Coun. Paul Pugh
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A city councillor was bewildered Monday night that his colleagues wouldn't listen to evidence.
For the past seven years residents of Mohawk Crescent have been asking the city to remove 11 tamarack trees. Needles from the trees were clogging gutters, getting under roof shingles and into car engines and causing a nuisance. City council agreed to remove the trees at a cost of $8,500 and replace them with white spruce.
Public backlash forced the homeowner to withdraw the request, which reopened the debate at city council Monday, where it was ultimately decided 7-6 that the trees will be removed regardless. Northwood Coun. Mark bentz said the homeowner didn't withdraw the request because he had a change of heart but the negative attention the issue received.
"Make no mistake that he wants this to happen," Bentz said in support of the decision.
Most councillors in support of the decision said it was about public safety. Coun. Linda Rydholm said it was the right thign to do especially if the homeowner has to climb up on the roof in the early winter months to remove the needles.
"Sometimes this council needs to make a political decision, a people decision and that’s what we’re looking at,” she said.
Coun. Iain Angus agreed.
"We've been talking about trees. We haven't talked that much about people," he said.
The trees weren't planted but have been there since the subdivision was built. Coun. Larry Hebert said the replacement trees will be a much better fit for the area and act as a better buffer between the neighbourhood and nearby Thunder Bay Expressway.
"We've got to get way better at putting the right trees in the right place," he said.
But Coun. Paul Pugh couldn't believe what he was hearing, saying that not one expert, from foresters to roofers to administration could provide a reason as to why the trees should be removed.
"But yet apparently we're going to proceed with this. I find this amazing," Pugh said.
"I'd like to think we base our decisions on evidence...this is the opposite of that."
Requests in Coun. Trevor Giertuga's McIntyre ward have already started coming in for the city to remove other trees. Cleaning eaves troughs and and other yard work come with the territory he said.
"Homeownership comes with home maintenance," he said before volunteering his services to residents, tongue-in-cheek.
Council heard a deputation from certified arborist Jason Dampier, who holds a master's degree in forestry. He said council was going to start defining trees as a nuisance based on the fact that it drops its leaves at the end of the season. He also worried that council's decision to remove the trees based on that is unprecedented in North America.
"You remove those trees, you don't know what's going to happen," he said.
Coun. Andrew Foulds was worried that other municipalities would use Thunder Bay as a case study to remove other trees. He said it wasn't a good policy decision.
"I haven’t been convinced that there is a good reason to cut down these healthy trees,” he said.
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