ONANOLE — I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree, to quote that famous poem.
But for $3,200 per tree, it’s yours.
At least that’s the dollar value a small-scale Parkland developer is demanding per tree for flooding that allegedly killed his arbour.
Larry Kotyk alleges a dike built by the Poplar Ridge Golf Course flooded his land and killed his trees. He is suing both the golf course and the RM of Park.
"There have been a number of cases where trees have been valued for esthetic reasons," said Anders Bruun, Kotyk’s lawyer.
"What would a house in River Heights be worth if all those elm trees disappeared? What is the aesthetic value of that?"
Kotyk hired an arbourist who appraised the dollar value at $3,200 per tree on a forest of more than 100 trees, many of them spruce trees, including a spruce tree Kotyk says was 98 years old.
Kotyk claims he has suffered $625,000 in total damages, factoring in cleanup of the dead trees and delays from flooding in developing the property, just south of Riding Mountain National Park.
Kotyk bought the land in 2002 to develop into an RV park for the 50-plus crowd.
The problem, he contends, is his neighbour built a golf course and housing development at the bottom of a drainage area.
In 2009, as the new golf course was preparing to open, owners hastily built a dike to protect against flooding, but without obtaining a permanent licence from Manitoba Conservation.
The dike diverted water into a slough, known as Lake 1, which spilled onto Kotyk’s property and flooded his trees.
Manitoba Conservation ordered Poplar Ridge to remove the dike or rectify flooding on Kotyk’s land some other way.
However, removing the dike could flood the golf course and some of the new housing.
The course appealed and was granted a licence under the Water Rights Act that allowed the dike to stay.
Kotyk says he was not notified of the appeal and thereby not given an opportunity to speak to it, as he should have been.
"The Water Rights Act is very specific. You cannot divert water in such a way that it affects someone else," Kotyk said.
The province is dismissive of Kotyk’s claims.
A provincial spokesman said the golf course "made significant modifications" to its dike to keep water levels at their natural elevation.
A culvert lets water flow through the dike once the water reaches natural full supply level, the spokesman said.
"We are aware that there have been complaints about the water levels in the area. Those levels have been checked and the golf course is in compliance with the licence that was issued," the spokesman said.
Someone connected with the course also contends Kotyk’s own landscaping blocked drainage of Lake 1 and contributed to the demise of the trees.
Poplar Ridge owner Gaynor Vivian was not available for comment. The RM of Park declined comment while the case is before the courts. Both parties deny Kotyk’s allegations in their statements of defence.
Kotyk alleges the RM of Park failed to tell Manitoba Conservation, as it is required to do, that the dike structure still floods his property, before the province granted the golf course its licence.
The course maintains it provided full disclosure to the government.
The existence of the trees is testament that there wasn’t flooding before the golf course, said Bruun.
The trees wouldn’t have grown if they’d been standing in water.
Flooding has also delayed construction of his park for RVs and mobile homes.
» Winnipeg Free Press