Posted by: Alan Halberstadt | July 10, 2014

City Responds To Shane

Below is the administrative response, which I requested, to Shane Mitchell, president of the Olde Walkerville Residents’ Association, regarding his association’s wish to preserve the mid-block trees in the Walkerville Business District.


Dear Shane:

This is a response to your e-mails addressed to Thom Hunt (City Planner), Jake Rondot (WBIA), Alan Halberstadt (Ward Councillor), and Jane He (Engineer, and Project Manager for the Wyandotte BIA (WBIA) Road Improvements & Streetscaping). It was requested that we (Bill Roesel, the Manager of Forestry and Horticulture and Stefan Fediuk, Landscape Architect) explain the decisions to remove the existing trees along Wyandotte Rd East in the Walkerville District BIA.   As you are aware from your dealings with us through the development process on other projects, neither of us are readily inclined to remove trees from development without good rationale, especially street trees.  Trust as professionals that the decision for removal has not been done hastily nor without research and compromise on our part.

We admit that at the beginning of the project, we had considered retaining the existing trees our decision to remove the existing trees was also influenced by the Provincial standard to construct and maintain sidewalks for accessibility for all (both “abled” and “otherly-abled”).  Initially, there had been some dialogue with the WBIA to possibly create bump-outs midblock to achieve this, but after meeting with the WBIA members, it was determined that parking space reduction was to be minimized.  That left the addition of midblock trees out of the question, and those existing trees (especially on the north side of Wyandotte) were in direct conflict with the need to comply with the accessibility requirements. Additionally moving the trees out from the building to create accessibility would have resulted in the trees need to be moved or cut down and the result would have been the same.

We conducted an assessment of the current tree stock along Wyandotte Street in the WBIA and determined that many of the trees were either dead, dying or suffering from the extreme urban conditions to which they were being exposed.  For clarity, in our expertise we define suffering as displaying of any of the following conditions a) poor or small leafing patterns, b) witches’ brooms (short concentrated growth), c) an abundant of tip kill, d) unnatural exfoliation of bark, e) excessive seeding, or f) asymmetrical growth, to mention a few symptoms.

As mentioned the former streetscape installations of the 1980’s, did not employ adequate techniques for the survival of urban trees due the practice’s infancy.  Soil volumes were insufficient with the 4’x 6’x 24” (48 cu ft) tree pits.  You will note in the historic photo that you provided, the trees that line Wyandotte Street East are in grassed boulevards, which is an ideal condition for root growth (large soil volumes) and moisture penetration by open areas.  Unfortunately, those conditions no longer exist in the Walkerville BIA so we require more engineered methods to ensure the health and survival of trees in the urban environment.  This is why we were directed by the WBIA to use the methods which were employed along the recent streetscaping of Wyandotte Street West.  As a result we are using both raised planters and subsurface planting pits to achieve a larger soil volume (7’x20’x 40”(490 cu ft)) for each of the trees being installed, to ensure a successful and quicker establishment of the new trees to be planted at the bump-outs at each corner in the WBIA.

As you indicated in your response to Councilor Halberstadt’s reply, I concur that new midblock trees with the Strata/Silva Cell technology would be a great improvement but the maintenance of parking as requested by the WBIA precludes that from the design.  Aside from the additional funding for the bump outs, concrete paving, permeable pavers, new trees, soil and StrataCell, there are several factors that would need to be achieved, including; dealing with the parking issue, could any healthy trees survive the construction and lastly the room needed is not available without substantial widening of sidewalk area and the funds to accomplish this).  I appreciate the image you sent from Greenwich Village in New York City, however there are different accessibility requirements there than in Windsor which we are required to comply with.

