Local realtor Paulo Leung & Rosy Place Investments charged $205,000 fine for removal of 72 trees

Friday, May 25th, 2007

Naoibh O’Connor
Van. Courier

The loss of 65 trees on property overlooking Spanish Banks could create a possible safety hazard on the slopes. Photo-Dan Toulgoet

The city has charged an offshore company and a realtor in connection with the unauthorized removal of 82 trees on three adjacent multi-million-dollar West Side properties.

Rosy Palace Investments Ltd. and realtor Paulo Leung are charged with the 82 counts under the city’s private property tree bylaw. The charges are related to an incident that occurred last November at 4883, 4889 and 4899 Belmont Avenue.

Dozens of trees-cedar, Douglas Fir, holly, maple, weeping willow and fruit-were taken down without permits, creating concern about slope stability below the three vacant properties overlooking English Bay and potential damage to a salmon-bearing creek below the slopes.

The land is owned by a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. City notices posted at the site were addressed to Rosy Palace Investments Limited in Hong Kong and Rosy Palace Limited, care of Dorothy Lau, The Burcon Group Limited, at 1946 West Broadway.

Realtor Paulo Leung of Regent Park Realty Inc. was listing the three properties for $14.8 million at the time the trees were removed.

Contacted by the Courier, Leung said to contact his lawyer, Bill Smart of the firm Smart and Williams.

Smart indicated he couldn’t say much about the case because charges have been laid and the matter is before the court.

“I’ll just say that my understanding is Mr. Leung is a well-respected realtor. He is very disappointed in the city’s decision to charge him. He intends to challenge these allegations in court and defend [himself]. He looks forward to receiving from the city the basis for their decision-that is what information they have,” Smart said. “Now that the matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate for me or Mr. Leung to comment any further than that.”

Tree clearcut could endanger creek  

By Naoibh O’Connor-Staff writer

Sixty-five trees were axed without city permission on multi-million dollar private properties overlooking Spanish Banks Beach, creating a possible safety hazard on the slopes and causing potential damage to a salmon bearing creek below.

The land, listed for sale at $14.8 million, includes three adjacent empty lots at 4883, 4889 and 4899 Belmont Avenue, a short street on the far west side of Vancouver featuring massive houses with spectacular views above English Bay.

Cedar, Douglas fir, holly, maple, weeping willow and fruit trees were among those removed, but the unauthorized logging can’t be spotted from the road.

Legal notices posted by city staff at the site are addressed to Rosy Palace Investments Limited in Hong Kong and Rosy Palace Investments Limited c/o Dorothy Lau, The Burcon Group Limited at 1946 West Broadway.

The City of Vancouver, which has indicated the property owner is a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, is investigating the incident, as is the Greater Vancouver Regional District, which also notified the B.C. environment ministry and the federal department of fisheries and oceans.

Private property owners must get approval from city hall to chop down any tree with a trunk diameter, measured 1.2 metres from the ground, of eight inches or more, according to the city’s private property tree bylaw. An owner can remove one tree a year with a $48 permit, although authorization is often contingent on planting a replacement tree. Any trees removed after the first must be accompanied by an arborist report indicating the tree is dying or is a hazard. Additional permits cost $78. Trees can also be removed, which are located within the building envelope during construction of a house or garage, but the city must approve the plans and tree removal permits are still required.

Bylaw offenses can net fines of between $500 and $20,000 per incident.

Aside from the unauthorized tree cutting, officials are particularly concerned about how the removal of the trees has or will affect both Spanish Banks Creek and the stability of the slopes.

Jennifer Young, the city’s assistant director of communications, acknowledged the trees were removed in contravention of the private property tree bylaw. Along with the stop work order posted at the site, the owner was ordered to hire a geotechnical engineer to inspect the sites and assess the stability of the slopes.

The northerly slope leads down to Spanish Banks Beach, creating a potential danger, and the westerly slope is adjacent to GVRD lands and the salmon-bearing Spanish Banks Creek.

The city notices state that debris from the unauthorized work has been piled on the periphery of the sites and “site topsoil layers and drainage has been severely impacted and most surface vegetation has been removed from large portions of the sites leaving bare soils exposed.”

A staff report is going to city councillors during a special meeting Nov. 23 seeking permission for staff to follow up with enforcement, although Young isn’t certain who will be charged in the case. “It’s my understanding that on top of the bylaw contravention for removing these substantial trees, another level of it is, what now happens to the land when the trees are removed?” she said.

City staff want a notice put against the property title to warn prospective buyers about the bylaw contravention, potentially unsafe conditions and mitigation costs that could be incurred.

Mitch Sokalski, manager for GVRD parks west area, said the regional district is investigating whether the felled trees were on private property or park land. He said staff are concerned about the fishery and the ramifications to Spanish Banks Creek’s watershed, much of which is within Pacific Spirit Park. The regional district hasn’t monitored the full effects of the logging yet.

“Typically in a fishery, or a fish-bearing watershed, what you’re looking for is any disturbance of the clarity of the water flows,” Sokalski said, pointing out tree cover affects the rate rain water hits the ground and streams. “If those trees are removed, of course you get a faster rate of water flow into the stream, which in turn can cause turbidity, which is not good for the fish.”

The GVRD has several options if any trees were chopped down on public park land, including looking at mitigation efforts or taking civil action against the person or persons responsible for the damage. “We have, in the past, had trees removed from the park,” Sokalski said. “If it’s on park property we take a very strong stand against that.”

One of the most notable such incidents involved businesswoman and socialite Jacqui Cohen. The Army and Navy store president paid $50,000 in court costs to the GVRD to settle a lawsuit over the cutting of 34 trees in Pacific Spirit Park in front of her family’s former mansion at 5850 Northwest Marine Dr. Cohen denied involvement in or knowledge of the 1997 incident, although she accepted responsibility for the actions of those who damaged or destroyed 29 big leaf maples and five bitter cherry trees. The $50,000 was intended to compensate for the loss of trees.

Sokalski noted the fisheries and environment departments could also take action in the Belmont Avenue case.

Dorothy Lau, one of those listed on the city order posted at the Belmont Avenue site, is out of the city and not available for comment. Realtor Paulo Leung, who is listing the property for sale through Regent Park Realty Inc., said the owner, identified as Rosy Palace Investment Ltd. on his website, is overseas and could not be reached for comment. “No, at this point I don’t want to release anything yet,” he said. “The owner is overseas OK. At this point I can’t give you any comment. We are still investigating.”

Asked what he was investigating, Leung said, “The city hall is investigating and so [are] we [about] how come those trees are down and things like that. It’s vacant land.”

Leung denied the owner removed the trees. “No. [It was] not his idea, of course,” he said. He said he didn’t know who caused the damage. “Well, I don’t know at this point here, I don’t know, OK. That’s why I said I still have to investigate.”

Comments are closed.