Neighbours say they’re shocked, disheartened and saddened, while the city confirms it is investigating complaints about the cutting down of dozens of trees on an acreage on 25th Street NE in Salmon Arm.
Todd and Kimberley Dunlop, who live in the 2100 block of 26th Avenue NE, above the Appleyard subdivision and east of Lakeshore Road, contacted the Observer by email to express their distress about what had happened on a neighbouring property in the 2700 block of 25th Street NE.
They said at 7:30 Sunday morning, June 4, a contractor came in and began clear-cutting the property of their neighbours, James Weed and Elaine Cockrill.
Dunlop said he suspected the operation, which he estimated felled up to 300 trees, was scheduled on a Sunday to evade enforcement.
“Confronted by concerned neighbors, Mr. Weed’s arrogant dismissal of the need for permits or potential fines illustrates a distressing disregard for our community values and local regulations,” Dunlop wrote.
The Observer left messages for the owners but they did not respond.
Dunlop said agitated neighbours contacted city staff who arrived on site about 11 a.m. on Monday, June 5. By then, about 70 or 80 per cent of the trees had been cut down, he estimated, but the felling was stopped immediately.
On Friday, June 9, Gary Buxton, the city’s director of planning & community services, said city bylaw enforcement staff, who were on site June 4, were continuing their investigation.
“Bylaw Enforcement staff continue to be active on this file and there are staff at the site on Friday doing more investigation and follow up work,” he wrote in an email to the Observer.
He said the city received an application for a tree cutting permit, an application for rezoning and a subdivision application for the site on March 7, 2023.
“They are essentially brand new applications that we have established files for but have done no work on as yet,” Buxton wrote.
There was a one-lot subdivision application approved a couple of years ago at the site for a new home there.
Dunlop said his main concerns centre around effects on wildlife, the environment and all the birds during nesting season who frequented the site; the lack of regard for municipal and provincial rules; and possible slope instability after clear-cutting with no apparent geotechnical engineering. Meanwhile, Dunlop said, he and his spouse are spending thousands on geotechnical in order to build on their own property, one of the reasons to ensure they won’t create flooding of basements in Appleyard below.
Dunlop also pointed to how Weed and Cockrill were previously granted support from city council to triple the permitted size of a retaining wall after they subdivided the property for a new house, one reason given for the support was that the impact of the proposed retaining wall and fence height would be mitigated by the heavily treed area.
Stacey Kirkman, who lives in the Uplands subdivision nearby, said he was shocked and saddened.
“I was shocked how they came in on a Sunday and basically took out a small forest in one day. What I’d like to know is why, what was the reasoning and the intention?”
He said one tree closest to his home was about 100 feet tall. Deer and owls could often be seen coming in and out of the area.
“It was such a beautiful little forest, with beautiful old trees,” he remarked, explaining a feller buncher-type machine was used, taking down trees literally within minutes.
“It was very terrifying with the sounds of crashing trees; the whole ground was vibrating when one of the trees fell down. It was kind of scary really… I know this kind of stuff happens, but it’s shocking when you see humankind in action and how quickly this beautiful tranquil little forest, in one day, was destroyed.”
He asked why everything has to be torn down in order to construct subdivisions.
“We need to start thinking of different ways of doing things. Not, ‘this is mine now and I’m going to destroy it because I can destroy it.’”
Neighbour Robin Wiens, who lives above the site, said he has real problems with such actions.
“That really bothered me, the blatant disregard for bylaws, the environment, our future. And just the willing acceptance of what the potential fines could be; he seems more than capable of paying the fines.”
Wiens said, from a conservation standpoint, he thinks what was done was in contravention of federal, provincial and municipal laws – taking the trees down, particularly in nesting season for birds.
He said the owners were implored by neighbours to at least delay, to find a better way to do what they wanted to do.
“This was in complete disregard for the way we’re trying to preserve what we’ve got.”
Wiens said both Sunday and Monday nights he and his spouse had their bedroom window open.
‘We listened to distressed birds and owls… There were sounds coming from birds you don’t normally hear in the middle of the night.”
He noted the the trees cut down were just a short flight from the bird sanctuary.
“The bird species in our bay are so important…, it’s all intertwined.”
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