As for the OWRA’s similarity to other recent streetscape projects in the city (i.e. Pelissier and Ouellette) which have used a completely different technology of structural soils, we (Bill and Stefan) have conducted our own review and concur that the trees that were retained using this method are not doing as well as hoped. In fact, even the newly planted ones are displaying symptoms of suffering as identified earlier.  After already trying to preserve these trees, we have not been successful and some are declining at a rate that indicates that the nutrients in the soil have been expended and our efforts were too late.  As the trees along the BIA of Walkerville, were either planted at the same time and showing similar symptoms, or have already been removed or replaced (at least once) we selected to start fresh with larger trees (3 inch caliper), with tree species which are capable of withstanding urban pollutants and salt spray, with a method (sub-surface soil retention system) proven to have much stronger results in re-establishing an urban forest. The city continues to look at technologies for planting trees in the hardscape commercial environments.

We trust that this explains our decision to remove the existing trees along the WBIA.



Stefan Fediuk, M.Land.Arch, B.E.S., OALA, CSLA, Landscape Architect, City of Windsor

Bill Roesel, B.Sc.F., RPF,  Manager of Forestry & Horticulture, City of Windsor

Posted by: Alan Halberstadt | July 4, 2014

Q & A With Councillor Halberstadt

Reproduced with permission from Chris Schnurr, The Windsor Square.  


Q:  So you have announced you will not be seeking re-election.  What made you come to this decision?

A:  Seventeen years is a long time and the job is getting tougher not easier. The job is very demanding and tends to consume you. Not getting any younger obviously. I need to spend more quality time with my wife Susan and hopefully do some travelling in the near term.

Q:  You, I think it’s fair to say, have been regularly targeted by Mayor Francis and some of your colleagues on council.   In fact, a few years ago, you made headlines with “Your arrogance knows no bounds”  when you learned the Mayor submitted the canal proposal to the Federal government before going to council.   What impact, if any, has this had your decision?

A:  Certainly being isolated and ostracized within any group is not easy to take, but I have been sustained by the unsolicited support and encouragement I receive from taxpayers on line or just going about my business in the community.

No doubt the Arrogance Knows No Bounds quote will be remembered and attached to Eddie and I for years to come.

Q:  What are some of your  key contributions you have made as councillor after 6 terms?

A:  It’s five terms. It would have been six if I ran again and won. Transparency – my resolution to post Councillors attendance on line, my motion to keep track of the time spent in camera and compare it to the time spent in public.

My criticism of Fortress EnWin, which finally led to open EnWin Utility meetings earlier this year.

Going through FOI to make public Windsor’s sewer surcharge rates compared to peer Ontario cities.

Another FOI request allowed me to make public the leasing rates the city charges Premier Aviation for their airport MRO hanger.

My work with the Windsor Essex Environment Committee resulting in key anti-idling and pesticide ban bylaws.

Also instrumental in making public the plans of the Port Authority to bulldoze Ojibway Shores natural area, leading to a mass rally that stopped he project.

Founder of the Clean City Committee and Wipe Out Graffiti movements, as well as iconic cycling events Bike To Work, Bike The Bridge and Bike To The Fireworks.

Brought forward the initiative to apply for Bike Friendly Ontario designation for Windsor.

Conversion of empty lot on Assumption Ave. into Rivertown Community Garden in the midst of a sensitive neighbourhood.

Founder of the Smooth Our Roads campaign, that is ongoing and has led to more funding flowing to rehabilitate crumbling local roads.

Instrumental in saving Lanspeary outdoor hockey rink by re-establishing sponsorship by the Lions Club and raising money to install a roof to lengthen the season.

Q:  Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

A:  Not a lot would I have done differently, except I believe I spent too much time posting negative blogs in my second last term of Council, which infuriated Mayor Francis and led to periods of isolation on Council.

Q:  What do you hope to see in the future for Ward 4?

A:  I believe the future of Ward 4 is bright, especially for the four business districts which have been or will be refreshed and modernized by major infrastructure projects – Erie Street, Ottawa Street, Walkerville and Wyandotte Towne Centre.

I am proud to be the Ward Councillor driving, aiding and abetting these projects. I am currently working with a neighbourhood partnership involving the University of Windsor school of social work to revitalize the Glengarry-Marentette area.

