Private school ordered to put up wall for privacy, noise barrier
Complying could mean trees damaged and cut down in process
(Written for Town Crier June 17.)
Junior Academy is in a quandary.
It was told by the Ontario Municipal Board to build a masonry wall between the school and its neighbours to lessen noise and increase privacy for residents next door.
However, to do that the school may have to remove five trees and damage 18 others says an arborist hired by the school.
“No one in the community benefits from the destruction of 10–12 trees,” said Junior Academy parent Marva Gragtmans. “In North Toronto we have a great canopy but we are losing old trees especially in storms.”
Instead, the school is proposing erecting a wooden fence to comply with the 2006 ruling which required the construction of a 2.4-metre high masonry wall at the Bayview and Lawrence facility.“We have additional information (now) that we didn’t have at the OMB hearing,” said Dianne Johnson, Junior Academy principal. “I think a wooden fence makes more sense. It’s not that we are trying to avoid putting up a fence.
“If we changed from masonry to wood, we would achieve the same purpose of privacy for kids and noise barrier without removing trees,” said Johnson from her office overlooking the trees.
But in order to make that change councillor Cliff Jenkins said the school has to submit a plan to build the masonry fence first so the forestry department can see exactly where the wall’s pier footings will be located and read the applicant’s arborist report on tree impact.
“What forestry always does is we look at the requirements and how to minimize or avoid any injury to trees,” said Richard Ubbens the city’s chief arborist. “That’s also the applicant’s job as well.”
While a wood fence could be a possibility, the final decision may rest with the Ontario Municipal Board according to Ubbens.
The irony of removing trees in order to build a wall isn’t lost on Gragtmans.
“No newly constructed wall of any material or size can provide the privacy, noise, or pollution buffer that the existing trees already do,” she said in an email.
“I’d like to see trees preserved and I’d like to see neighbours receive mitigation approved at the (Ontario Municipal Board),” said Jenkins. “I’d like to see both things occur if possible.”