By Dan Ferguson
Clear-cutting an Aldergrove industrial site without permission will cost a developer $37,800.
Beedie Development Group chopped down all of the trees on the property it owns at 56 Avenue and 272 Street in the Gloucester Industrial Area without getting the necessary approval from Langley Township.
Under the terms of a restrictive covenant, the trees were not supposed to be touched until council had a chance to review the proposal to construct two buildings totaling 8,000 square metres on the site.
The company said the clear-cut was the result of a “miscommunication.”
In October, Township council delayed approving the project while staff discussed some form of compensation with the builder.
The agreed-upon payment was approved by council on Dec. 8, with some councillors arguing the amount wasn’t nearly enough.
Kim Richter called the $37,800 “a slap on the wrist” and suggested $100,000 would be better.
Petrina Arnason agreed, calling the settlement “insufficient” and “insignificant.”
“I feel we have to send a strong message,” Arnason said.
Responding to questions from council, Ramin Seifi, the Township general manager of engineering and community development said there is nothing on the books that covers the situation (in April, council approved an interim bylaw restricting tree-cutting in Brookswood, but it doesn’t apply to the rest of Langley Township).
Without a Township bylaw setting out a penalty for cutting down trees without permission in Gloucester, Seifi said, the best approach seemed to be negotiating a deal where the developer covered the cost of replacing the trees.
Because there won’t be room to replace all the trees on the site once the buildings go up, the money could be used to plant new trees elsewhere in the community, Seifi said.
Seifi added the first financial offer from the developer “was significantly less” than the $37,800″ Beedie agreed to in the end.
It works out to $350 per tree (the number of fallen trees was originally reported at 82, but that figure was revised to 108 in a Dec. 8 staff report to council).
Most other members of council felt it was a reasonable amount to pay, and should not be increased.
“I don’t think you can arbitrarily make up a [higher] number,” Blair Whitmarsh said.
Mayor Jack Froese said setting “fines on the fly” was not the way to go.
“It’s not our land,” Bob Long noted, adding “it’s not our trees and they would come down, anyway.”
The agreement was endorsed by a majority of council with only Richter and Arnason voting against it.