Unauthorized tree cutting nets Saint-Lazare couple $900 fine
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Cameron Hart and Samara Grand stand next to their birch tree on Croissant du Jardin in Saint-Lazare on September 24. They received a $900 fine for cutting down two branches without authorization from the city.
Correction – In the original story, it was mistakenly reported that residents must contact the city for approval to prune branches. Residents must contact the city only if want to cut a tree. The Journal regrets the error.
A Saint-Lazare couple is reeling after they received a $900 fine from the city for cutting down two limbs from a birch tree in early August to avoid damage to their house on Croissant du Jardin.
Samara Grand and Cameron Hart were astonished when they returned home more than two weeks ago to find a notice at their front door telling them they had to pay the fine for cutting down the branches, which the city considers as two individual trees.
The couple feels because the growth is coming from the same single root clump, they’re branches. “We don’t consider them to be individual trees,” Grand told The Journal during an interview outside their family home on September 24.
They feel the fine is unjustified because they were following advice given to them by their insurance company who apparently urged them to cut down the branches as quickly as possible to avoid damage to their house and a neighbour’s car.
“On August 6 there was a massive wind storm,” said Grand. “One branch got lodged beneath the second floor roof eave. It was banging against the window. The other branch got stuck in the evergreen and looked like it was going to fall onto our neighbour’s car.”
“We were freaking out. We told the representative we couldn’t tell if there was damage to the house. The branch was about to break through the window. They told us to call a tree cutting company immediately. That way we would know if there was any damage,” Grand added.
They called a tree cutter in Saint-Lazare who arrived within one hour. He determined the branches weren’t cracked, but would eventually break. “He came back the next day to cut down the branches, not the whole tree. We did it for the safety of our house and our neighbour’s property. There wasn’t any damage to the house but we didn’t know that at the time,” said Grand.
Instead of paying the fine, the couple were given the option to plant two new trees. Grand and Hart balked at the suggestion, saying they would no longer have a front yard. “We don’t have the biggest property in the world. Where are we going to put them?” she asked, motioning to the small plot of land in front of her house.
Stringent by-law enforcement
For its part, the city insists residents must follow the rules regulating tree cutting and receive the proper authorization. “Saint-Lazare is very severe when it comes to protecting trees,” said Communications Director Genevieve Hamel. “The bylaw is very restrictive.”
Residents who want to cut a tree are required to contact the city who will send an inspector, free of charge, to evaluate the request, said Hamel. Any resident who cuts down a tree without authorization will be fined. “A tree contractor in Saint-Lazare will always tell a citizen to check with the city first regarding our regulations,” said Hamel.
If a resident does cut down a tree without authorization, the city will give the citizen an option to replant the number of trees that were felled. “If they don’t, the city will give an infraction notice and it will have to be paid or they will have to go to court to contest it,” said Hamel.
“It wasn’t our first wind storm. We get them three or four times a year. People are allowed to cut some branches but they need to talk to the town and get an inspector to examine to situation. People still have to call to get the permits. The inspector examined this situation and felt there was abuse in the way the trees were cut,” Hamel added.