Tree fight uproots Esquimalt neighbourhood

Resident blasts Esquimalt council for favouring developers over residents

  • Nov. 7, 2011 8:00 p.m.
Esquimalt resident Russell Gelling says township council and staff failed to help him save his trees.

Esquimalt resident Russell Gelling says township council and staff failed to help him save his trees.

Caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between two neighbouring Esquimalt property owners, three municipally protected trees have come out the loser.

Russell Gelling, who owned the trees cut down last Thursday, said the township’s lack of tree bylaw enforcement sends a clear message that developers take precedence over homeowners.

The roots of his cedar had spread to a neighbouring vacant lot where a new house is going in, on Phoenix Street near Craigflower Road.

Grelling was told their removal would compromise the health of the tree. And because the roots of all three trees were intertwined, they all had to come down.

“It’s a double standard,” Gelling said, watching an excavator clear his side yard of branches and trunks. “Protected trees should be protected trees.

“The part that is making us the maddest is the lack of response and the lack of accountability from council.”

But Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said developers and residents receive fair treatment.

“At the end of the day, each situation is very, very different,” she said. “Sometimes the decisions don’t go in the direction that the neighbour wants, and sometimes they don’t go in the direction that the developer wants.”

Township staff worked with both parties “to ensure that proper process has been occurring,” Desjardins said.

Barbara Snyder, Esquimalt’s director of development services, declined to comment saying “I think that this situation has been resolved.”

Gelling appealed to council and staff several times this year to reconsider. But after months of lobbying, he recently allowed the developer to remove the trees in return for providing up to $4,500 in replacements.

The entire experience has left Gelling frustrated and distrustful over practices at municipal hall.

 

“We wanted to be one of the young families buying old character homes in the municipality,” said Gelling, who grew up in Esquimalt. “I regret not living somewhere else. We didn’t sign up for this.”