods would be saved if they allowed Wicks to build four houses instead of the six he wanted.

The limit on development frustrated Wicks but he said he would try to make it work. Lynch and his neighbours said they were satisfied with the compromise, believing the new plan would involve two houses on the lakefront and two houses on Lakeshore Road, leaving a wide swath of trees next to their properties.

It was Coun. Mike Stark’s idea to approve building on the woodland with fewer houses.  At the time, Stark said the woodland fronting Lakeshore was “run down” and development would clean up the area.

No one appealed council’s decision.

But Wicks’ latest plan going to council on April 19 includes an extension of Tudor Close West, with two building lots on the north side of the extension and two on the south side. There’s no construction along Lakeshore Road.

Paul Wicks

Documents filed by Wicks’ explain that building four houses off on an extension of Tudor Close West is more cost effective. And locating the four houses near the lake makes them more appealing to buyers, the paperwork says.

At the same time, a large treed portion toward the south end of the property would remain untouched.

Lynch says the new plan is contrary to the wishes of council. He and several neighbours intend to speak at the April 19 meeting to convince council Wicks has a bad plan.

The new houses won’t align with the existing ones on Tudor Close West, said Lynch.

“It’s just a goofy place to build houses,” he said. “I’m going to have a house beside my front yard.”

Lynch said he’s lived there a long time but will consider moving if the plan proceeds.

“We shouldn’t even have to discuss this. It’s just common sense,” he said.

Lynch and his neighbours have been fighting development of the wooded tract at 834 Lakeshore Rd. since 2018. Initially, they argued the land is a protected natural area, designated by the city in 2016. It features a large number of black oak trees found only in southern Ontario and is an important flyway stopover for migrating birds.

Last September, Wicks returned to City Hall with a plan to replace a large number of trees, and council voted 5-4 in favour of four houses. Councillors agreed with staff the woodland is in an urban setting and building houses on it is an “infill” project. Staff also noted the property is zoned residential.

Ironically, Wicks’ plan won’t save the woodland but will ensure it is not clear-cut, said a staff report.

The April 19 council meeting begins at noon.

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