In the day and age of news and information overload, did any of you miss the bit about the destruction of protected habitat at 524 York Road?
I did, and found myself disturbed at yet another removal of natural heritage within our town’s boundaries.
This is the wooded ravine adjacent to the Holiday Inn Express, located in an area that has been subject to explosive development over the past five to 10 years.
The cutting mysteriously took place sometime between 2017 and now. If that seems like an oddly large timeline to bring up in late 2021, we should focus on the larger oddity that the town only began discussing the Vrancor Group’s negligence a few weeks ago, well after the land had been severely altered.
Interestingly, town representatives have said town staff are too busy to inspect every project regularly, and that the town generally trusts that developers will follow the rules.
My challenge to this viewpoint is that this is simply not a credible excuse. I politely have to ask, who are we kidding when we say that we don’t have enough staff?
We live in a town where, per-capita, we are one of the wealthiest municipalities in Canada. We pay incredible tax rates, pay for parking, maintain showy gardens, and have full, unfiltered access to those with environmental, legal, and planning expertise all around us. We live in a rare, one per cent jackpot to do things right.
Maybe I am missing a point here, but how hard would it be for the town to hire professionals tasked to monitor the surge of development demand, which this town is certainly no stranger to? I can fully appreciate why NOTL would be an attractive, utopian hub for a grand development, and I should also clarify that I am not anti-development, as that would be an unrealistic stance on the issue.
Rather, we dangerously transcend deeper into a theme of “cut first, ask or pay later,” while seemingly playing a game with our less than 10 per cent of remaining original forest coverage, slowly but surely becoming NOTL”s identity to developers, a place that is easy to infiltrate with little regard for the environment or fear of repercussions.
It seems we are now left with options of either rezoning the affected area so that the road is no longer technically in a protected natural area, or to physically scrap the road entirely and have the developer replant trees in its wake.
We all know developers can afford slaps on the wrist and the funds to replant a few meagre trees. Is this their green pass into NOTL?
These sorts of events just seem to happen with unspecified dates and a “we didn’t know” mentality. I’ve seen it many times within the past 10 years in this town, long before many of the current councillors and decision-makers were even present in NOTL. The older I get, the more painful it gets to watch.
Coun. Allan Bisback appears to be the only councillor who asked for responsible development accountability on this site in a previous public meeting, for which I applaud his efforts.
To me, news like this sets a dangerous precedence of what developers can and can’t get away with in our town. As a concerned local and biologist, I feel this is not a reputation we should be proud of. This a recurring theme that can be stopped with a change in attitude and perspective. Can our town grow a spine to developers and find ways to efficiently regulate how our natural heritage is used, or abused? Ecosystems like the one near the Glendale Ave./York Road hotels serve our quality of community life and provide shelter for southern Ontario’s inherent biodiversity.
Will we see more of this? Will I have to continually tell my young students, and the town alike, that money talks, but only when it wants to be heard? Will I have to write more articles like this one, careful of my tone, but honestly just fed up with this ongoing issue? Is anyone else healthily fed up, or is it just me?
By the time our town is done making ambitious and cuddly two, five and 10 year plans, we will nearly be out of natural heritage to protect at this rate. I say work with time, not against it.
On that note, the area of wetland on the south of York Road, in the supplied 2018 photo, has also been filled in over the past few weeks. Another one bites the dust.
We can do way better than that, NOTL.