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There Goes the 'Hood
Whiting Way Estates - a nearby, rural subdivision. Lot number 7 was the first to sell and the new owners announced their arrival by clear-cutting trees. They cut down trees on designated, protected park land, so they could have a view of the pond. Read about this travesty.
Owner Cuts Trees In Protected Wetlands
Cutting down mature trees on designated Park land is a heck of a way of introducing yourself to the neighborhood.
- a neighbor
The land used to be part of a cattle ranch. It's been selectively logged a couple of times. A few years back, it was sold to developers and they subdivided it into eight individual, five-acre parcels and a park. Development of our rural neighborhood is inevitable and we've been watching the 'progress', over the past year. First they bulldozed a rough trail, trucked in lots of fill and gravel, using it to build up a road-bed. Last summer they laid down 'chip-seal', drilled water wells (one on each property), stuck up signs and waited for buyers to snap up the lots at about $300k a pop.
The first one has been sold - lot number 7.
I was surprised that it sold first. It's a pie-shaped lot that backs up to a large pond. On the positive side, much of the parcel is hidden from view of the road. On the negative side, much of the parcel is exposed bedrock (sandstone), with only a thin veneer of moss growing on it.
The new owners have put up a spiffy looking gate and did something that I didn't think of doing. They clear-cut a swath of trees and now have a wonderful view of the pond.
Only vaguely do I remember what the parcel looked like, before the trees were removed. I seem to recall that the pond was largely hidden from view, by the dense forest.
It was surprising to see a large stack of logs, piles of brush, torn up ground and Caterpillar tread marks everywhere. Surprise turned to shock, however, when I realized that trees were cut down on the adjacent lot 9, which is park land!
For maps, pictures and more about the damage ... hit "read full story" ...
The Plot Thickens (or Thins)
As part of the Regional District of Nanaimo OCP, there are rules associated with land use and growth. In rural areas, such as this one, parcels may not be subdivided smaller than 5 acres, except in special situations. This is why all of the lots in the Whiting Way Estates are (basically) 5 acres in size. In addition, the developers are supposed to set aside a minimum of 5% of the area to be park land (Ed Morrison, the developer of Whiting Way Estates, generously set aside 30%).
In an effort to protect the natural environment, its ecosystems and biological diversity, the Regional District enacted bylaws in 2001 that provide DPAs (protection) for wetlands, lakes, ponds and streams (among other things). These bylaws create a buffer zone along streams, around lakes and around other environmentally sensitive areas (e.g., wetlands). This buffer zone extends 15 meters (recently increased to 30 meters, but the Whiting Way Estates project was approved under the older, lesser distances.
What can be done inside this zone has some exemptions and some guidelines, which can be found in OCP Appendix B. (In essence, if you want to alter the land or build within this area, you must obtain approval, via a permit.)
Better to Beg for Forgiveness
The travesty is that it's impossible to repair the damage. It's not like you can go and band-aid the trees back into place.
I tramped over the salal plants and noted that there were about a dozen trees, in all, that were cut down. About half were very large, mature trees with trunk diameters between a foot and three feet. Some of these trees were hundreds of years old.
On the ground, it is apparent where the lots (lots 8 & 7) ended and where the park (lot 9) began. There are a bunch of white wooden markers, driven into the ground, 15 meters (roughly 50 feet), from the pond's edge. I'm not sure of their spacing, but there seemed to be spaced every 25-50 feet. More recently, a surveyor or someone from the Parks department, stretched some white flagging, from marker to marker, making very easy to visualize the park boundary. (Too bad that wasn't up BEFORE the tree cutting!).
The devastation inside the park isn't limited to the felling of trees, either, as heavy equipment was used to move the trunks and slash. They drove that equipment into the park and there's tread damage almost to the waterline.
Did the land owner knowingly cut down park trees? Was there a mix-up between the person doing the cutting and the instructions they were given?
We'll never KNOW the answer to these questions. The bottom line is that it doesn't really matter. Knowingly or inadvertently, the trees are gone.
I called the planning office, to alert them to the damage. I wasn't the first person that had called, one of the Nanaimo planners told me. Apparently, someone from the parks department had already visited the property, taking measurements and confirmed the damage.
When I asked what would happen, I was told that the owners had been notified and have been made aware that the property was park land. (There are no fines in such a situation).
I was told that, "The Parks department are talking with the land owner" (regarding what remedial action, if any, will be required).
It's not uncommon that the owner is asked to replant trees, though the senior planning advisor I spoke with, wasn't aware of the specifics of any discussions that either have (or have not) taken place between the Parks people and the land owner.
It's a classic example of why, "It's better to beg for forgiveness, than ask permission."
The land owner wanted a view - now they have one - and the park is minus a bunch more trees.
To add insult to injury, it's even likely that the timber will be sold. Not only were the trees illegally removed, the land owner will profit from it.
What a way to announce your arrival into the neighborhood, eh?