Court hands down $84K fine for illegal tree cutting at Departure Bay

Jim Mercier contravened city bylaw by cutting trees at White Eagle Terrace in Nanaimo

A Nanaimo businessman has been fined close to $84,000 for illegally downing trees near Departure Bay ferry terminal in summer 2016.

Jim Mercier was initially charged with more than 40 City of Nanaimo municipal bylaw offences which took place between Aug. 25-Sept. 4, 2016 on a 22,000-square foot lot on White Eagle Terrace, which Mercier was considering buying at the time and has since bought. Twenty-five of those counts were confirmed, according to Judge Douglas Cowling at provincial court in Nanaimo on Thursday.

Nineteen trees were broad leaf maple trees with trunk diameters between 26-69 centimetres, said Cowling. There were also six red alders with trunks ranging from 27-34 cm in diameter. The lot was in an area with “expensive homes” between a residence and Beach Estates Park, which Cowling said isn’t a developed park. It protects a stream and has a 20-metre slope to the Departure Bay foreshore. It has been designated as a place of archaeological significance due to evidence of First Nation occupation.

Cowling said evidence indicated tree removal was primarily to enhance the view. There were concerns slope stability could be affected by the tree removal.

The cutting of the trees took place at the direction of Mercier by, what the judge gathered, was a person with professional ability.

Cowling fined Mercier to what amounted to $65,000, the property value increase due to the tree cutting, and $750 for each tree for a total of $83,750. Cowling said it was important to look at the totality of the $750 figure as opposed to the per tree figure.

The fine has to be fully paid by Sept. 1, 2020, said Cowling.

Neither Peter Behie, Mercier’s legal counsel, nor Mercier were available for comment after sentencing.

Jarrett Plonka, city legal counsel, was pleased with the ruling and said one of the primary principles of sentencing by Cowling was discouraging profits from the contravention.

“Judge Cowling imposed a $65,000 fine as a starting point and that’s to essentially ensure that Mr. Mercier doesn’t profit and has to pay a fine equivalent to the profit that he’s enjoyed from improving the value of his property,” said Plonka. “The $18,750 … the fine that can’t just account for profit, the fine also has to account for things such as denunciation and deterrence to send a message to the public that trees can’t be cut, breaching the bylaw in contravention of it without regard to the city’s bylaws.”

Plonka suggested the financial figure the court came to was well within what the city proposed as an appropriate fine.

Mercier ran in the 2017 byelection for Nanaimo city council.



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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