Council Screws Collingwood Residents. Again.


What council wants for our streets
The sort of streetscape our townhall wants to see for Collingwood.

Like many other residents in council chamber yesterday, I was deeply disappointed but not surprised by our council’s decision to continue with staff’s anti-resident/anti-environment plan to deforest Sixth Street to make it a better speedway for cars passing through town. The council chamber was full to capacity with people upset with the plan, hoping council would recognize their anger and distress, hoping council would listen, would prefer 21st-century pro-resident, green-street planning, and reconsider the previous pro-vehicle/anti-tree plan.

But they didn’t. The majority of council sided with the archaic 1950s’ cars-before-people staff plan to chop down all the beautiful, mature trees along both sides of Sixth Street in order to make it wider and faster for cars.

Surprisingly, Mayor Hamlin made the motion to reconsider the plan. We normally don’t expect the somnambulant mayor to take the lead, but kudos to her for doing so. She moved to re-open the discussions on the plan and reconsider the options. A motion to reconsider requires two-thirds of council to get passed: six people at the table had to vote yes. Only five did: Hamlin, Fryer, Jeffrey, Houston, and Potts. (Update: Coun. Houston sent me a correction notice about his vote. My apologies for the error).

Now any politician with even a grain of political savvy — especially anyone who imagines re-election — would have looked at the room full of angry residents, some holding “save our trees” placards, would have read the angry emails they have sent council, would be aware of the tide of angry comments on social media, and realized that voting to reconsider was a smart move. After all, politicians are elected to serve the people, not the town’s staff.

And reconsideration would not necessarily result in a changed plan, but could possibly end with a better one; a plan that assuaged residents, one that showed council actually listened to the people and considered options. Four at the table voted no: Ring, Perry, Baines, and Doherty.*

Street view with green railway of public transport in Reims city in Champagne-Ardenne region of France
An example of smart urban planning that incorporates greenery and trees. The very opposite of what our town wants.

Political wisdom flew above the heads of the majority. Maybe staff held the five in their thrall. Perhaps they just don’t give a damn about public opinion, about trees or the environment, or about climate change. Regardless of the reason, Sixth Street will be deforested despite the protests of residents. Doesn’t it strike you as an expensive hypocrisy for a town that hired both an arborist and a climate change specialist to approve a plan that so easily ignores trees and climate change?

And townhall is coming after your street, too. A similar plan to widen and deforest Third Street to make it another speedway through town is already in motion. Hydro poles have been moved to prepare for the widening. Expect other residential streets to follow.

Modern urban planning since the 1990s has offered a wealth of ideas for better resident-friendly streets, for more and integrated greenery, for traffic-calming, for climate-change mitigation. None of which seem to have seeped into our townhall. Instead, it seems our townhall wants more vehicles to race through our streets, wants more pollution, more noise, more hard, hot surfaces to collect the heat and contribute to the climate crisis. And, as staff have made it clear to residents, they want less safety on those streets, too.**

Not to mention the property values of every home on Sixth Street will nosedive.***

Collingwood deserves better.


* The legacy of this council is now twofold: first they approved a 24-story millionaires’ condo playground on our waterfront, contributing at least $16 million of our tax dollars to bonus a private development, (as well as giving away 85% of a public waterfront park to the developers), and now they’ve become the council that kills trees to favour cars. It should also be mentioned that this council raised development charges on new homes considerably, making all types of housing less affordable than any time in our town’s history. Maybe we should change our name to Forest-Hills-North.

** Back in 2016, I wrote about how Saunderson’s Block of Sycophants on council was using the steps in the book, 13 Ways to Kill Your Community as their strategic plan. Number six of those 13 ways is “Don’t paint.” Painting, as used here, is a metaphor for keeping your town beautiful and attractive to both residents and visitors. Back then, I wrote,

“Painting isn’t the only factor included in this concept,” write the authors. It’s all about keeping your community vibrant and growing to meet the needs of its residents.

And from the book itself:

A community’s appearance is the most telling sign of its own pride, it’s the clearest indication of faith in itself and it is the clearest outward sign of its future … Failure may take a concerted effort to turn your town ugly, and of course that will only create the façade of failure, it will only create the illusion that your town is dying… no one will be attracted to your community, and eventually that illusion of failure will become a reality.

Townhall's wet dream for Collingwood: more traffic!
Townhall’s vision for Collingwood: more traffic, more noise, more pollution, less safety and lower property values.

