Gibsons councillors Annemarie De Andrade and Stafford Lumley raised questions about tree cutting at the Gospel Rock development during a March 16 regular council meeting.
De Andrade raised the issue as a new business item, while Mayor Bill Beamish had asked that council wait until staff report on the issue, noting the planner in charge of the file was absent.
De Andrade said she had been receiving “many calls” about the development, and asked staff whether the town issued a tree cutting permit under the tree preservation bylaw for Block 7, “that allowed the property owner to do the tree cutting that he did – at least an acre of dryland forest.”
“It’s important that council understand that and the community understands that,” she said.
In response, director of infrastructure services David Newman said a tree cutting permit was not posted on site, “however we were prepared to issue that permit.” He said staff are preparing a memo on the situation.
Lumley said he has also been fielding concerns from constituents and suggested the town ask the developer to protect dryland forest areas outlined in a report by environmental firm Diamond Head Consulting, and that a covenant be finalized before a stop work order is lifted.
Coun. David Croal agreed with Lumley, and also suggested the town “clear the air” about the cutting with a timeline of “what should have happened when and what didn’t happen and why.”
At the meeting, CAO Emanuel Machado said staff didn’t have an update outside of the information already posted to the town’s website.
The webpage dedicated to the development, last updated in February, says “the Town is continuing to speak on a regular basis with the developer, who is working to complete the steps required to lift the Stop Work Order.”
It says a draft copy of a conservation covenant for the site’s Conservation Area has also been received, though it was mentioned at the meeting stakeholders are still working through some changes that will need approval from the province, with no clear timeline in place.
A stop work order went into effect last December after staff discovered two trees in the lot’s designated Conservation Area had been damaged during tree removal earlier that month, and that the buffer zone at the edge of that protected area had been improperly flagged at five metres instead of 10. An Environmental Monitor wasn’t present on-site to oversee the tree removal.
A January update said two trees sustained minor damage, one tree was scarred and no trees were cut in the protected area.
Beamish said an offer has been made to the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association (SCCA), The Land Conservancy of BC (TLC) and the developer to discuss the matter.
The town’s Environmentally Sensitive Development Permit Area covers about half of Block 7. Developer Greenlane Homes is planning to protect 49 per cent of the property through parkland donations and a covenant with TLC, according to the Diamond Head Environmentally Sensitive Development Permit Area Report.