Feb 2004 ? - The Now News

Neighbours claim they were misled about trees

by Angela MacKenzie
Staff Reporter

Ted Gadsden says he’s ready to stand and face bulldozers to stop a developer from cutting down trees behind his Coquitlam home. Gadsden lives on a cul-de-sac in the Westwood Plateau, just metres from Port Moody. He bought his home last summer, and he says the forest of trees beyond his backyard was one of the main reasons he fell in love with the spot.

Now Gadsden says he was misled by the developer.

At the end of this summer, ParkLane Homes plans to begin clearing a 700-metre stretch of trees running north-south along its Cobblestone Lane development, to a depth of 35 metres. The trees stand on property ParkLane owns in Port Moody’s Heritage Woods.

Bob Cardinal, chief operating officer for ParkLane, says plans to clear the trees, along with a proposal to develop a single-family neighbourhood in Heritage Woods, has been public knowledge for years – information anyone could have obtained by checking with the City of Port Moody’s planning department.

"That subdivision has been approved for many, many years," Cardinal said.

But Gadsden said he and many of his neighbours were told a thick buffer of trees would separate their homes from the new homes to be built across the city boundary.

"I feel that ParkLane seriously misrepresented itself as two of its sales representatives and an independent real estate agent told about 40 buyers there would be a 40- to 50-foot tree buffer, when there clearly was no plan to that effect, or so we’re now being told," Gadsden said.

The process has been ongoing since last fall. In November, Port Moody council approved ParkLane’s request to remove 43 trees deemed hazardous based on a study by Norman Hol, an arborist with Arbortech Consulting Ltd., who was hired by ParkLane to study the condition of the trees in the area.

In his report, Hol wrote that the 43 trees had defects that could cause them to fall down. With single-family homes to the east and a public walkway in the BC Gas pipeline right-of-way within striking distance of the trees, Hol warned of "potential for personal injury and/or property damage."

ParkLane applied to have the clearing of trees in the area expanded to a 35-metre width, including all mature trees. Port Moody granted the request, based on the approach recommended in the Arbortech report (to replant 101 small trees, 67 large trees and 168 shrubs) and an environmental assessment by Enkon Environmental, which recommends the protection of a 15 metre by 20 metre wetland area north of Panorama Drive as well as the incorporation of silt/sedimentation control measures during the tree removal process. The city also negotiated with ParkLane to ensure a tree buffer would remain along the city border.

But Gadsden disagrees with the arborist’s report and wants a second opinion. He said he knows of no diseased trees falling or causing problems in the last three years.

"We want the 15-metre tree buffer of old growth, 35-metre tall trees and underbrush that we were promised when buying these homes," Gadsden says. "Excepting that, a reasonable compromise would be to settle on a 15-metre wide buffer of everything that can remain, plus a replanting of 20- to 30-foot trees to replace the fallen tall ones."

ParkLane plans to replant trees and shrubs to create a three-metre wide buffer, leaving behind most of the smaller trees, shrubs and ground cover. Cardinal said ParkLane, acting as good neighbours, informed the Cobblestone residents that logging would begin through hand-delivered letters.

"Because the logging is on a grade and so forth and there are a lot of children in the area, we just wanted to inform people — it wasn’t asking permission — we were informing people," Cardinal said. "So it came as a complete surprise that people expected the trees to stay."

Cardinal said replanting will be done in conjunction with the tree removal to establish a mature buffer before development on the Port Moody side begins. In seven to 10 years, he said, the buffer could be up to 10-metres wide.

"We’re trying to be proactive here and take off about 35 metres of the trees and replant the buffer," he said.

Cardinal added that he’s looked at every file and spoken to several company sales representatives. But he said he can’t find what might have caused people to be misinformed.

"When information is so readily available — it’s public information — it just doesn’t make sense you’d go out of your way to lead people in a different direction," Cardinal said, adding that it wouldn’t make sense to do that, when anyone could call the city to find out the designation for any area.

"If I were living next to a forest and somebody started to cut the forest down, I think I would feel the same way," Cardinal said. "I don’t have any problem understanding people’s feelings on this, but nonetheless it is land that is set for development, and we do have a liability with the trees."

But Gadsden and his neighbours say sympathy may not be good enough.

"We’ll do whatever is necessary to get an immediate halt to the tree cutting until this is resolved with ParkLane," Gadsden said.