There is still a chance a number of mature trees slated for removal in downtown Thornbury can be saved.
Coun. Paula Hope has signalled her intention to bring forward a reconsideration resolution to give council a chance to take another look at the portion of the Thornbury West reconstruction work that will result in the loss of a number of mature trees in the Louisa and Elma Street areas.
Hope’s notice of motion came after a significant discussion about the issue at council’s committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 28.
There has been widespread concern in the community about the town’s plans to remove the trees as part of the infrastructure work. The trees have been marked for removal in order to complete significant underground infrastructure work in the next phase of the Thornbury West project.
In addition, the town is planning to turn Louisa Street into a one-way road and construct a parkette at the corner of Louisa and Bruce Streets, a retaining wall and more formalized parking spaces on the street. The project includes the creation of a micro-forest with the planting of hundreds of new trees.
Council held a lengthy discussion on the matter after receiving a letter from Betty Muise of the local tree trust asking that the town take steps to save as many trees as possible.
“Many of these trees are in the vicinity of a hundred years old and they have the potential for many more decades of life, with good care. The esthetic, community and ecological value of these trees simply cannot be replaced with new plantings,” Muise said in her letter.
In response to the letter, Shawn Carey, the town’s operations director, said the town is doing its best to preserve as many trees as possible. He said steps had already been taken to alter some design plans for the work to save a number of trees. Carey said the project is based on the design approved by council 2020 that included the parkette, parking improvements and retaining wall.
“We’re trying to minimize the impacts to trees as much as possible,” said Carey.
He said town staff are looking at ways to change the retaining wall portion of the project to protect more trees
“We’re doing a lot of rejigging right now,” he said.
Cary also said more trees could possibly be saved with significant changes to the design of the project including: the elimination of the retaining wall and the parking spaces. Such steps would require council direction to staff.
Carey did note that some tree loss would be “unavoidable” because the underground water and sewage upgrades had to be installed. The work is necessary to improve the water, sewage and stormwater management systems in the area.
“There is a lot at stake with this project,” said Carey.
Coun. Paula Hope acknowledged that the project had to go forward and she said the concept of the parkette was the sticking point for many local residents.
“The parkette is not a popular idea with members of the public,” she said. “If we were to let go of the parkette, how many trees would be saved?”
Hope also wondered about the cost to the town if significant changes to the design of the project were made at this late stage.
Carey suggested a delay to redesign the project could cost the town a full construction year. He said the town’s plan is to pre-qualify contractors for the work and tender the job early in the new year in order to get construction going on the project.
As the discussion dragged on, CAO Shawn Everitt joined the meeting and suggested council should consider a reconsideration resolution to bring the discussion to a conclusion. Everitt noted that only Mayor Andrea Matrosovs, Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon or Hope could bring a reconsideration resolution forward - as they were on council when the decision on the project was made in 2020.
“What I’m hearing is a reconsideration. Do you do the parkette or not? Do you have the parking or not?” Everitt said.
When the discussion concluded, Matrosovs ruled that she would allow new notices of motion to come forward – even though that portion of the agenda had passed. Hope then announced she would put a reconsideration resolution on the table for council’s meeting on Dec. 18.
“We need to reconsider and make this right,” said Hope.
A resolution to reconsider would require the support of five of seven members of council to reach the table for debate.