Neighbours are up in arms about the felling of a protected ‘monkey puzzle’ tree – without a permit – in South Surrey.
The impressive 60-foot Araucaria araucana, which grew in the front yard of a 50-year-old house in the 1900-block of Lilac Drive, was subjected to cutting and trimming on Feb. 23 and 24 by contractors evidently employed by the property owner.
The tree, estimated to be at least 45 years old, was ultimately felled on the morning of March 1, and branches and trunk dropped into a bin during the process were removed on March 2.
Concerned residents of the neighborhood – who had reported earlier removal of branches and cutting of the tree trunk to Surrey Bylaws on Feb. 23 – called the RCMP to the scene on March 1.
Surrey RCMP media relations officer Const. Sarbjit Sangha told Peace Arch News that officers had attended around 9:45 a.m.
She said that Surrey Bylaw Enforcement had been advised of the cutting, and that investigation of the incident is ongoing.
While neighbours believed the monkey puzzle tree to be one of the species listed as automatically protected under the Surrey Tree Protection bylaw, these include only Arbutus, Garry Oak, Coast Redwood, Dawn Redwood, Giant Redwood and the Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba).
But a statement from the city’s planning department confirmed that the tree in question was protected under the bylaw “due to its size of 42.5 cm diameter at breast height” – which is well over the city’s protection maximum of 30 cm. Bylaw officers have been involved in the investigation, the statement added.
City communications representative Amy Reid also confirmed that – as neighbours suspected – there was no permit to cut the tree.
The statement notes that, under the bylaw, infraction notices and fines can be issued as well as processing fees imposed.
Although the city’s website says that fines for infractions of the bylaw can be set as high as $20,000, the city’s statement said “at this point we cannot confirm the value of potential fines or associated fees.”
The city also confirmed another of neighbouring residents’ suspicions – that a fine would be the only penalty faced by a property owner for removal of a tree.
“There would be nothing preventing or hindering redevelopment of the property so long as the infraction fees/fines were paid,” the statement said.
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