A proposed highrise development in London’s Old North is drawing the ire of neighbours who say the project would destroy what they consider a beautiful oasis of woodland and wildlife.
City hall gave Grosvenor Development Corp. the green light July 31 to build a 122-unit, 13-storey apartment building, at 112 St. James St., between Gibbons Park and Richmond Street. A small parcel next to the proposed tower, at 124 St. James, will also be part of the development.
John Taylor lives in a building adjacent to where the complex would be built. He said he can practically touch the trees set to be cut down off his balcony, and thinks the project is a threat to a community now dominated by green space.
“It’s a loss of 75 beautiful trees which is a habitat for deer and fox and owls and hogs. It goes on and on. It’s a wildlife haven, and it’s beautiful,” Taylor said. “This would destroy our beautiful woodland and the loss of wildlife habitat for many species.”
Heading a group of residents who’ve dubbed themselves “Forest Citizens,” Taylor has organized a peaceful protest opposing the development for Monday at 7 p.m. at the junction of St. James and Talbot streets.
“We want to make it clear to the multimillion-dollar developers that we are not going to lose our little piece of paradise to line their pockets,” he said.
Taylor and his group are looking at past building permits in a last-minute plea to appeal city hall’s approval of the project. He said repeated attempts to contact provincial and municipal officials have gone without much success.
“I’ve been in touch with the city, with my MP (Peter Fragiskatos), with the ward councilor (Phil Squire). They said it’s a done deal. It’s just a done deal and there’s nothing anyone can do about it,” he said.
Despite residents’ concerns, there is no mention of the issue in agendas for upcoming city hall planning meetings.
Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire said he sympathizes with Taylor but, considering the development has been approved and there’s yet to be a formal appeal against the application, his hands are tied.
“When trees are cut down, it’s unfortunate. I understand (Taylor’s) concerns, but I think it’s important to remember that it’s an approved development,” Squire said, adding the community association for the area was “completely involved” with the developer’s proposal.
“The development has been approved. I know that a group of people, who have been in touch with me, have indicated they’re opposed to it. But it’s an approved development.”
Squire said there is a tree preservation plan in place and that some trees will replanted around the new building at 112 St. James St. He did not specify how many trees would be replanted.
A date for the start of construction of the proposed highrise has not been made public by the developer.