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Jan 18,2006 - The Now News

Coquitlam warns homeowners not to cut trees on steep slopes

By Leneen Robb - Staff Reporter

The same day North Vancouver District council told residents that 52 homes in that municipality face an unacceptably high risk of being destroyed in a slide, Coquitlam council voted to begin a campaign to educate the public on the dangers of cutting down trees on steep slopes.

"As a city we're about to embark on a public education program on this bylaw and tree cutting in general," Coun. Fin Donnelly said Monday.

"So I think once we get the word out that we are doing this, that hopefully residents will understand the areas in which trees are protected and should not be removed without permission."

Council's discussion was triggered by three incidents in which residents, whose property includes steep slopes, removed large trees without permission.

In all three cases, council voted to make the residents pay for the cost of replanting the slopes, but declined to hit them with fines allowed under the bylaw.

All three homeowners said they were unaware that the bylaw exists.

Coun. Louella Hollington said the education program will let residents know that the city has the ability to levy fines "and that those fines will be enforced if this continues.

"I don't think it's enough that people just replant these areas. First of all, I don't think that they will ever get back to the stability that originally was there ... and another reason is that it takes a lot of our staff time to make sure that these trees are planted properly," she said.

"And it endangers not only their property but neighbouring properties, so I think we have to take this a lot more seriously than we have in the past."

Coun. Mae Reid sought assurance from staff that if problems occur, it will be the geotechnical consultant's neck on the line, not the city's.

"When we (allow residents to) do these things on these slippery slopes, I would wonder that ... we are assured that the liability, if anything should happen, rests with the geotechnical engineer," Reid said, before asking for staff confirmation.

City manager Warren Jones assured her that it would be the geotechnical consultant, not the city, that would be on the hook if a slide occurs.

"My final word, after hearing about everything, in simple layman's language is 'If you have a tree and it's living on a slope, don't cut it,'" Reid said.

The city does not plan to begin fining residents who chop down trees on their own sloped property without a permit until after it launches its bylaw education campaign.

Parts of Coquitlam and Port Moody are built on a ridge similar to the Seymour escarpment in North Vancouver - called the Chineside escarpment - where a landslide a year ago killed a woman and left her husband seriously injured.

In 1979, two landslides occurred along the Chineside escarpment.

One knocked a house on Porter Street off its foundation, while the other sent a load of fill into a ravine.

published on 01/18/2006

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