Why Vancouverites hate tree cutters

Post by Mike Klassen in

24 comments

clear cut 2.jpg
Public opinion regarding cutting down trees in Vancouver is pretty clear cut

There are plenty of sins that if you get caught will damage your personal reputation. But in Vancouver there is one deadly sin that will quickly garner you more shame than anything else – chopping down trees.

GlobalTV's Marisa Thomas is known for her hard-hitting and tenacious style of reporting. Whether it's politicians or members of BC's elite, I've never seen her pull her punches. This week Thomas reported that organic breakfast mogul Arran Stephens and his wife Ratana hired a Bobcat operator, who proceeded to chop down a swath of 25 trees on a West Point Grey property they bought for their daughter.

Arran and Ratana Stephens, who just built a massive 20+ room house for themselves in another part of the city, are incredibly successful business people. They also recently threw a very lavish wedding ceremony for their son. Getting caught chopping down a bunch of trees may result in a hefty fine for the Stephens, but at their pay scale it might sting no more than a parking ticket for most of us.

The message coming from Arran is a mixed one. He says that it was all an accident, and – I always love this – he blamed the clearcut on the over-zealousness of the Bobcat operator. Hmm. Has anyone been able to talk to that Bobcat operator since?

In a follow-up report with Thomas he showed the reporter a plan for a lot of immaculate landscaping, but signs of trees were hard to see. It did strike me as odd that on the one hand he sounded contrite, and on the other Stephens seemed to be quite willing to open his wallet to pay the fine.

We've seen this movie in Vancouver before, of course. Many will remember the story of Beach Avenue resident June Matheson, who hired someone to poison trees along English Bay beach so her view from the apartment she owned wouldn't be obstructed. 72-year old Matheson, a high-end furniture retailer, was publicly humiliated, went to court and offered a massive mea culpa for her actions.

Then there was socialite Jacqui Cohen's tree-cutting incident, also way out at West Point Grey. Cohen hired a cocaine addict way back in 1997 to quietly damage trees that were obstructing the view of her then home facing west out to Georgia Strait. It was a hugely embarrassing affair for Cohen that has defined her image with the general public ever since.

One of the bizarre aspects of this recent tree-cutting affair is the curious links back to Mayor Gregor Robertson. Arran Stephens and his wife Ratana are both featured on the website of Renewal Partners, the single largest donor to Vision Vancouver, and the single largest business donor to municipal politics in recent years. Renewal Partners CEO Joel Solomon is Gregor Robertson's key financial backer and advisor.

In fact, in a story for the Vancouver Courier by Naoibh O'Connor, Arran Stephens says that he's...

written to the mayor acknowledging he’s guilty of not applying for a permit and that he should be fined for any trees cut down in violation of the bylaw.

So Stephens is going right to the top to clear up this mess.

Interestingly, the actions of the Mayor himself may end up costing Stephens even more. As we reported a year ago, the Vision council stiffened fines for cutting trees as part of the Greenest City Action Team agenda.

The original tree protection by-law was established in 1994 by the NPA government led by new Mayor Philip Owen. At the time it was quite controversial. Some land owners said this type of legislation was an invasion on their private property rights, while others saw it as an attack on new immigrants. There were also many people who saw this as a positive step in favour of protecting the city's environment.

As for Arran Stephens, you can bet you know he understands how bad it looks for a greeny like him to be seen as potentially a hypocrite. The tone of his comments to O'Connor makes it sound like he's talking with the school principal after getting caught smoking in the boy's room.

He’s worried his reputation and all the work he’s done for sustainability has been compromised. He added that the family is committed to sustainability and they contributed $3 million to charity last year.

“It’s kind of sad that all the good that a person does is overshadowed by one stupid mistake,” Stephens said.

A word of advice to Vancouver's horsey set. When it comes to trees, you'd be best to follow the rules like the rest of us.

- post by Mike

24 Comments

lives in a 20 room house ?

Oh he's green all right. Cash green.

The hypocrisy of greenie envirowhackos knows no bounds.

