Don’t think there are tree bylaws in Nanaimo? Want a better view? Make sure you check before cutting! This property owner certainly wish he did.
According to Nanaimo News Now, illegally cutting down trees on a vacant waterfront lot in Nanaimo’s Cilaire neighbourhood could cost a local businessman in the range of $100,000 in fines and other expenses.
Joseph (Jim) Mercier’s sentencing hearing got underway Wednesday in Provincial Court in Nanaimo after he pleaded guilty to illegally chopping down 25 trees on a White Eagle Terrace property he owns in the summer of 2016.
Court was told a mixture of red alders and big leaf maple trees, considered protected species by the City, were cut down on the steeply sloped property overlooking the Departure Bay ferry terminal.
City lawyer Jarrett Plonka said Mercier intended to buy the lot earlier in 2016 and as part of his due diligence had meetings with the City to determine if he wanted to proceed with the purchase.
Plonka said Mercier asked specifically about the possibility of removing trees to improve his view, a request the City’s then-real estate manager Bill Corsan said likely would not be approved.
“He still took the trees down,” Plonka said. “He cut them down after being aware of those conditions, after consulting with local government and after being advised of the problems of what he wanted to do,” Plonka said.
“The approach that Mr. Mercier is demonstrating is it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission,” Plonka said.
Court was told a letter from Corsan to Mercier explained existing trees he intended to cut strengthen slope stability and shouldn’t be removed without a geotechnical report.
Plonka referenced expert opinions which stated negative and also positive effects of slope stability caused by Mercier’s actions.
The City of Nanaimo’s tree removal bylaw allows for up to four unprotected trees at least six centimetres in diameter to be removed from private property annually, while no protected trees can legally be chopped down without a permit.
There are stricter tree removal rules in place on areas with a steep slope, including the White Eagle Terr. lot in question.
City fines for illegal tree-cutting range between $500 and 10,000 per tree on top of required replacement costs.
The City is pushing for Mercier to pay a fine of $3,500 to $4,500 per tree.
Mercier’s lawyer, Peter Behie, said his client intends to spend $50,000 remediating the property.
Behie said Mercier facing financial penalties in the range of $175,000 are not appropriate and doesn’t fall in line with what judges have issued in similar cases.
“People pay less money for destroying fish habitat, people pay less money for having an unsafe work environment were somebody loses their life. We have to stand back and keep this in perspective,” Behie said.
Court heard of two other illegal tree-cutting cases in Nanaimo, including Tilray Canada, which was fined $50,000 last year for removing five trees at its Duke Point site just prior to being permitted to do so.
Mercier’s sentencing hearing continues at a later date. The case is being overseen by Judge Douglas Cowling.