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Duncan company fined $50,000 for cutting 100 trees in Nanaimo without permit

Top Down Investments was fined by the City of Nanaimo after the trees were removed at a 5.9-acre site zoned for light industrial use in the city’s south end.
The company must also pay $31,200 as a security deposit to Nanaimo for replacement trees. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A development company has been fined $50,000 after 100 trees were cut down without a required permit on an almost six-acre property in Nanaimo.

The penalty was levied at $500 per tree, the minimum permitted under the city’s enforcement bylaw.

Top Down Investments, based in Duncan, came to a settlement agreement with the city after the trees were removed at 924 Old Victoria Rd., a 5.9-acre site zoned for light industrial use in the city’s south end.

After cutting the trees down, the company applied for a $1,000 tree-removal permit for the 100 trees, which has been approved.

The company must also pay $31,200 as a security deposit to Nanaimo for replacement trees, which would have been required in any case, Jeremy Holm, Nanaimo’s director of development approvals, said Tuesday.

Holm said the city took into account Top Down’s lack of awareness that a permit was needed, and the fact that it was a first offence and the company was co-operative and acknowledged what had happened.

He also noted that the felled trees, a mix of species, were not prohibited from being removed, saying Nanaimo would have granted a permit to remove the trees if the developer had applied for it before cutting. For example, the trees were not in an environmentally sensitive area.

The city’s urban forester and environmental protection officer were part of the investigation, Holm said.

The security deposit may be used for new trees on the Old Victoria property or in another location. Nanaimo runs a tree voucher program that helps residents offset the cost of a tree and is funded by tree replacement fees.

A Top Down spokesperson could not be reached Tuesday, but the company’s website shows that it is planning to develop the Old Victoria Road industrial property and had been looking for investors. It is now shown as funded.

Company CEO Guy Bouchard appears in a video promoting the site to potential investors, saying Nanaimo is lacking in available industrial space, “making this a very desirable property.”

He said the property could see 90,000 to 125,000 square feet of industrial space.

No development application for the site had been submitted to city hall as of Tuesday.

Top Down is also promoting other sites for development, including a land assembly in Duncan for redevelopment, a 150-acre Cowichan Valley site that could be subdivided into individual lots, and a 14-acre multi-family development site in Nanaimo.

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