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New Build + Tree Protection Zone

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  • Nov 20th, 2019 2:40 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Aug 16, 2018
20 posts
6 upvotes

New Build + Tree Protection Zone

Hello RFD'ers,

So I'm at a juncture where my wife and I are debating a full gut reno (including basement underpin) versus knocking over our existing 1940s 2 story home in Toronto (west end) and building new.

I'm very familiar with construction methods (engineer by training) so would be partial to build something new using ICFs.

However, the primary concern I have with building new is the very large (40 ft tall) pine tree that's about 15 ft from my house. I have referenced the City of Toronto table that specifies tree protection zones. Based on this, I wouldn't really be able to build out much further than what's already present.

So my question is - does anyone have experience going through permitting to 'injure or destroy' a tree due to new construction? I've heard anecdotally that this is extremely difficult and time consuming.
10 replies
Deal Addict
Aug 30, 2011
3457 posts
1215 upvotes
Ottawa
Get a certified arborist to make a report (which you may have to do anyway).

Our neighbour is building an infill, and we have a massive 85+ year old black walnut on the edge of the property line. They had an arborist file a report with the City of Ottawa, we also got our own arborist + we had a city forester come to give information about what to do at our end. We may lose the tree anyway, as the neighbour's arborist said that 7 feet from the centre of the trunk is sufficient protection for the roots (!!). Roots generally extend to or past the canopy. The guy who came to cut their trees (not an arborist) cut a main branch back to the property line, to the trunk of the tree. Our arborist - who we got again after this happened - said that some tree companies have no knowledge about trees and just want to cut everything down. Appears so in this case :(

Our arborist recommended that NO heavy equipment be put, or digging be done, within 20 of the trunk. That hasn't happened. I realize this is your tree, but our arborist said we could sue for the value of the tree if it dies. We want the tree, not $$. Also, it will cost $$$ to cut down if it dies. Not a happy situation.
Newbie
Jun 12, 2017
29 posts
33 upvotes
Hi,

Good question.

I have a great deal of experience with this type of issue having worked in the industry for about 10 years.

Most people think that trees on their property are theirs to do what they want. Reality dictates if the tree is over a certain size then its governed by the City's tree protection by-law.

Typically when it comes to a large tree, you should do everything you can to try and preserve it. Besides the ecological advantages, most people don't realize the value of large trees to their pocketbooks. When buyers speak of mature neighbourhoods, trees can be the defining characteristic. People who live in the old boroughs of toronto often don't need air conditioning in the summer and their roofs last longer due to their shade and coverage.

If you need variances for your build, then it becomes more important as i have experienced time and time again examples of where variance applications are stalled due to tree issues raised by residents groups and neighbors. I have seen multi million dollar custom builds derailed because the owner could not give a good reason for avoiding damaging/removing the tree. In professional practice the removal of a tree and granting of variances should be separated, however the court of public opinion bunches these things together and makes it messy.

Whether you need variances or not, your should set aside money in the budget to consult an arborist, have them prepare a tree inventory and preservation plan and devise a compensation planting plan if injury or removal in unavoidable. Its not extremely difficult, however it can be time consuming given its another step in the process and your likely one of a hundred or more applications the City is reviewing at any given time. You can save money when it comes to the type of tree preservation fencing required (i.e. orange constructuion fencing vs. plywood) but its at the discretion of the City.
Deal Addict
Jul 7, 2017
4536 posts
1989 upvotes
SW corner of the cou…
Black walnut? Large enough trunk and sawmillers will pay you for it.
Cream rises to the top. So does scum.
Deal Addict
Dec 12, 2009
4308 posts
1989 upvotes
Toronto
If you are near a ravine or river there are by-laws that appear to provide greater protection to trees.
Social Distancing means staying apart 2 meters or 6 feet, the depth of a grave.
Get closer and you might have one foot in the grave. (Pass it on)
[OP]
Newbie
Aug 16, 2018
20 posts
6 upvotes
Thanks everyone.

