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$214,000 in fines for firms after protected trees cut down in Courtenay

City of Courtenay issued 107 tickets to each firm, $1,000 for each tree cut down or damaged
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The fines were imposed after more than 100 trees on 20th Street, just off Lambert Drive, in Courtenay were allegedly damaged or cut down. CHEK News

A contractor and property-management company have been fined $214,000 for cutting and damaging more than 100 protected trees in Courtenay.

The city issued 107 tickets to each of the parties — $1,000 for every tree that was cut or damaged, under the city’s tree protection and management bylaw.

The allegations, which haven’t been proven in court, are that 107 trees were either cut down or damaged just 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 that required it to remain in a natural state.

“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.”

The tree cutting was reported to the city on Dec. 16, and staff ordered the contractor to stop work.

Some of the trees were located on multiple adjacent private properties. The investigation determined that the property owners were not involved in the tree cutting, and they were not subject to any enforcement, the city said in a statement.

Courtenay has expanded its bylaw services division over the past year, allowing it to respond to community concerns, said the mayor.

“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.”

The city said tree-cutting permits are required for properties that are protected by an agreement such as a covenant or development permit, or within environmentally sensitive areas or steep slopes, and cover protected species including Garry oak and Pacific dogwood.

The city said it notified the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada in December and the federal agency is following up on the incident.

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