Colwood Coun. Cynthia Day was carried away from her protest camp by Mounties on Wednesday after she refused to allow city workers to remove a rock wall and a laurel hedge she planted on public property 23 years ago.
Since Friday, the veteran councillor has occupied the camp on the boulevard outside her Charnley Place home. Day is concerned the city will cut down three giant cedar trees she planted on city property next to her own yard, which has 13 large cedars.
On Wednesday, the RCMP and a city bylaw officer knocked on her door and told her that public works was proceeding with the work to remove the retaining wall. Day and the officers walked up to the boulevard to see what was going on. She was asked to move her van from the boulevard, but she refused and it was towed.
“We didn’t want to move it because we didn’t know what they were doing. They have no arborist report and no plan,” Day said. “I was concerned about the impact to my trees.”
The 57-year-old stood in the hedge and yelled at city workers to stop what they were doing.
“I was told if I stayed in the work area they would have no choice to arrest me. And I stayed. And I was arrested,” she said.
“The officers were very kind to me. Obviously, they didn’t treat me badly, but they did carry me away from the site.”
The officers told Day that their supervisor had directed them to arrest anyone who got in the way of city workers.
Day, who has been on council since 2002, was not handcuffed. She was placed in the back seat of the police car and taken to the West Shore RCMP detachment.
“The officers very kindly delivered a message from me to my husband, Tim, requesting that he also not be arrested. I didn’t think it would serve any purpose and he could stay and take a video of what they were doing,” she said.
Day phoned a lawyer and was given some advice. Then she was taken to a small lounge area to have a chat with the officer in charge.
“He asked me if I would give my word that I would not re-enter the work area and I told him I would give him my word.”
Day was released without charges, but with a warning that if she did go back to the work area, it would be considered a second offence and would incur greater penalties.
Sandra Russell, Colwood’s communication’s manager, said the city wasadvised in 2017 that one of the trees Day had planted in the public right of way had fallen onto the neighbouring home.
“It’s incumbent upon the city to address issues of safety and liability on public property. That’s why, over the past 18 months, the city has been working with the homeowners to come to a resolution,” Russell said. The city came up with an “encroachment agreement” that would allow all the plantings and structures to stay in place provided the Days assumed all the responsibility for the work, said Russell. The Days were given two opportunities but did not sign the agreement.
“We didn’t sign it because we had a highway use permit, which is still valid and there’s no reason for it to be revoked,” Day said. “The encroachment agreement came with significant costs to us.”
The problem will not affect Day’s role as a city councillor, Russell said. “This is an issue between the city and a homeowner.”
According to Day, Colwood council held an in-camera meeting on Nov. 26 without her because of her declared conflict of interest. After the meeting, Mayor Rob Martin gave her a copy of a resolution that directed staff to remove the rock wall without further notice and bill the owners for the cost.
“We were not given an opportunity to speak or to present our side of the story,” Day said.
The rock wall has been partially removed and the laurel hedge has been trimmed.
Day said she has no choice but to give up the protest.
“There is nothing I can do to stop them doing what they’re doing. The only process that is available to me now is a civil court process,” she said.
Building the rock wall and planting the trees was an altruistic endeavour to protect a green space and enhance the neighbourhood, Day said.
“We did this at our own expense for the benefit of the whole community. Now they are taking it apart and the cost of removing it is going to be put on my taxes.”