Another tree illegally cut down by mystery contractors in Surrey
An investigation is underway in Surrey's Newton area after two illegal tree cuttings in as many weeks.
In both cases, unidentified contractors partially chopped down trees in front yards, but fled when confronted by neighbours. The most recent incident happened at an unoccupied home at 63 Avenue and 130B Street. A neighbour named Lillian said she noticed men removing branches Friday afternoon.
“I asked him 'Are you taking down the tree?' and he answered back to me really rude, 'We have a permit,'" she told CTV News.
When the trio refused to give their names or which company they were working for, she decided to call the city.
“He was kind of going crazy with the chainsaw. This guy had no experience obviously because that chainsaw was going all over and he was cursing and swearing," Lillian said.
It was an eerily similar story to what she’d heard from her neighbour a few doors down.
Karmen Bennett confronted a pair of contractors June 12 after they began chopping down the cedar outside her rental home.
Neither she or her landlord had requested the work. Bennett asked them to leave, but the workers were adamant they were at the right home.
She went inside to get her phone, but they fled, leaving behind no information as to who they were. The tree was left butchered in the yard, sticking the landlord with the hefty cleanup bill.
Fearing the same was happening to her neighbour, Bennet walked down the street to help when she heard what was happening Friday.
“They weren’t the same guys,” said Benett, “but same temperament.”
Neighbours called the city to complain about the contractors and bylaw officers arrived an hour later.
“As soon as they saw the vehicles they took off and went running and hid all the equipment into other people’s yards,” said Lillian.
Bennett said she followed them, snapping pictures along the way.
“The other two men came back down the cul-de-sac covered in sawdust, proclaiming the same thing. 'What tree? We weren’t doing anything,'" she said.
They managed to run away, but neighbours did capture video of them on their surveillance cameras. The landlord of the first home is adamant her tree was a case of mistaken identity. She believes the workers got the address wrong and came back to complete their contract.
“If they were legitimately here with a permit to cut down the tree why wouldn’t they finish the job?" said landlord Amrit Mansahia.
The city has confirmed that permits were not issued for either tree. City of Surrey bylaw manager Martin Blais says under-the-table jobs are a growing problem.
“It seems to be a new practice where a vehicle will come and drop off tree cutters when they want to cut a tree illegally. They will drop them off, leaving no vehicle, no licence plate to be recorded. They’ll do the job and then they’ll disappear,” he said.
He said trees slated to be removed will always be marked with a permit ahead of time, and anyone who sees otherwise should call the city or police.
The property owners of Friday’s butchered tree live across the street from the empty home. They insist they have no idea what happened, but declined an on camera interview.
The fine for illegally cutting down a tree can be up to $10,000.