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A Toronto house is being built within a circle of six oak trees.<252>

Kerry Gold

Vancouver might take some pointers from Toronto's private tree bylaw.

Last year, we saw five trees a day get chopped down in Vancouver, almost entirely because of housing development, according to a city report.

Meanwhile, in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood, a new house is making way for the trees, instead of the other way around.

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The Balsam Street house is being built within a circle of six oak trees – including one tree that required a portion of the house's roof to be notched out.

The house sits on a raised platform instead of a foundation, to allow room for the complicated network of roots. There is also a sub-surface irrigation system to water those roots. The tree project would have tripled the cost of building the little house, which is located about a block from the lake.

The Beaches neighbourhood is one of Toronto's most desirable, with new detached homes selling for well over $1-million. Residents need a permit to chop down a healthy tree that is more than 30 centimetres in diameter, when measured 1.4 metres from the ground.

Consulting arborist for the project, Ian Bruce, says that where residential development is concerned, the city is doing something right.

"I was consulting arborist responsible for stick handling all the tree issues and getting him a permit that would allow [the homeowner] to build that place," says Mr. Bruce. "The city is trying to balance the needs of maintaining the forest canopy with the needs for development and revitalization.

"You can't build a house and just tear out trees."

It's not the most extreme example he's seen, either. He worked on a project to save an old copper beech tree that stood amid a proposed condo project on Spadina Avenue. In order to satisfy the city requirements, the developer had to save part of an existing concrete garage wall to protect the tree's roots.

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"It was an extensive engineering challenge."

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