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Brothers face $450,000 in penalties for removing trees from their property

Brothers Gary and Matt Percy could face nearly half a million dollars in penalties for removing more than 1,400 trees from their property without permission from Canton Township.

The two own a 16-acre property off of Yost Road, east of Belleville Road in Canton Township with the intention of creating a Christmas tree farm on the plot, according to their attorney, Michael J. Pattwell.

The land was filled with “invasive plants like phragmites, buckthorn and autumn olive,” he said.

But the township requires land owners to gain permission and promise new tree plantings before cutting down existing forestry, especially for landmark or historic trees.

The township had an arborist compare the parcel to an adjacent property with the similar forestry to estimate how many trees were removed.

Township attorney Kristin Kolb said “it was all part of a forest.”

“They identified certain plots,” Kolb said. “They identified the number or type of trees and did some math to figure out approximately how many trees.”

The arborist estimated 1,385 trees with trunk diameter of six inches or more were removed. That could mean $225 to $300 per tree in penalties. Anther 100 landmark trees were also removed, the township estimated, meaning another $450 each.

“Canton Tree Police showed up,” said Pattwell. “Canton Township’s tree removal ordinance prohibits landowners from removing trees from private property without government permission, which may be obtained by either payment into the township’s so-called tree fund or on-site replacement with trees of certain designated trunk diameters.

“Canton Township defines ‘trees’ as ‘any woody plant with at least one well-defined stem and having a minimum diameter at breast height of three inches.’ The Percy parcel was used historically by a local farmer for dairy pasture, so much of the vegetation on the parcel was invasive buckthorn, scrub brush and dead ash trees.

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