Laura Brouwer stands where a thickly forested berm once stood at the edge of her College Park property. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer developer ordered to replant some of the levelled College Park trees

Some residents don’t believe restoration plans go far enough

A Red Deer developer must replant some of the forest belt that was bulldozed along the College Park subdivision, says a city manager.

A stop work order issued for Laebon Homes’s The Timbers development in December, will be lifted by the City of Red Deer to allow the company to do the restorative work, said Konrad Dunbar, engineering services manager for the city.

Last fall, some College Park residents were outraged when a heavy equipment operator hired by the company began snapping hundreds of trees that were supposed to remain standing — from wispy dogwoods and poplars to 30-foot-tall spruce trees.

A city investigation into an agreement made a decade ago between the developer and College Park residents showed that too many trees were removed from a forested berm along the east side of College Park, said Dunbar. As a result, Laebon Homes will be doing some replanting in the area before the end of June.

Shrubs and trees up to 10 feet tall will be put back on part of what’s now a newly created municipal reserve at the southeastern edge of the subdivision, added Dunbar.

He noted this treed belt was owned by Laebon, but the company has since gifted it to the city, so the municipality can maintain replanted vegetation on it.

As well, a fence will be built on the eastern side of these trees, and a grassy access way created for city parks workers to get in for pruning, said Dunbar.

Steve Bontje, managing partner of Laebon Homes, said on Thursday his company did nothing wrong in trying to address drainage and engineering issues on land that was supposed to be part of future residential backyards.

“We had to create a safe and viable space.”

But as there are concerns, Bontje said Laebon has been negotiating with the city about how to address them.

Dunbar called the new agreement an “awesome” arrangement for College Park residents. But some people from the subdivision aren’t as thrilled.

“We’re never going to get back what we’ve lost,” said Laura Brouwer, who lives next to the cleared trees. While she and her husband Chris are glad that Laebon will be replanting some of the greenery, the Brouwers aren’t happy with the installation of a new municipal access way, fearing it will increase trespassing.

And they aren’t pleased new vegetation will only be planted to the end of their property line. They want to see trees replaced along the entire length of the bulldozed area for the benefit of other neighbours.

The decision not to replant the entire length was made after Google Earth pictures from 2014 were examined, said Dunbar. He concluded fewer trees were pictured on the northeast side than exist now.

College Park resident Tom Mansell called this “ludicrous,” saying he has photos of a thickly forested berm across from his house, including tall spruce trees no longer standing.

Mansell said he feels the developer is getting off easy: “It’s possible to replant 25-foot trees — it’s just more expensive.”

Mansell said the matter is not settled, as he intends to contact city councillors.

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