Illegal tree-cutting could prompt hefty fine

Vancouver man cleared a swath on a slope near his home

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

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A Vancouver man could face thousands of dollars in penalties after illegally cutting a large swath of trees on a slope near his home.

The city last week received a complaint about an illegal tree removal that happened early this month, said Urban Forester Charles Ray. A site visit determined that 16 large trees were cut, plus “a lot more saplings,” he said. Officials soon learned that Bill Patterson, who lives nearby but doesn’t own the land, was the one who cleared it.

The reason?

“View enhancement,” Ray said.

While the city is still weighing possible penalties, Patterson said he does accept responsibility for the cutting. He considers relationships with neighbors, property owners and the city to be of “utmost importance,” he said.

“We’re working with the city and the property owner to resolve (those) issues,” Patterson said, declining to comment further.

The affected area covers about 15,000 square feet immediately south of Cedar Street, on the steep bank above East Fifth Street. The felled trees were simply left in a heap where they lay.

The city is still completing its investigation, and could decide on possible penalties within a week or two, Ray said.

“In cases like this, the city typically issues fines,” Ray said.

The bill could be steep: Fines of up to $1,000 per large tree are possible, he said, plus restoration costs. The clearing went against the city’s tree conservation rules, and happened on a site that falls under a “critical areas” ordinance designed to protect sensitive lands. In this case, the steep tree-covered slope is important for erosion control and stability, Ray said. Healthy trees also help control stormwater runoff, he said.

The property where the trees were cleared is owned by Dow Cedar Street LLC, according to county records. Any restoration work on the site would be the responsibility of Patterson, according to the city.