Yes...it's 525 square foot boxes for us little people (it's all in the name of "density", you know...)

Meanwhile, it's multiple mansions and rare caviar for Vancouver's eco-elite!

But Mike...

Don't you know that some "greeners" are more equal than others? ;-)

McMansion + Carbon footprint - carbon dioxide luvvin' trees = typical salon socialist VV supporter!

The over-exaggerations and mass generalizations are in full force here I see...

I live in a small bungalow in West Point Grey (yes, horrors to many people, West Point Grey)
I have no quarrels with people who have worked hard and have been fortunate/astute enough to make large amounts of money.
I do have quarrels with the same people if they decide that rules are for other people, not them.
Bend the rules, so what! The fine is small compared to the benefit (sweeping view)
Build a house that is too big, so what!
Pay the fine.
What's the point of rules if you can pay your way out of them?

Al Gore burns tonnes of fossil fuels heating up all of his mansions. David Suzuki spews out carbon emissions flying around the world preaching the green religion. Gregor Robertson flys to his Cortez Island retreat for a weekend getaway at his single family home. Were any trees cut to build it?? Hmmmm.

Now these nature food folks allegedly tear down 25 beautiful trees to help improve the view of the McMansion. How much energy does it take to heat that puppy up in winter? Can you say carbon emissions? And they want to replace the trees with a veggie garden. Give me a f$#ken break.

What we are witnessing is a clear cut case of Greenpocrisy. They preach green, but they all live in mega mansions that are the furthest from eco friendly that you can find. Let's hope the city investigates this and puts the biggest fine possible!

Tut, tut chris, don't you know rules are only for the little people? : )

It's getting to be a bad habit for these holier than thou do-gooders who think they are more responsible citizens than the rest of us.

Maybe they should be made to replant large trees in their yard. Not the orchard the guy is dreaming about.

If this was a mining executive or oil exploration executive guys like this would be all over them.

The trees were dead, you IDIOTS don't know what you're talking about. The only thing Arran is guilty of is neglecting to obtain a permit. I've known him my whole life, he is nothing less than a great man. The day any of you can criticize another human being is the day you have all become perfect yourselves. Let me know when that time arrives. I won't be holding my breath.

Regardless of the mistake he has made or even the way he and his family lives (which they have EARNED, by the way), he contributed $3 million dollars to charity in the last year alone. What have any of you contributed to your community? You're all so quick to find a scapegoat, yet you don't want to take responsibility for yourselves or your own actions.

"What have any of you contributed to your community? You're all so quick to find a scapegoat, yet you don't want to take responsibility for yourselves or your own actions."

Nice one, Vijay. We little people may not be as accomplished as your "great man" but I think we all serve our communities in our own ways.

If you admit that you haven't accomplished as much as him, what makes any of you think you have the right to criticize him or anyone else? No one is perfect but at least he took responsibility for his mistake. Once again, quit wasting your time trying to find the scapegoat for these unacceptable conditions we live in and do your part.

vijay's logic:

great man = guilty

just an observation...

Actually Vijay, this Stephens character isn't guilty of not obtaining a permit, he's guilty of violating the city's tree protection bylaws.

You see, when someone had no intention of getting a permit, and goes and cuts down a whole slew of trees, that's what they're guilty of, violating the laws which protect the trees. Because if he had obtained a permit, his buddies at city hall would have probably only allowed a couple of trees to be removed.

You're a little weak on the logic side there Vij.

Better luck next time ;-)

http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/bylaws/TREE/Tree.htm

Note Sec II sub7: Nothing contained herein shall apply to holy men or tax-deductible philanthropists. They can continue to do as they please.

If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?

Any man or woman, regardless of his or her financial standing and monetary contributions to society, is subject to criticism and prosecution when they break the rules. In Canada, our laws were not established to protect the rich and prosecute the poor, but to treat all men and women with equality. Nice try, though. Oh, and while you are busy worshiping your idol, you may want to reconsider his integrity considering that instead of accepting responsibility, he attempted to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of the (presumably) less wealthy landscaper who was hired to do the job.

