The City of Courtenay has issued 107 tickets to a contractor and a further 107 tickets to a property management company for cutting or damaging more than 100 protected trees, contrary to the Tree Protection and Management Bylaw.
The allegations, which at this time have not been disputed or proven in court, are that 107 trees were either cut down or damaged.
The work occurred off 20th Street near Lambert Drive in mid-December 2021. The area is within a riparian area of the Piercy Creek watershed, and protected by a covenant which required that it remain in a natural state.
Fines associated with the tickets total $107,000 ($1,000 per protected tree) for each party, as per the city’s Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw.
“These are heavy penalties, but the fines are clearly laid out in our bylaws,” said Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells. “Riparian areas are protected by law, and there are serious consequences for those who damage them.”
When the work was reported to the city on Dec. 16, 2021, staff ordered the contractor to stop work immediately. A thorough investigation ensued.
Some of the trees were located on multiple adjacent private properties. The investigation determined that these property owners were not involved in the tree cutting and therefore will not be subject to any enforcement. The city is grateful to these property owners for their patience as the investigation unfolded – hampered for several weeks by heavy, sustained snowfall in the area – and their ongoing co-operation.
Courtenay has expanded the Bylaw Services division over the last year, allowing them to respond more effectively to community concerns.
“These investigations take time,” said Wells. “We’ve added two more team members to bylaw enforcement which has proven to be essential when dealing with complex issues like this one – and in this case, protecting fish and wildlife habitat.”
Tree cutting permits are always required for properties that are protected by an agreement such as a covenant or development permit, when removing within environmentally sensitive areas or steep slopes, or for several protected species including Garry oak and Pacific dogwood. Tree cutting permits are also generally required for properties larger than 4,000 square metres (approximately one acre), and when tree removal would result in the property falling below tree density targets.
As the tree cutting occurred adjacent to a stream, city staff promptly notified the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in December, and has since provided details of the scope and number of trees affected. The department is following up on the incident.
To learn more about tree regulations and the City of Courtenay’s urban forests, visit www.courtenay.ca/trees
The recipients have 14 days to pay the fine or dispute the allegations. As this is now an active enforcement matter, the city will not be commenting further.