An industrial lot had all its trees cut down in violation of a restrictive covenant, Langley Township council learned Monday night.
At the last council meeting before the Nov. 15 election, the council was asked to approve a development permit for a lot on 272nd Street in the Gloucester industrial district.
The proposal for an 8,000 square foot complex of two buildings has been delayed after council asked staff to sort through the issue of the missing trees.
Linda and Ted Lightfoot, who live across the street from the site, said they had some concerns about general development in the area, as well as about water management.
Linda mentioned that the site had been levelled and every tree cut down, despite a restrictive covenant banning any tree cutting until council had approved a development permit.
Dave Gormley, vice president of land development for Beedie Industrial, admitted that there had been a miscommunication in Beedieâ€™s office.
He had been aware of the covenant, but construction crews on the ground were not, he said.
â€œI learned of it after the fact, unfortunately,â€ Gormley said.
The council debated what, if anything, should be done about the breach of the covenant.
â€œIâ€™m really disappointed that this happened,â€ said Councillor Kim Richter.
She wanted to know if there would be a penalty for violating the covenant.
According to Township manager Mark Bakken, there is a process to follow when a covenant is violated. It can lead to penalties, or it might go to the civil court system.
Going to the courts could use up a lot of time and resources, worried Coun. Charlie Fox.
In favour of not penalizing the developer was Coun. Grant Ward, who said Gormley admitted his mistake and noted that the land was already zoned for industrial use and would be creating jobs if developed.
â€œIâ€™m hearing here that itâ€™s better to ask for forgiveness than permission,â€ said Coun. David Davis.
Also in favour of looking into the matter further was Coun. Michelle Sparrow. She worried if nothing was done, it would set a precedent and others would not take restrictive covenants seriously. Sparrow also noted that the council could have chosen to retain some of the trees â€“ a number of them were along the property line.
After a series of motions, ultimately the council voted five to four to refer the matter back to Township staff to discuss the matter with Beedie. It is possible there could be some compensation or mitigation without going through the court system.
Richter, Davis, Sparrow, and councillors Charlie Fox and Steve Ferguson voted for the referral.