Property owner at peace with decision to take down trees

  • Sep. 15, 2010 3:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay-She was ready to go to war over the tall whispering alder trees that shade her Queen Charlotte property. Several weeks ago, Janice Holdershaw was told the 36-year-old trees would have to come down while Ministry of Highways contractors are on the islands clearing out road right of ways. At first, she was extremely upset by the idea. “I feel like those things protect me,” she said. “With them gone, my trailer will be exposed, I’ll be exposed.” But after discussions with then-acting mayor Leslie Johnson and the Ministry of Highways staff, she had come to accept the possibility. Nevertheless, she came to the Sept. 7 Queen Charlotte Council meeting and explained her thoughts about the process. She noted that the contractors said the trees, which stand at the top of a 10-foot bank on the eastern edge of her property, were sound, but sooner or later someone is going to have to deal with them “because they are massive.” Several options had been discussed by councillors. For example, the village offered Ms Holdershaw a license of occupation on part of the right-of-way, so the trees would be her responsibility, but the legal agreement seemed onerous to Ms Holdershaw. It stated she would have to hold $1 million in liability insurance and that the municipality could still decide the trees had to come down at any point. The contractors also said it would cost around $7,000 to take those trees down. She decided she couldn’t agree to that and put the decision back in the council’s hands. “I’m just saying do what you think is right. I’m okay with that. I really mean that,” she told councillors. It was on council’s agenda to decide what to do, so after listening to Ms Holdershaw’s presentation, Councillor Johnson proposed a motion that the trees not be cut at this time. Ms Johnson said she believes the trees have been shown to be sound and the property owner has made a compelling case. When it was discussed, Councillor Gladys Noddin said she was still trying to weigh out the matter in terms of the liability for the village. “I don’t like the open-endedness of the timeline in the motion.” She said there would need to be some written agreement or timeline, to cover the liability for the village. In less than three months Queen Charlotte will take over maintenance on all the side roads, said chief administrative officer Bill Beamish during the discussion. He explained that the contractor is only on the islands for a certain amount of time and is concentrating on municipal trees at the moment. “Highways is clearing the rights of way so they are relatively free of problems for the municipality,” he said. Once that maintenance job is in the municipality’s hands, they will set their own cycles for doing that kind of work. He acknowledged that the cost quoted by the contractor may be higher than another might charge, as this contractor is Work Safe certified and equipped with a certified faller, chipper and excavator to manage trunks, but “at some point the trees will come down and the taxpayer will pay,” he said. Councillor Greg Martin said he thought the village was proceeding with the licence of occupation. But if that wasn’t the case, “I’m concerned about the precedent it would set if we did this for one person,” he said. After a vote, Councillor Johnson’s motion was defeated two to one and Councillor Martin proposed a new motion, which would see a few of the younger trees kept, along with the one that holds Ms Holdershaw’s clothesline and dog-line, and a good cherry tree. This motion was passed, although Ms Johnson voted against it. Ms Holdershaw accepted the decision. She said was glad there was a process in which her position could be heard. She was also happy that in discussions with the contractors, they agreed to leave the wood for her to use.