Midnight log hauling continues after Tewin drone footage made public

Neighbours have heard a hum of machinery north of Piperville Road in recent weeks.  (Raphael Tremblay/CBC - image credit)
Neighbours have heard a hum of machinery north of Piperville Road in recent weeks. (Raphael Tremblay/CBC - image credit)

Even as City of Ottawa officials look into dozens of hectares that have been clear-cut without a permit at the future suburb of Tewin, one neighbour says heavy equipment continues to do loud overnight work behind her house.

Shannon Anderson said she first filed a noise complaint with the city Feb. 16 — the day before city officials said they were made aware of the cutting — because she was "fed up" by loud sawing and trucking as late as 3 a.m. that kept her awake.

CBC News published its story Wednesday with drone footage that showed the extent of the cutting on a property owned by the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) north of Piperville Road.

They and their partners Taggart Group have long-term plans for a sustainable community between the booming Findlay Creek neighbourhood and the rural village of Carlsbad Springs.

Anderson read the article and said she felt relief that she might get some nights of sleep.

Instead, she awoke later that night and ended up recording a video in her backyard around 11 p.m. saying she wanted proof of ongoing heavy equipment sounds and bright lights on the property behind her.

"I thought, 'This isn't true. This can't be happening.' I thought everything was supposed to stop," said Anderson on Thursday.

"City officials were supposed to look at it and they were supposed to really see that this isn't simply cleaning up after the derecho."

Construction noise is not permitted in Ottawa between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., which extends to 9 a.m. on Sundays and holidays. The city's bylaw director confirmed the department received complaints on Feb. 16 and March 1.

Raphael Tremblay/CBC
Raphael Tremblay/CBC

Bylaw director Roger Chapman said in an emailed statement that "officers did not observe any tree cutting activity on either day they attended the location."

Anderson said her understanding is they came only to her own driveway, and hearing nothing, closed the file. She said she fell asleep after midnight, still hearing the equipment at work.

Stop-work order for cutting only

The city's interim general manager of planning, real estate and economic development confirmed a stop-work order issued Feb. 22 is still in effect.

"The stop-work order applies to the cutting of trees on the site. It does not apply to the hauling of logs from the site," Don Herweyer clarified in an e-mailed statement.

Like other neighbours, Anderson is disappointed that the cutting has taken place without residents being told in advance. They only learned of the clearcut after a neighbour flew up a drone to get photos because it's not visible from the surrounding roads.

When the Tewin project was first proposed, she said residents were reassured they need not worry about any development happening for years.

"If it's not for five to 10 years … What's the rush?" Anderson said.

The property where the trees were cut falls outside the urban boundary that city council ultimately approved in 2021, despite calls from several Algonquin chiefs and elders to refuse the Tewin project because they don't recognize the AOO as a legitimate treaty-negotiating entity.

Mayor wants to learn more

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has now seen the drone footage of thousands of stacked logs and piles of smaller trees.

He said Thursday morning he needs to learn more about what happened and whether bylaws have been broken.

Herweyer has stated that city officials are looking into how the AOO and Taggart have said they intend to farm the land. That is one of the few possible exemptions under the tree protection bylaw that would apply in this case, although it applies to farming businesses as defined under the Income Tax Act.

Asked if he would consider applying the special, unlimited fines the bylaw allows if there is a contravention, Sutcliffe said, "I need to learn more whether that's appropriate in this case."

"I campaigned on a promise to plant more trees and I'm not happy about seeing a lot of trees being chopped down," Sutcliffe added.

"If there's a good explanation for that, that's one thing. But if it's outside the rules, then obviously we'll have to follow up on that."