Comox resident Bill Toews will have to pay $3,800 to the Town and cover out-of-pocket expenses totalling more than $6,000 for labour and tree care after 18 Garry oak trees were altered to various degrees on his properties this spring.
Toews offered an apology at last week’s council meeting, and explained both he and his neighbour who lives on his adjoining property at 145 and 147 Manor Place consider themselves “stewards of our property and responsible property owners.
“We value our community, we value our neighbourhood, we value our environment and value our location.”
The trees - located on a high cliff bank - had been either cut, topped or pruned. Officials figure at least one of the trees was approximately 80 years old.
The area of the shoreline is protected due to the threat of erosion. Removal of trees without a permit is illegal and no permit was sought.
Toews explained he had difficulty with the public trespassing on the steep banks at the south end of his lot and the beach beneath the banks. On several occasions, he said, he spotted beach fires, which trespassers had set dangerously close to dry vegetation, and in some cases, fires were left unattended.
In the interest of better monitoring, Toews hired workers to top the trees on the bank with the intention to create a clearer view of the banks and beach below.
“When that was informed of us, we were both surprised, shocked and upset that we caused damage to an area that was considered valuable and important. We’ve employed professionals to see how we could make the situation [from] one of being a disaster to one of being a positive situation … to mitigate it and make it right.
“We’re indeed sorry that this occurred. We didn’t wish to cause problems to anyone else.”
An environmental impact assessment reported the project arborist indicated that of the 18 trees, five are not expected to survive due to the loss of too much of the live crown, 11 require health-care measures to help ensure survival and two are expected to survive without mitigation measures.
A restoration plan includes planting five new young Garry oak trees on 147 Manor Place and slope stability, as well as a three-year monitoring plan to ensure no overall long term degradation of Garry oak ecosystem.
The Town sought mitigation measures and replacement of the altered trees to offset the loss.
A development permit was sought for the mitigation measures, which was approved unanimously by council.