Nanaimo company faces city fine for illegally clearing trees

NANAIMO – Spokesman says Maplewood Properties plans to dispute levy.

A Nanaimo company has been slapped with a $10,000 fine for illegally removing trees, including in protected habitat.

An investigation report by the City of Nanaimo reveals that Maplewood Properties cleared trees for a new science and technology building on Kenworth Road without permits and “knowingly contrary” to city bylaws.

Maplewood applied for a development permit and aquatic setback reduction last March. Three months before it won approval, a city staff person discovered a significant portion of the site had been “cleared of trees and grubbed and left bare.” Approximately 19 trees had been on the site, including five in a protected setback area, the report says.

Under the city’s maintenance and protection of trees bylaw, in place since 1993, four trees a year can be removed without a permit on a property the size of the one on Kenworth Road and nothing can be cut down if the land is still under a development application.

The company did not have a tree removal permit or tree management plan, which would have seen a qualified professional inspect the area for nesting sites and significant trees and ensure provincial wildlife act requirements were met. Damage has been done to the habitat, but it’s minimal, according to Kevin Brydges, the city’s environmental enforcement officer, who says the most significant issue is the company removed trees without permits.

“If they had left the site alone, got their permits – which included a development permit as well as a tree removal permit – and then went in and did what they did they probably would have been fine,” he said. “By going in before they had any permits in place they are outside of the bylaw or in contravention.”

The report says the registered owner wanted to remove trees to show his client they were making progress and he believed he had permission from the city’s development approval planner to clear the site, but the city staff member denies giving the go-ahead. A municipal officer also couldn’t legalize an illegal act, the city’s investigation found.

Odai Sirri, a spokesman for Maplewood Properties, says the company disagrees with the city’s assessment and will dispute the fine, which is now a judicial matter. The trees were not old growth, but “glamorized weeds” which were being removed to make room for native, high-value species, according to Sirri.

“This was a breakdown of the communication process, pure and simple and I don’t believe we are responsible for that,” he said.

The $10,000 fine is the third issued this year under the maintenance and protection of trees bylaw. There was a $10,500 issued for 4960 Songbird Pl. and an $11,325 fine levied at 3678 Reynolds Rd.