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The Weather Network
Jan. 26, 2021 | Tuesday
Editorials and Opinions
Letter: Needless tree-cutting affects entire street

Dear editor:

The unique character of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Chautauqua neighbourhood is defined by its narrow, tree-sheltered streets. We are protected and charmed in every season by our towering oaks and maples, catalpas and pines, by privet and cedar hedges that line our friendly streets. 

We feel we are better neighbours for the lack of unshaded lawns, curbs and sidewalks. In Chautauqua, every street is our street. Every street feels like home. 

And every tree is our tree, and the loss of each is a loss to the whole community. 

When services have been upgraded, municipal and public works in charge have been mindful of why we choose to live in Chautauqua, and respect our reasons for wanting to preserve our old trees, our old vegetation and our sense of the timeless quality of this quaint and eccentric neighbourhood. 

When proposed homes exceed municipal bylaws, the neighbourhood unites to ensure that important trees are not harmed and to encourage an appropriate, or at least non-destructive, development that will enhance the neighbourhood. Something that every community deserves. 

When we were notified that a proposed development at 6 Luther Ave. was requesting a variance to reduce the rear yard setback to 3.9 metres (13 feet), we realized that this would endanger the century scarlet oak tree at the rear property line. We also learned that this variance would create a four-car parking area in front of the house. 

The proposed house would be the only two-storey building on Luther Avenue, which is the narrowest of streets, and be one of the largest buildings in Chautauqua – on one of the smallest lots. 

Eighteen neighbours wrote letters and presented objections at a NOTL committee of adjustment hearing. The setback would endanger the heritage oak and create an opportunity for excessive parking. The massing and siting of the house would adversely effect the streetscape. The committee of sdjustment ruled against the proposal. 

We encouraged the applicants, as future neighbours, to respect the reasons for wanting to  preserve the trees and the timeless quality of the street and the neighbourhood. Instead, the  applicants and lost again. 

We were not surprised when the “Lot for Sale” sign was posted a week later. It seems they obviously hadn’t wanted to live here after all. 

But we were devastated when a crew arrived early on Tuesday, Dec. 15, and cut down almost every single tree on the property. Eight mature and healthy 30- to 40-foot tall trees were taken down and an enormous hole was added to the Chautauqua tree canopy. 


All of the trees that were removed were along the property lines, not hindering future development and had a beneficial effect on the adjacent properties. All of the trees had been healthy and thriving this last summer. There are only 10 houses on Luther Avenue and effectively, on Tuesday, Dec.15, about 10 per cent of all the trees on the street were cut down. 


Shockingly, all of the trees were legally removed. The vigorously healthy Manitoba maple and black alder were listed as “nuisance” trees, and the thriving ash trees were  considered “diseased,” therefore exempt from the town's tree bylaw. 

Does a “nuisance” tree produce less oxygen, sequester less carbon, provide less of an animal habitat or provide less shade? Why is a permit required to cut down a dead pine tree, yet a  healthy Manitoba maple, part of the local tree canopy, can be removed without a permit? Is this a fatal flaw in our tree bylaw?

This is not the first property to be considered as a development opportunity. This episode was simply a brief and clumsy stop on a journey to make money, with some bad manners thrown in.

Whether the trees were cut down out of revenge, or to make the  property appear more developable, the result is that Luther Avenue has been diminished.  Chautauqua is poorer. The empty lot at 6 Luther, now, truly empty.

Victor Tarnoy