Neighbours upset over damaged century-old trees in Barrie's south end

Some residents in Barrie's south-end Allandale neighbourhood say they're frustrated over the lack of rules and regulations regarding building secondary suites on residential properties.

If you look through Arlene McCann’s backyard there is currently a giant hole where a second house is being built on her neighbour’s property. 

"We had no notice of this. It started Monday with a survey crew coming in quickly followed by a bulldozer," she said.

The city issued the owner of the property a permit to build the secondary suite.

It's part of a strategy to create more affordable housing after the province loosened rules in 2019 around secondary suites as part of its More Homes, More Choice Act.

"City staff have been out, and the dwelling is being built as per the permit and the plans," said Jim Harris, Ward 8 city councillor.

But McCann says the excavation of the property has now jeopardized a century-old tree that borders the property.

"The structural integrity of the tree's roots has been severely compromised," McCann said. "The arborist has given his opinion that it is no longer safe and it will have to come down."

Her bordering tree is not the only one she says was damaged during excavation.

A walnut tree on the other side of the property owned by the St. George's Anglican Church will also have to be removed.

"It will be several thousand dollars to remove this tree, and that's a cost that we don't have in our budget," said Leonard Day, St. George's Anglican Church warden.

The neighbourhood association says several secondary suites are being built in the neighbourhood.

"This is also a city-wide problem. Ward one, ward two and ward three are also having issues as far as secondary suites being built," said Cathy Colebatch, co-chair of the Allandale Neighbourhood Association. "For the city staff and planning and council to throw their hands up in the air and say there is nothing we can do that's not good enough."

CTV News spoke with the property owner regarding the century-old trees, who says he wasn't aware the trees have to be removed.

He said he is willing to work with the neighbours.

But it's not just the trees; Harris says other issues have also been brought to light. "There's been a variety of concerns raised, I mean the size, the scale, the excavation, having a basement and the impact on bordering trees and neighbours."

Concerns the city is now trying to address.

"City staff have been reviewing the regulations and looking at bringing forward recommendations to consider in the fall," said Harris.

According to the city, 119 permits have been issued for second suites so far, with 16 applications for detached accessory dwellings.

"We are seeing more of these detached units being applied for, and the city is proposing updated zoning laws in order to balance the need for housing with the needs of existing neighbourhoods," said Andrea Miller, General Manager, Infrastructure and Growth Management in a statement to CTV News.