The tree is an Austrian pine with a trunk diameter of 75cm - it's a beautiful and I'd be very keen on preserving it given the multiple advantages already stated above (natural shade, wind block, snow cover, amongst many more).

I just did a quick measure and it actually appears as though the edge of the tree is 14 feet from where I think I'd roughly have the house start. There are also multiple entry points to my property given it's a corner.

I'm thinking I'll get that arborist report to start and go from there. Will see what that looks like and go from there - I think I'd need it in either case of how I'll proceed.
Deal Addict
Dec 12, 2009
4308 posts
1989 upvotes
Toronto
MrFoxToronto wrote: Thanks everyone.

The tree is an Austrian pine with a trunk diameter of 75cm - it's a beautiful and I'd be very keen on preserving it given the multiple advantages already stated above (natural shade, wind block, snow cover, amongst many more).

I just did a quick measure and it actually appears as though the edge of the tree is 14 feet from where I think I'd roughly have the house start. There are also multiple entry points to my property given it's a corner.

I'm thinking I'll get that arborist report to start and go from there. Will see what that looks like and go from there - I think I'd need it in either case of how I'll proceed.
Pinus Nigra? If so, I have one in my yard. It was about 2 1/2' tall when I planted it. >30' now.
A breast height diameter of 75cm does not seem right.
You should be good with 14' from the edge of the trees drip line.
Social Distancing means staying apart 2 meters or 6 feet, the depth of a grave.
Get closer and you might have one foot in the grave. (Pass it on)
[OP]
Newbie
Aug 16, 2018
20 posts
6 upvotes
ROYinTO wrote: You should be good with 14' from the edge of the trees drip line.
Actually it's 14 feet from the tree trunk to where I roughly believe the structure will start.
Deal Addict
Dec 12, 2009
4308 posts
1989 upvotes
Toronto
MrFoxToronto wrote: Actually it's 14 feet from the tree trunk to where I roughly believe the structure will start.
This should help you understand most of what you need to know.
https://www.toronto.ca/data/parks/pdf/t ... -specs.pdf

Enforcement is iffy. Even when a complaint was placed under the Ravine & Natural Feature by-law, they allowed construction of a concrete slab and a structure extension under my tree. The structure extension was limited by building by-laws, not tree by-laws. (maximum size without a permit or go to committee of adjustment)

You didn't comment on the 75cm diameter. Was that at the base? Are you sure you didn't measure circumference? C=2piR D=2R (Circumference, Radius, Diameter)
75 cm diameter would be like one of the big trees in BC, wider than your shoulders.
75 cm circumference would be less than a foot in diameter.
Social Distancing means staying apart 2 meters or 6 feet, the depth of a grave.
Get closer and you might have one foot in the grave. (Pass it on)
[OP]
Newbie
Aug 16, 2018
20 posts
6 upvotes
Thanks. I've already referenced the city of Toronto tree protection zone guidelines.

The tree is massive and has three large trunks making it rather confusing as to where to calculate the diameter.

See image of said tree: https://ibb.co/j4XMWw1

The funny (or sad) thing is, if I want an arborist report for construction - they require a survey and site plans. So I would need to spend 25-30k on site plans and a survey for an arborist to tell me if my tree will cause issues with permitting.

I'm starting to rethink perhaps doing a full reno instead.
Deal Addict
Dec 12, 2009
4308 posts
1989 upvotes
Toronto
MrFoxToronto wrote: Thanks. I've already referenced the city of Toronto tree protection zone guidelines.

The tree is massive and has three large trunks making it rather confusing as to where to calculate the diameter.
From the guidelines:
Diameter at breast height (DBH) measurement of tree stem taken at 1.4 metres (m) above the ground.
To me that would be at the top of your retaining wall or midpoint of the grade from the side.
It is a shame that someone planted 3 so close together or didn't prune back to a single stalk. Would have been a gorgeous tree.
Social Distancing means staying apart 2 meters or 6 feet, the depth of a grave.
Get closer and you might have one foot in the grave. (Pass it on)

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