The City of Ottawa has issued a stop-work order to prevent a developer from cutting down more trees on a parcel of land in Kanata being evaluated for possible natural heritage status.
Metcalfe Realty could face a fine of up to $100,000 for chopping down the trees on March Road near Maxwell Bridge Road without a permit.
The cutting occurred "during a known peak time of nesting for migratory birds" despite federal regulations that prohibit the disturbance and destruction of nests, according to a City of Ottawa memo.
"We had a tree massacre," said Kanata North councillor Marianne Wilkinson. "A very large area had been basically clear cut, except for around the edges so you wouldn't be able to see it but you could certainly hear it."
Wilkinson said residents heard chainsaws on May 26 but it took city officials three days after their complaints were filed to visit the site.
Under City of Ottawa bylaw, a permit is required to cut down trees greater than 10 centimetres in diameter at breast height. The penalty for violating the bylaw ranges from $500 to $100,000.
The city's general manager of planning and growth issued a stop-work order on June 12. John Moser explained in a memo to the mayor and city councillors that the order could be permanent.
"The woodlot where the tree cutting took place is land that is being assessed to determine if it is a part of Ottawa's natural heritage system or not. If this land is significant, it will not be developable," he wrote.
'These weren't trees. This was scrub,' lawyer says
Metcalfe Realty did not respond to an interview request. The landowner's lawyer, Michael Polowin, told CBC News that to their knowledge, no trees with diameters of 10 cm or greater, at breast height, were cut down.
"So what he was cutting was effectively scrub or brush or shrubs, whatever you want to call it. They were not trees within the meaning of the bylaw," Polowin said.
He added that while the city had indicated it was interested in the woodland, his client wasn't obligated to do anything about it.
"There was some discussion of the city's interest in it, but he was under no obligation to not do with his land what he wanted to do with his land. ... Sure the city had some interest in this woodland, but what the arbourist told me was, these weren't trees. This was scrub."