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Developer seeks fast-tracked tree cutting permit for 17 acres in Cranberry subdivision

In Collingwood
Feb 12th, 2021

Town staff have proposed a legal agreement and financial deposit the town could use to plant new trees should the development not proceed to construction

By Erika Engel Collingwood Today

A local developer is hoping to jump ahead in the official order of approvals to get early permission to clear trees from a section of land in the Blue Fairway subdivision.

MacPherson Builders is working toward site plan approvals for 249 new units to be built between Cranberry Trail East and West for phase five and six of the Blue Fairway subdivision plans. Typically, developers must wait until the town approves of the site plan proposal before getting a permit to cut down trees on the site.

Tree removal is prohibited between April and August because of nesting seasons.

“There’s a timing issue here,” said the town’s director of planning Adam Farr. “There’s some anxiety … to try to get in and do those [tree] removals before that opportunity closes.”

Farr was presenting the matter to council’s development and operations committee on Feb. 8.

“The owner is willing to provide a security for tree compensation should they not proceed [with construction] within an appropriate amount of time,” stated Farr. “The intent of this security is to address directly the concern that’s been stated … in the past where the developer seeks a tree removal permit in a situation where their application hasn’t been approved and the application goes dead, and you have a site bereft of trees for an extended period of time.”

According to information provided to the town by MacPherson, having to wait until after August to remove trees on the site would delay the entire construction schedule by nearly one year pushing the closing dates from August 2022 to May 2023.

The site for phase five and six is 7.2 hectares (17.8 acres).

Town staff have also asked the developer to create a temporary trail link to the Georgian Trail to keep the local trail system in tact during construction.

The staff report recommended council accept a security deposit from the developer – the amount of which is still to be determined – that the town could use to plant trees if construction didn’t move forward within the next year.

Farr also noted the same builder made good on previous site plan applications for the earlier phases of the development.

Members of the development and operations committee were hesitant to grant the tree cutting permit..

Mayor Brian Saunderson said he’s seen developers tear down trees on a site and then never proceed with building the homes.

“This does cause council concern when we see these types of applications,” said Saunderson. “I’m satisfied, having seen the legwork and the commitment from the development, that they will proceed.”

Councillor Deb Doherty echoed Saunderson’s sentiments, stating the treeless lots are a “blight” on Collingwood’s landscapes.

“This is a deep concern of mine that we would be granting this approval anticipating council would be approving a development application,” she said. “This whole application sort of brings to the forefront a concern that I have expressed a number of times. Without a private tree bylaw, we are constantly in a situation where we have no standards or protocols with which we can make these decisions. I find all too often we’re making them on an ad hoc basis.”

Councillor Kathy Jeffery said she was relieved to see a specific clause stating the town could use securities toward new tree planting after one year if construction did not proceed.

Councillor Yvonne Hamlin also commented on the “holes” in the community where trees have been cleared without construction proceeding. But she was optimistic the build would go forward.

“I’m encouraged by the state of the market and this is a reputable builder,” said Hamlin. “Every builder is going to be going as fast as they can right now.”

The committee did approve the permit request with Doherty as the lone voice opposed. It will still require council approval.

The amount of money the developer will give the town as a security deposit to be used to plant trees if development does not proceed within a year. Farr said he’s still working with the developer and town staff to determine an appropriate dollar value.

The town will create a legal agreement with the builder that includes the dollar value for the deposit, the terms under which the town can use the money, and the indicator for “progress” being made.

He added the agreement with MacPherson could become a “positive reference point” should similar situations arise in future.

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