A motion that Council passed at its July meeting could mean expropriating 10 homes and 13 businesses.
The Frank Faubert Wood Lot is in the TTC’s way. The five hectare park at the northwest corner of McCowan and Ellesmere, and south of the Scarborough Civic Centre, features a mature grove of trees that was saved from development in the late 80s. It was most recently threatened when a TTC report said the property could be needed to construct the $3.2 billion one-stop Scarborough Subway Extension. But a motion passed at July’s council meeting directs the transit commission to avoid the woodlot at all costs, a decision that could mean expropriating local homes and businesses at a cost of millions of dollars.
Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre), the local councillor and the mayor’s appointed “subway champion,” wants to ensure the woodlot is preserved. While today De Baeremaeker is Council’s most vociferous supporter of the contentious subway extension, an an environmental activist he was part of the community group that rallied to save the woodlot, which was subsequently named after Scarborough’s last mayor. Now the councillor wants to make sure that his two legacies don’t come into conflict with one another.
“I’m hoping [the TTC] can create two adjacent sites up by the YMCA and the mall’s parking lot. That would mean no businesses, houses, no traffic or noise concerns posed to the residential space south of the area,” De Baeremaeker told Torontoist. “It would impact the parking lot. You would have to figure out how people are going to buy their Christmas presents.”
City Council voted to exclude the patch of greenery surrounded by grey concrete from plans to be used as a construction space for the future Scarborough subway extension.
De Baeremaeker’s motion was carried by a 39-4 vote on July 13.
“I expected it. When TTC staff came to me with the wood lot [proposal] my first reaction was to laugh,” De Baeremaeker said. “Why would you purposely agitate people with something you know is never going to happen?”
TTC staff did not propose using the Scarborough Town Centre parking lot as one of the five options for construction staging. The staging site is needed to host excavated soil and construction material as the 6.2 kilometre subway line is built. Of the sites proposed by the TTC, two would have affected the woodlot. After De Baeremaeker’s motion passed at July’s council meeting, this leaves three other proposals, which would require 13 businesses and 10 homes to be expropriated to accommodate construction.
Igor Emelianovich, who lives in one of the apartment buildings north of the woodlot on Borough Drive, an area that may be affected by construction of the subway tunnel, is happy he can continue to spend time under the shade of trees so close to home.
“I really love the park. It’s a kind of connection to my childhood [spent in Krasnodar, Russia],” Emelianovich said. “There’s nothing worth sacrificing here to build the station.”
Francis Li was passing through the area playing Pokémon Go. He agreed that the decision to save the wood lot was the right one.
“I think it’s a good decision, because [council] are thinking about the environment around us. It’s good for everyone,” Li said.
If De Baeremaeker’s hoped-for plan to use the Scarborough Town Centre parking lot and YMCA property to meet space requirements proves unfeasible, residential and commercial spaces are next on the list of options, and it could become costly.
Last year, The Toronto Catholic District School Board voted to purchase 17 North York townhomes to make room for St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Secondary School. It reportedly cost $31 million to expropriate the properties.
De Baeremaeker thinks it would cost less at McCowan and Ellesmere, as the average price of a home in the area is under $1 million, but he’d prefer not to go down the road of uprooting people or plants at all costs.
“Tearing up a sea of asphalt doesn’t really offend my sensibilities,” he said. “The idea of forcing people out of their homes, people who don’t want to leave, I think offends most people’s common sense.”