A Cloverdale woman is speaking out after a 100-foot tree was severely damaged in her neighbour’s yard.
Susan Horel said the work was done in an unsafe way that endangered both the residents and the workers that were cutting the tree. The workers even smashed up her fence when they cut some big branches and let them fall in her yard.
“I want people to be aware of what’s going on,” said Horel. “People need to know that they need to look out for our community and ask questions, ask to see a tree-cutting permit or a business licence, as this is our right.”
Horel said the tree was “heavily damaged” and a City of Surrey bylaw officer said the tree will have to come down.
She’s lived in her neighbourhood (182 Street, north of Hwy 10) for 20 years and she’s often seen trees being cut down without permits. A few months ago another neighbour had a tree cut illegally and branches also fell and damaged a different part of her fence.
Horel said she immediately knew something wasn’t right the other week when she saw the two tree men show up with a chainsaw and a black suitcase. The men rolled the suitcase into her neighbour’s yard and pulled a gas can out of it. The men started limbing the lower part of the tree and Horel initially thought that was all they were doing.
She decided to approach one of the men.
“He said they were taking the whole tree down. He told me they were with JJ’s Tree Service and then he asked me if I was going to call the city.”
Horel then asked to see the permit for the tree removal and the workers showed a permit that allowed for a small cypress tree to be cut down in the southwest corner of the property, not the 100-foot tree in the northwest corner.
Horel then called bylaw and WorkSafe B.C. Bylaw showed up shortly thereafter and told the men to leave. “They took off really quick,” she said. “The woman from bylaw said she knew of them and they knew of her. The tree was only partially compromised at that point. It could have survived.”
Horel said nothing happened the next day, but the day after that, two workers showed up at 9 a.m. and began frantically cutting the tree. The tree splits into three trunks about 25 feet off the ground and the men topped and limbed one trunk, limbed and cut off a second trunk, and limbed the third trunk to near the top.
Horel again called bylaw and WorkSafe and this time a man from WorkSafe showed up very quickly. “He told them to leave their stuff and get off the property,” said Horel. “But the guy yelled, ‘I’m not leaving anything!’”
The men ignored the WorkSafe employee and bucked up some of the trunks that had been topped before leaving. It was in the wild morning cutting frenzy the men chopped off a big branch that plummeted onto Horel’s fence, breaking it.
Nadia Chan, manager for Trees and Landscapes with the City of Surrey, said she was aware of the incident but couldn’t comment on any specifics.
“A bylaw officer and city arborist attended the property to investigate. The investigation is ongoing and no further information can be provided at this time,” Chan told the Reporter.
Chan did say that city staff are called to an average of six possible Tree Protection Bylaw infractions every week.
“Potential infractions range from unpermitted removal to reports of excessive pruning, damage to trees and construction activities too close to trees,” Chan said. “Not all calls result in an offence against the Tree Protection Bylaw – some are ‘false alarms.’ If a City Arborist determines that an offence has occurred, they will open a file to review the offence and determine what measures need to be taken.”
She said incidents where a tree-cutting company says they “accidentally” removed the wrong tree are rare. “I can remember two or three of these incidents being reported to the city in the past four years.”
Chan said the city can fine both a homeowner and a company for unpermitted removals. Those fines can range up to $20,000 per offence.
Even though the tree will have to be removed, the ordeal was not a lost battle for Horel. She still believes it was a fight worth taking on.
“If we don’t do anything we are enabling the problem and it is only going to get worse,” she said. “I’d like to bring attention to this and I’d like people to know it’s a widespread problem.”