WARMINGTON: 250-year-old tree killed to make way for iceberg home construction

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This time you could hear the tree falling in the forest — and see it too.

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What people won’t be able to see is the iceberg home addition that may soon occupy space under the surface where the roots of this sugar maple tree have been growing for 250 years. Yes, this old tree on Knightswood Rd. in Hoggs Hollow — near Yonge St. and York Mills Rd. — was older than Toronto or Canada.

Not anymore.

One day after a community meeting was held to try to save it and prevent a new style of building that will replace it, a crew arrived to systematically take down in two hours what took two-and-a-half centuries to grow.

“It’s very upsetting,” neighbour Laura Lamarche said. “That tree was a piece of Toronto history.”

It survived a lot of things, including hurricane Hazel 65 years ago, and many other challengers. In the end, this beauty was no match for the chainsaw, crane and wood chipper.

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“Sad day,” Lamarche said.

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It was also a perplexing day in that it seemed nobody in the city hierarchy was really in favour of it happening — including the city’ forestry division and its local councillor.

“It’s heartbreaking,” councillor Jaye Robinson said. “We believed there were rules in place for this to not happen, but the committee of adjustment rejected the recommendation and let them do it.”

For those unfamiliar with iceberg building, what it does is allow someone to build a new home down instead of up. If there is a height restriction in a neighbourhood, no problem, build a two-storey basement and also build it out into the backyard to create all sorts of extra space for a games room, bowling alley, gym or golf simulator.

“To do that, the tree, as well as eight others, had to go,” Lamarche said.

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Now the owner who bought a tear-down home is getting ready to start construction of his new luxury palace, which will have an underground lair like a modern-day Batcave.

It’s going to happen, unless Robinson can convince Toronto city council to intervene.

“There seems to be a loophole in the bylaw,” she said, while warning if this build is allowed, there could be “deep digging” basements added to projects all across the city.

Perhaps in some places it will work fine. Maybe there are times when it could be a solution.

But in Hoggs Hollow, everybody knows it’s terrain where water decides what stays and what goes. It seems like a weird place to try something new like this.

“This is a flood plain,” Lamarche said. “The Don River runs right through here, so it doesn’t make any sense.”

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This area, after all, is often referred to as Toronto’s ditch.

Several neighbours told me they are very worried their foundations will be affected by this massive dig and upheaval of the root systems below. It didn’t stop it from happening. In fact, the tree skyline around the area changed forever Thursday when this massive legend was chopped down — first section by section and later with a giant thud.

If it was screaming, it was drowned out by the chainsaws and shrieking sound of the machine turning it into sawdust. There are always different sides to a story, but whatever side you may sit on, I must say it was emotional witnessing the killing a living treasure of our city. It was emotional, like watching the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald being torn down.

So interesting that this tree actually began to grow some 100 years before Macdonald created Canada.

The bad news is another Toronto icon is gone to make way for iceberg building. The good news is that a property owner is poised to get a cool new underground man cave.

jwarmington@postmedia.com

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