I've been following this story from the get go and I think you are making a tremendous amount of assumptions here. Get your facts straight - this blog article and most of the comments gives the same sensationalist coverage and innuendos that the global TV report gave. Facts:

NOWHERE does it say that the Stephens' cut down the trees for their view. Can someone please show me a link for this? I've looked and couldn't find anything. Trust me if there was a view to be improved don't you think Global TV, Sun, Province or Courier would have said something about this? Or are you just inferring this? Come on Mike, you can do better!

Check out the recent Vancouver Courier article that states from a third party aroborist report (albeit commissioned by Arran) the trees were dead or dying. Neighbors wrote in to the papers saying that dead trees had fallen on their properties. Regardless, he was wrong not to get the permits, but don't make an assumption that it was to improve his views.

Arran apologized for cutting down the trees. How can people here say that he blamed his contractor? Show me a link to a credible article? Everything I've read shows that he takes responsibility for this mistake and will pay the fine.

I've seen Arran meet several times with Sam Sullivan, he actually spoke at his public salon, which I attended. Arran seemed pretty apolitical, but who knows...BUT just because his picture is up a renewal partners website means he is buddy buddy with Gregor? So is he buddy buddy with Sam also? Why don't you ask Sam - I see you talk about him in a blog post? Again another stupid assumption.

Yes, he broke the bylaw. Yes he is a wealthy entreprenuer. How many of you have made a mistakes? At least he has taken responsibility for his actions. I'd say it's time to forgive and forget than to assassinate his character through horrible assumptions and innuendo.

Sorry Brian, IMO there was no mistake and no error in judgement etc. The guy simply went ahead, gave the city of Vancouver his middle finger, and cut down the trees. Period, end of saga.

I recommend our readers have a look at the latest commentary by Sandra Thomas over at the Vancouver Courier...

Apparently in Vancouver, if a tree falls in the forest it depends on how much money you make and how many friends you have before it's decided whether it's going to make a sound.

According to the many friends of Nature's Path organics owner Arran Stephens, he's being wrongly crucified for cutting down a couple dozen trees on his West Point Grey property--without a permit. Since the first article about the mass tree removal appeared in the Courier Dec. 3, reporter Naoibh O'Connor has been inundated with calls and emails from friends of Stephens detailing his long philanthropic and environmental history.

Even former city councillor Peter Ladner weighed in with a letter to the editor that reads in part, "Your stories on Aaron Stephens' minor indiscretion in not getting permits to cut down old and diseased trees do him a great injustice... Celebrate, don't denigrate this man. He's a local treasure."

Local treasure or not, if these trees were as old and diseased as Stephens and his arborist claim, why not get the required permits? Stephens says he told the person he hired to take out any dead or dying trees, but "We got kind of carried away, I guess, and I didn't think much about it at that time."

The point of the Courier's very even-handed stories was not to argue whether the popular philanthropist is a good guy, but to let readers know what happened to those trees. If O'Connor had discovered Stephens had the required permit, it would have been in the story. And, by the way, the Courier was alerted to the story by a reader horrified by the "clear cut." The story would have been reported regardless of who owned the home...

++

Read more here:

http://www.vancourier.com/opinion/Tree+axing+story+hits+righteous+nerve/3980708/story.html

"The past forms the basis of our present life and the intricate relationships we have with everything and everyone. " This is a quote from Stephens on his company website. Makes you wonder....

I wonder if Andrew Carnegie ever had these problems?

Doug, it sounds like you've consumed too many organic flakes.. ;-)

Nature's Wrath Cereals

- redneck sunrise delight
- chopped puffs
- flakes R us
- great man waffles
- 1% of all profits go to tree huggers

Without fail, whomever supports this Stephens character via a letter to the editor here or at the van courier website invariably comes across as an ***kissing redneck, while whomever supports an inquiry into that clearcut sounds moderate, sensible and appropriately outraged.

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