A long-awaited court case, in which the City of Ottawa’s legal representative meticulously set the facts before a judge, was dismissed today by a provincial court judge due to lack of prima facie evidence.
What salient piece of evidence (prima facie) did the lawyer for the City of Ottawa fail to submit to the court? Evidence that the property in question, try 152 Daniel Ave., exists within the City of Ottawa.
The case was initiated last fall by Forestry Services. It was the first instance where the Urban Tree Conservation By-law (in force since 2009) was being upheld and a property owner was officially charged by By-law Services for allegedly causing damage to a distinctive tree. This prosecution under the By-law had ramifications for the protection and security of mature trees across the city’s urban zone.
Sadly, today’s fiasco in court means that those of us anxious to see what the courts might provide as punishment for this kind of infraction will need to wait for another case. There is no shortage of instances where trees more than 50 cm in diameter on private property are being damaged by infill and large-scale housing construction in Kitchissippi Ward and elsewhere in Ottawa.
Eventually, Forestry Services will have its day in court.
Hugh Adami (Ottawa Citizen, website April 5, 2014) gives a clear account of a mind-boggling technical error by the City of Ottawa’s legal department (article is entitled, JP chainsaws city tree-cutting case):
The City lawyer forgot to establish that the offense took place in the City of Ottawa. He also tells the sad story of a landowner and developer allegedly excavating 50% of the roots of a mature black walnut tree located on a neighbors property (in this case, the Ottawa Separate School Board, as owner, had to foot the bill for removal of the destabilized tree). Unfortunately, this is a familiar pattern illustrating a lack of resolve on the part of The City of Ottawa to implement the Urban Tree Conservation By-law and the complete disregard of small and large infill developers for trees as a private and public good worth protecting. Excavations routinely damage the roots of standing trees so severely they die a few years later, all without a permit. As a result, the future of trees in the urban core never looked bleaker than it does today. It doesn’t have to be this way. Municipalities across the country (Toronto and Calgary, for example) have taken reasonable steps to protect the urban tree canopy, including acting on the laws it puts in place.