Residents around Centre Crescent and the mouth of the Little Qualicum River say they are frustrated with the unclear rules and lack of enforcement regarding tree removal along the river bank.
“We believe he (the property owner) is in contravention, but enforcement is a bit challenging sometimes,” said Jeremy Holm, Regional District of Nanaimo manager of current planning, in reference to a property across the river from the Cedar Grove Campground.
“If he was building something we can withhold building permits,” he said, “but we don’t have a stop work process when someone’s altering land without looking for approval.”
Property owners are generally allowed to remove trees on their own property, though there are restrictions in riparian areas along waterways.
“These banks were completely covered in undergrowth, trees and natural bush,” said Cedar Grove manager Will Penny. “In fact, there were no visible signs of human life along these banks two months ago. This total property is, according to RDN’s interactive map, entirely a riparian area, it is a natural flood plain and a protected water shed number 662.”
Neighbours who have started having meetings to figure out what to do now that the trees are already gone, say they have tried going to the property owner and the RDN and haven’t received an adequate response.
“I’m really concerned,” RDN chair Joe Stanhope said by phone last week from the Union Of B.C. Municipalities Convention in Whistler. Stanhope said he’s been focused on the convention and isn’t up on the details of this case.
“It’s a big concern to the community that we’ve got to address. I’ve asked staff to do whatever they can,” he said.
Holm said the issue is greatly complicated by recent changes in fisheries regulations and cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans who are on the front line of waterway regulation and enforcement.
He said the RDN’s regulations tend to mirror the provincial or federal regulation. The only RDN option in a case like this would be a long, expensive court process.