Last night, the majority of council failed us. They chose not to beautify our community, not to listen to residents, but to uglify it, not to make it vibrant, but the opposite: to chop down some of the trees that make it a beautiful place to live. And keep in mind, the previous council did it as well: chopping down more than 50 mature trees for the convenience of one of their members. Meeting the needs of residents? Last night, the majority ignored them. This isn’t a one-time decision: townhall plans to make Collingwood better for cars and trucks at the expense of the quality of life of our residents. Staff probably celebrated after the decision. More asphalt! Fewer trees! Hooray!

*** From Investopedia: “Because most people prefer less traffic and noise than is found on a main road, houses on busy streets tend to sell at a discount. This can be an advantage for buyers without kids or pets. According to Mark Ferguson of InvestFourMore, a house on a busy street can be as much as 20% cheaper compared to a similar house on a quiet street.” From “While there are a number of locations considered by home buyers to be “bad,” a main thoroughfare is certainly one of the big ones. Studies indicate a busy street could lower the value of a home by 6 to 16 percent.” From Toronto Realty blog: “Apples to apples, nobody would choose to live on a busy street!  And thus an identical house on a busy street, compared to a quiet street, would undoubtedly sell for less on the open market.” (emphasis added)

NB: A 2022 article on, titled Street Trees: The Roots of a Strong Town, notes (emphasis added):

Street trees provide plenty of pragmatic benefits in terms of urban planning and environmental wellness, such as shade from heat and relief from humidity, making streets more walkable and bikable and lowering the average electricity bills of surrounding households. They also lower the average driving speed, making roadways safer for pedestrians and drivers alike. There’s even evidence that they improve the health of nearby residents, lower crime rates, and drastically increase property values in an area.

Not only do street trees provide good shade, increase market value, and slow cars on our street, they tell a story. When a tree is planted, it can one day tell the stories it created in the neighborhood. The possibilities are vast depending on the type of tree: It could tell stories of how it increased community engagement, how people would start conversations over its changing golden leaves—or, conversely, it could tell a story about how it never actually grew because it was planted incorrectly.

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    From CwoodToday…
    An audible sigh of disapproval from the audience was heard in council chambers on Monday night, after council voted against a reconsideration of the redesign for Sixth St.
    During council’s regular meeting on July 8, councillors were faced with a choice to reconsider the current plan for a redesign of Sixth St. Coun. Deb Doherty, Coun. Steve Perry, Coun. Rob Ring and Coun. Christopher Baines voted opposed to the reconsideration, sinking it, as a reconsideration requires a two-third majority vote of councillors to be considered. A reconsideration vote at a council meeting takes place without discussion from councillors or the public.

    But this following statement is wrong (emphasis added in factual errors) and the reporter should have done her homework and fact-checked any such claim, but what can we really expect from local media, eh…
    On June 3, council approved a tree replacement plan in response to the information that the latest design would necessitate the removal of 36 trees, which would see two trees planted in town for every one cut down. Property owners on Sixth St. and on adjacent side streets will be offered free trees for their private yards.

    No: the town will offer immature trees to Sixth Street residents so the town can avoid any responsibility for maintaining them, but there is no requirement for anyone to take one. The town has no plans or interest in planting trees on other boulevards (in large part because townhall apparently despises trees and greenspaces and much prefers cars and asphalt). And there is no approved timeline for those trees to be offered, no fixed time for acceptance, or delivery.

  2. Oh, the hypocrisy of our council:
    August 5, 2022
    During the August 8th Strategic Initiatives Committee meeting, Council will be presented with a refresher on the current policies and plans that preserve and protect the tree canopy, as well as recommendations for short and mid-term actions to augment that important work including funding needed.

    Collingwood’s current tree canopy preservation tools include the Planning Act, Official Plan, Tree Preservation By-law, Simcoe County Tree By-law, and the Urban Design Manual. The Town also continues with ongoing tree preservation and maintenance on Collingwood’s municipal lands through both in-house and contracted resources. The forthcoming Corporate and Community Climate Action Plans will also the important role trees play in carbon sequestration and addressing the impacts of climate change.

    Council recognizes the importance of Collingwood’s tree canopy having adopted the Urban Forest Management Plan in February 2020. Council further provided direction on May 30, 2022, for staff to consider further steps to preserve and augment this important natural asset. In addition, under the Goal: enhance community well-being and sustainability of The Town’s Community Based Strategic Plan (2020-2023), we need to “preserve the town’s environment and take action on climate change”, which includes work to “baseline and improve Town’s environmental performance measures” within one (1) to three (3) years.

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