The City of Vancouver ordered a tree-cutting company last Thursday to stop topping several tall trees at the Chinese Consulate on Granville Street because there were no permits in place to do the work.
But the city, which confirmed its investigation in an email to the Courier Monday, would not provide the name of the company or clarify whose responsibility it was to obtain the permits.
The brief statement from the city said staff responded to the consulate near the intersection of Granville and 16th Avenue after receiving a complaint from a member of the public.
“Staff attended the site and noted topping of about 10 trees on site,” the statement said. “As there were no permits in place, staff advised the landscape workers hired by the Chinese Consulate to stop work. At this time, the City is investigating the matter further.”
The city refused to provide further information or grant the Courier an interview with any staff members involved in the investigation.
The Courier visited the sidewalk outside the consulate at 3380 Granville St. and noticed at least eight trees lining the front of the property were topped.
The trees are behind a tall fence on the grounds of the consulate, which is perched above Granville Street and fronted by a 10-foot rock wall and two large locked gates.
It is difficult to say whether the topping of the trees improved the view for consulate staff, although it is doubtful since the building is directly across the street from a stand of tall trees.
A representative from the consulate greeted the Courier on the sidewalk but refused to give his name. He said the trees, which vary in type, were topped for safety reasons.
Last year, the man said, a tree crashed over the consulate’s fence from a neighbouring property. He declined to discuss the extent of the damage.
The man also pointed out a large tree fell across Granville Street near 16th Avenue during a snowstorm in December 2012 and knocked out power lines.
When asked about obtaining permits and the name of the company hired to top the trees, the man declined to comment but confirmed a visit from a city worker.
“The city thought we cut this one too much,” he said, looking up a tree that was heavily pruned. “But different people have different opinions. As long as we keep it alive, it’s a good trimming.”
The man suspected a competitor of the tree company notified the city of the trees being topped. He wouldn’t comment further.
“If the newspaper is getting involved, I don’t want to talk too much,” he said, before returning behind the consulate’s gates.
The city’s tree bylaw, which includes a section for care and maintenance of trees, says a person convicted of an offence can be fined from $500 to $10,000.
The last time the consulate and the city were involved in a civic issue is was when the Falun Gong set up a protest hut outside the building in 2001. After several years of court battles and city bylaw changes, the Falun Gong dismantled its hut and left the boulevard.