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There Goes the 'Hood

There Goes the 'Hood

January 23rd, 2008  · stk

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?

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1.flag John Comment
In Sydney and up and down the coast, well healed zillionairs pay very shady crooks to drill holes and pour poison into old established trees on foreshore parks, simply to improve their water views. Glimpses are no longer enough. Real Estate value is determined by the amount of water you can see while you sit in your glass box sipping wine and talking about Climate Change.

2.flag stk Comment
John - Developers, eh?

If I was an Intergalactic Park Superintendant, I wouldn't hire humans to manage any of my planets.

Mind you, I might hire this man, who just happens to live down the road about 2 kilometers.

There's always hope. ;)
3.flag John Comment
Blokes like that are a national treasure. I was impressed by your location when you moved there.
It more than deserves good care and protection.
4.flag Gary Comment
Hmmm, not a good start is it ?

You need a park ranger to patrol the lots.

Yabba-dabba-do, I know the very man and he's itching to come over ;)

5.flag stk Comment
LOL Gary ... Yabba-dabba-do can come visit our bedrock any day, but I always figured the itching was more due to lice :p
6.flag Gary Comment
Oh no, the pubic lice cleared up some time ago (I believe) :)

7.flag stk Comment
OMG ... He had pubic lice? :o
8.flag Gary Comment
Just in his beard :p

9.flag Neil & Sue Comment
Dear Rachel and Scott,

We are the owners of Lot 7 Whiting Way and came across your website yesterday, while googling "Whiting Way, Ladysmith" in an effort to gain information on how many more of the 8 lots had been sold in recent weeks. We currently live out of province and are not able to visit the property as often as we would like.

I think it is important, at least for us, to set the record straight on the very unfortunate (yes, we agree) removal of trees on the designated park land adjacent to our property.

In November/December, we contracted an excavator through the developer (who then contracted a 3rd party) to remove the trees on what will be the building site for our home. They were given instructions from a far, on where to cut for our building site. They were notified that the park land included the 15 meters from the pond, and then our home would be built the required 8 meters beyond that. Unfortunately, prior to the falling, the park boundary was not clearly marked as you posted. It was only after the damage was done, we received the unfortunate news that the faller had in fact gone into the park land area by mistake, definately not on purpose.

After a complaint came in, the Parks Department contacted us and then went to the property and more clearly marked the boundary with the white tape so that no further cutting within the boundary would be done. We flew out to the island within days to check on what had been done and counted the trees that were within the boundary. We counted 4 within the boundary. As you say, the damage is done, and unrepairable, and we feel horrible about it.

We immediately offered to replant the trees or whatever the Parks Department feels is fair. They haven't been back in touch with us to date.

It should also be known that we have absolutely NO intent to profit from the fallen trees. Some of the ones taken from our land will be used as exposed timbers on the construction of the exterior of our home and the rest we will likely use as firewood to heat our home (as you do). Perhaps as restitution for the trees on the parkland that came down we can donate some of the wood for picnic tables or benches to be built for public use in the park?

We are nature lovers and feel extremely fortunate to have been able to buy a beautiful parcel of land in your neighborhood. We are looking forward to life there, being good neighbors and stewards of the environment and can only hope that any negativity that resulted from this unfortunate event will not affect our welcoming there.

Development is always hard to watch, and harder yet when it affects your daily walking trails. We know this first hand, having lived through it ourselves in our current location.

Thank you for considering our side of the story.


Neil & Sue Bosdet

P.S. We don't like the piles of debri left by the excavator either. We wouldn't have left it that way but again, we weren't there to direct. We will have the opportunity this summer to clean them up and will do so.
10.flag stk Comment
Dear Neil & Sue - Thanks for taking the time to write and telling your side of the story.

Please rest assured that neither I, nor my wife, hold any ill-will and we're looking forward to meeting you and welcoming you to the neighborhood. It is simply unfortunate that park trees were cut down and the discovery that it happened was both a shock and a disappointment.

I do, however, disagree on several facts: :|

1) All properties were marked, during a survey that took place well in advance of the felling, with white stakes having property numbers on each side. A number of these stakes (somewhere between 6 and 12?), were placed 15-meters off the pond, along the back of Lot 8 and Lot 7.

2) More than 4 trees were cut down inside the park boundary (I counted about a dozen).

3) Trees cut on Park land were cut differently than those not on Park land, which makes it appear that the feller knew which were which.

Regardless, the damage is done. I do hope that remediation will be performed, so that a like number of similar species trees are replaced. I know that the Parks department is thin on man-power, which is perhaps why, they've not yet contacted you again.

Park benches and/or tables sound like a great idea (big fat sturdy ones). :)

When are you guys planning on building (love your gate, btw) and occupying your new Whiting Way Estate home? If there's anything we can help you with, while you're out of town, let us know. (I work out of the home and am around, most days).

Amazing that most lots have been sold, eh? (Took a walk up there yesterday evening with Alex and we listened to the frogs belch, red-wing blackbirds sing and watched the swallows dive-bombing through the trees, catching flying insects. It's just a gorgeous time of year!)

I'll post your side of the story as a comment, on the blog, so that your side is seen by more people.

Cheers - Scott

PS -- Yes @ development. Funny how, before one moves in, it's not that important, but once you're ensconced ... "Hey, no more development!!" (We knew, when we bought, that the development was going in, as we've only been here a year and a bit. But the saving grace for us was knowing it was going to be a dead-end road).

11.flag Neil & Sue Comment
Thank you for your reply and re-assuring welcome.

We hope to be out in July and to begin the building process this summer. At that time we will make it a priority to replant some indigenous trees and discuss with the Parks Department about making a donation of some sort as restitution. We’re glad you liked the park bench / picnic table idea.

Our house plans are in the final architectural stages along with topographical surveys….then begins the wait for building permits and so on. You will inevitably see us working on the clean up and spending more time there after the beginning of July. Please walk by and say hello anytime.

Kind regards - Sue & Neil

PS – thank you for the bird and frog update. We are huge bird / nature lovers and the ponds with all of their inhabitants are what sold us on the property. We looked for signs of Red Winged Blackbirds ourselves when we were there a few weeks ago, but didn’t see any. We know that they love the marshlands and were surprised not to spot any on that day. We were very happy for that wonderful news today, thank you.
12.flag Imelda Comment
We have just seen this blog. I am very saddened and outraged at what had happened (the removal of the trees and shubbery) .Yes, the boundary was clearly marked; and I had talked to the faller several times about the trees on the park property. I'm amazed that full responsibility hasn't been taken regarding this issue. Scott, you were right - the lake could only be seen in glimpses and now it is wide open. My husband, who used to be a land surveyor, said it would be impossible to miss the property pins and some flagging that existed there. Some small trees were planted replacing the 70 year old trees. The RDN needs stricter rules like Saanich to prevent this from happening again.

I'm just stating facts.
13.flag Svend Comment
Just like good Albertans. Come in like the place has oil and bulldoze. Then try to flip, flippin didn't pay off this time but the damage is there forever. Too many pukettes from Alberta that don't know how we feel in BC.