I am not quite sure why anyone would build a house in 1999 next to a golf course established in 1923 and then take legal action against being bombarded by golf balls. Nor would I want to be the guy who cut these trees down; the lefties in the city will be after his sap er blood.
No `fore' as golf club hacks maples
VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR
Trees that bordered a new house rained on by golf balls are now fit for the fireplace. Islington Golf Club plans to build a protective screen.
Sudden move by Islington links to make room for screen in front of bombarded house upsets residents, the city, golfers
Mar 15, 2007 04:30 AM
City Hall Bureau
This is a story with an unhappy ending.
Four mature trees have been turned into firewood. The Islington Golf Club has a third hole it wishes were different. The club's neighbours face the prospect of living beside a towering fence they never wanted, meant to block errant golf balls.
And a deep rift has opened between the golf club and the pleasant, prosperous community around it.
"How can we feel the same friendliness and trust we've always had?" said neighbour Iris Peterson yesterday, as she surveyed a landscape of felled tree trunks, massive fence supports and roaring construction equipment.
The fence the club is building along part of its eastern boundary will tower more than 24 metres high, with hefty black steel posts supporting black mesh screens.
To make way for it, the club has cut down four silver maples planted in the 1920s, over the opposition of the city and local Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby.
"I'm outraged. It's a travesty," bristled Peterson yesterday.
The story begins in 1999, when Charles and Pauline Sammut moved into a new house at the end of Fairway Rd., next to the third hole of the Islington Golf Club. From the time they arrived, their property was peppered with stray drives from the third tee; after they went to court to complain, a judge wrote that "they cannot sit outside for fear of flying golf balls."
Some neighbours said the Sammuts should have realized their new house was in the line of fire from the golf course, which was founded in 1923.
The Sammuts' lawyer argued the city's official plan encourages new housing construction within the city, and the club had, in fact, agreed to the house being built after the matter had gone to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The court sided with the Sammuts. It ordered the club owners either to stop play on the hole or take steps to stop the barrage on the Sammut home.
John Wright, president of Islington Golf Club, says a string of solutions was tried. The club proposed a chain-link fence seven metres high along the property line, but the Sammuts objected.
The club moved the third tee. It built a berm in front of the Sammut home, topped by trees. It changed the green, so the best approach from the fairway was more to the left, farther from the Sammuts' house.
The number of balls hitting the Sammuts' property was cut in half, Wright says, but that still amounted to hundreds per year.
The only apparent solution was the lofty fence, 76 metres long. But there was one last problem. The preferred fence line ran through the four venerable trees. Zig-zagging around them would have weakened the fence, Wright said. And while the fence is designed to last for decades, the trees probably wouldn't live much longer than another 10 years.
The logical solution was to take out the trees, he said. By Tuesday afternoon, they were firewood.
The move took the city by surprise. Officials showed up with a stop-work order, but the club proceeded, arguing the trees were covered by the city's ravine bylaw, which gives property owners wider latitude to cut. Wright says the golf club will plant 19 new trees to replace them.
But neighbours like Peterson – who regularly picks golf balls out of her own yard – say the relationship with the golf course has changed forever. And the landscape, once green and open, will be forever scarred.
"It's enough to make one weep," she said.
Bob Berry, another long-time resident, had taken up a petition to preserve the trees. He, too, was astonished by the cutting.
Berry says the golf course has overreacted to the judge's decision, which noted that "complete elimination" of the Sammuts' golf ball problem "may be impossible to achieve using the reasonable options available."
The city is now studying its legal options. The golf club had obtained a permit to cut only one of the trees, again citing the ravine bylaw. City bylaws allow for fines of up to $10,000 if trees are cut illegally.
Councillor Luby says she had expected further talks "to protect the trees and find a solution everyone could live with."
The court has put the course owners in a tough spot, she acknowledged. "However, I think even if the trees had to go, they could have gone through the proper process with the city, instead of rushing in and chopping them down."
If the Sammuts were feeling any glow of triumph, it wasn't showing yesterday. Pauline Sammut appeared upset as machinery droned on her doorstep.
"I just don't want to talk about it," she said.
Golf club president John Wright wasn't happy, either.
"This was our absolutely last choice," he said. "Nobody wants it. Our neighbours don't want it. The Sammuts don't want it. Our members don't want it. But we're at the spot where there seems to be no other solution."