Perhaps my greatest disappointment is the closing of Water World, which stands as a symbol of neglect from the city.

A new library branch attached to the Optimist Community Centre in South Walkerville.

Keep fixing the roads in the core.

An effective financial incentive plan for developers and home builders in Glengarry-Marentette, and for the Wyandotte Town Centre business district.

Refurbishing of Bert Weeks Garden.

Q:  What advice do you have for future councillors and the new Mayor?

A:  For Councillors, promise to go the extra mile for constituents and be diligent in carrying out that promise. Be prepared to work harder than you can imagine.

To the new Mayor, dedicate yourself to be inclusive of all Councillors and don’t be afraid to introduce a dedicated tax levy to fix the roads.

Spread around the leadership of the major boards and commissions.

Q:  What are some of your best memories on council?

A:   One of my best and funniest memories is when Councillor Ken Lewenza Jr. made a motion at Council to remove me as chair of the Library Board and I seconded the motion. Council voted it down.

Q:  What plans do you have now that you’ve decided not to seek re-election?

A:  Spend more quality time at home with my wife Susan. Travel a bit. I’m going to Germany and Switzerland later this month with my son Andrew. I am considering running for the public school board. I will continue to write and hopefully to fulfil my long-time dream of authoring a book or two.

Posted by: Alan Halberstadt | June 27, 2014

Why The Change in Walkerville Tree Locations?

Constituents are understandably looking for an explanation on why multiple mid-block trees are being removed as part of the streetscaping project starting on July 7 within the Walkerville business district.

The plan was designed by city staff including landscape architect and horticultural expert Stefan Fediuk. It was approved by the Wallkerville BIA following consultations with BIA members over a period a several months.

Currently there are 28 tree pits within the BIA, which once held 28 trees. Three were removed long ago and six others are in decline and scheduled for removal prior to approval of the streetscaping project. They are victims of a hostile urban environment caused by small, outmoded pits with too little drainage and soil volumes that stunt root growth.

There are also three lindens on the street, and that species has been invaded by a bug and are being removed city-wide. The lifespan of these trees is short given the existing environment. The majority of those planted have needed to be replaced every four or five years.

The new plan will remove all of the remaining 16 or 17 mid-block trees to be supplanted by 21 or 22 trees in the bulb-out intersections of the five-block district, a net gain of five. The bulb-outs will provide the trees with larger pits, better drainage flows and much improved soil volumes, in other words a less hostile environment.

When the cities began planting trees in business districts in the 1980s, Stefan explains, technology was in its infancy and the pits that were installed proved to be unsatisfactory to retain the health of urban trees. For instance, with poor drainage in the pits, heavy rainfall can cause drowning.

The city is now using a modern technology called stratacells to host its urban trees, witness the trees recently planted in the bus stop areas on Wyandotte Street West near the university. This system allows the roots of the trees to infiltrate soil beneath the sidewalk, providing them with the nutrients they require to grow, thrive and survive, perhaps into the next century.

The new trees to be planted in Walkerville will be up to 10-to-12 feet tall and have a three-inch diameter. They will be of mixed species including ginkgo, horse chestnut and London Plane, and will grow up to 80-to-100 feet tall.

London Planes are magnificent trees extremely popular in urban forests around the world, including London, England and Paris, France. They will shed bark at certain times of the year, but that is actually a signal that the tree is healthy and growing.

The intersection bulb-outs provide a larger space than the mid-block spaces, improving accessibility to the stores and restaurants and removing visual blockages to signage important to merchants. The mid blocks in the new streetscaping will include street level planters and hanging baskets.

Under new provincial accessibility standards, sidewalks are required to be 2.2 meters in length and provide space for wheel chairs to negotiate. Mid-block trees, according to administration, intrude on the accessible space.

The rationale for not keeping the mid-blocks trees? Administration says it does not make sense when you will just have to replace them in five years anyway.

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