Robert Turcotte: Laval man prevails after city fines him $1K for saplings. All Robert Turcotte wanted was to fell a few sick trees on his property in Laval, but after months of back-and-forth with the city, what he got was a legal headache.
Turcotte has lived in his current home for about 20 years and takes pride in his landscaping and garden.
“We had two big trees here, at the corner of the paved driveway, that were a bit sick,” said Turcotte.
“As a conscientious citizen, I requested the permits to take down the trees, which we got on the condition that we replanted new ones.”
But once the saplings were in, the City of Laval ruled that the new trees were too small. The trees were supposed to have a diameter larger than three centimetres. His were only about two centimetres.
The point of the rule, he explained, is to prevent people from getting around the replanting condition by planting a skinny sapling that won’t survive the winter.
Turcotte planted his saplings in September 2017. After being told that the trees didn’t meet the city’s standards, he tried to purchase a second set of saplings from his landscaper. But he was told that there were no bigger ones left.
After months of trying to come to an agreement, the City of Laval sent Turcotte a formal notice and said it would be taking him to municipal court over the fines, $500 for two saplings, which he refused to pay.
He didn’t feel it was worth it to hire a lawyer over a potential $1,000 fine, so Turcotte represented himself.
“I thought it was abnormal to bring me to court for such a trivial cause,” he said. “It was a lot of procedure for a pretty minor issue.”
Laval Municipal Court Judge Chantal Paré ruled in Turcotte’s favour this week, calling the argument over the single centimetre in diameter “a futile debate.”
“I was pleasantly surprised that the judge accepted my defence,” Turcotte said. He noted that now, a year after planting, his two new trees are healthy and have surpassed the mandatory three centimetres.
The city, however, is not so happy with the result and plans to appeal the decision.
Sarah Bensadoun, a spokesperson for the City of Laval, said that it’s important homeowners respect the minimum sizing set by the city for new saplings in order to ensure the survival of new trees.
She said that while she couldn’t discuss the case specifically, she admitted to being surprised by the judge’s ruling.
The city’s lawyers have 30 days to submit their appeal.