The City of Red Deer issued a stop work order against a local developer who had hundreds of trees levelled, outraging College Park residents.
The forest belt was supposed to remain standing, said homeowners’ association spokesman Bruce Olson, who was alarmed to hear the sound of tree trunks breaking and falling while out walking his dog Friday morning.
He discovered a contractor, working for Red Deer’s Laebon Homes, was using heavy equipment to push over dozens of dogwoods, poplars, spruce and native shrubs.
The mature trees were on land owned by Laebon and destined to become another phase in the Timberstone development. But residents of College Park had fought — and won — the right to have a treed conservation easement left between their secluded neighbourhood and Timberstone when they attended city-led meetings on the neighbourhood area structure plan.
Olson, who attended the emotional meetings more than a decade ago, was dismayed. He recalled running up to one of the equipment operators and trying to explain that the trees were to remain.
“I said, ‘I can run into the house right now and provide you with proof,’ but he said, ‘no, we have to do this.’”
Olson rushed to call the city, but feels the damage is done. By the time a city inspector arrived a short while later, nearly all the trees were felled in the half-acre strand.
The only recourse now is for College Park residents to have a say in what is done to atone for the loss, he believes.
Konrad Dunbar, engineering services manager for the city, said he was not made aware in advance that any trees were going to be removed.
A stop work order was issued to the developer, so city investigators could get out there to examine the scope of the tree loss, he added.
If the development permit was breached, Dunbar said the city has options it can pursue. But first, the city needs to establish whether the agreement was broken.
“The idea was to leave a buffer there,” said Dunbar, and there are still a few large trees left standing. The city will have to examine the wording of the agreement to determine how to proceed, he added.
Steve Bontje, managing partner of Laebon Homes, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
But College Park residents were expressing their anger and sadness.
“My heart sank when I saw it,” said Laura Brouwer, who returned from holidays to observe the trees gone at the edge of her yard.
“That’s why we purchased this home four years ago, because it felt like you weren’t in the city. Now… it defeats why we wanted to live here … it takes away from the feel of the whole avenue.”
When her neighbour, Tom Mansell, bought his house five years ago, he was told everything had been worked out between the developer and residents a decade ago: “I was told the trees would stand where they were…
“My wife is very upset about this, but I am angry,” he added.
The neighbours will discuss whether a berm and fence, or replanting is possible, but several noted it’s not just a loss of privacy they are mourning, but a loss of beauty.