Municipality not liable for trees removed behind Harbour Street


By Barb McKay

A Harbour Street property owner will be offered a ‘good will gesture’ of $500 from the Municipality of Kincardine after it was determined that a line of cedar trees that were removed three years ago were not on her property.

Patricia Hoffman attended a Kincardine council meeting last month as a delegation, searching for answers as to why the trees were cut down without her knowledge or consent when repairs were made to a retaining wall in the Kincardine harbour in 2014. She also indicated that she wanted the trees to be replaced.

During last Wednesday’s council meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Karen Kieffer presented a report and a timeline of events and correspondence between the municipality and Hoffman to clarify the situation for council.

According to the timeline presented, on Sept. 16, 2014, the Kincardine Yacht Club, which manages the harbour and marina for the municipality, took down the row of cedars because the roots had severely damaged the retaining wall. Three days later, Hoffman contacted the municipality to ask why the trees, which she believed were on her property, were cut down. She was told by staff that they would look into the matter and get back to her.

On Oct. 10, 2014, staff met with Hoffman and presented a plan of survey that showed that the land between the fence and the retaining wall, where the trees were located, is municipal property. Hoffman said she would like to have the survey reviewed again to verify the findings and municipal staff said they would contact the Ontario Land Surveyor.

On Jan. 27, 2015, the municipality received a sketch from the Ontario Land Surveyor confirming that the land is indeed municipally-owned and Hoffman was advised a week later. She was informed by the municipality that if she was seeking compensation she would need to fill out a claim form, which she did on Aug. 19, 2016. However, since the cedars were on municipal property, the municipality would not accept legal liability.

On Aug. 20, 2016, the municipality sent a letter to Hoffman stating that there had been no negligence on the part of the municipality but offered to pay up to $500 as reimbursement to plant new trees. Hoffman responded that she would like to see the amount doubled and she had contacted her lawyer.

Correspondence continued until May of this year, with Hoffman asking for better compensation and the municipality stating that the $500 was simply a good will gesture.

Last week, municipal staff remained firm on the offer of $500 to Hoffman, given that the trees that were removed were not on her property. Going forward, however, Kieffer noted staff or contractors acting on behalf of the municipality should notify residents if trees are being cut down near their properties as a courtesy.

“This was a communication issue and it has been rectified,” said Councillor Andrew White, who is also parks and recreation policy chair.