Brothers told to pay about $450k for taking down trees in Canton Township

Posted at 1:15 PM, Oct 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-23 14:16:41-04

Two Canton Township brothers say they are facing almost half a million dollars in fines for cutting down trees on their own land.

Matthew and Gary Percy own A.D. Transport Express on Van Born near Sheldon in Canton Township.  They bought adjacent land with plans to someday expand their business.

They decided recently to clear trees on the 16 acres.  After they did so they were told they would need to pay about $450,000 for the removal of about 1,500 trees.  The township says the money will go into a fund that will be used to replace trees.

“When the fine  is more than we paid for the property, you know it is pretty hefty,” said Matthew Percy.

“These particular owners were told several times that a tree removal permit would be needed and we wouldn’t consider it until they had a plan submitted,” said Canton Township Community planner Jeff Goulet.

Goulet says  they also are accused of violating wetland regulations and damaging a natural drain.

The Percy brothers say they read township documents - and the tree removal permit application states that  tree farm operations are exempt from needing a tree removal permit.  They have planted a thousand Norway Spruces already, creating a tree farm.

“If it is going to be for agricultural use it needs to be zoned agricultural,” said Goulet.

The township says it is trying to protect  trees for the benefit of us all.

The Percy’s  say they are fighting not only for their property rights, but yours.

Canton Township released this statement: 

The $450,000 figure being referred to is not a “fine” or a “penalty.” The amount of money proposed in Canton’s settlement letter was proposed payment into the Township’s tree fund for the removal of trees from the 16-acres parcel. It is based entirely on the standards of Canton’s tree removal ordinance, and is required of almost every property owner who removes trees from their property as part of a development project.

The Percys were told twice in writing (see attachment) that a tree removal permit must be obtained prior to any tree removal activity on the site. They never made any application for a tree removal permit.

Had the Percys complied with Canton’s tree removal ordinance, a tree survey would have been required, and would have provided the Township with the exact number and the specific types of trees that were removed. However, no survey was submitted, and by the time the Township was allowed on the property to analyze the tree removal, there was nothing left. All of the trees had been removed and the tree stumps were ground up and gone. As a result, an analysis had to be conducted using the adjacent parcel (formerly attached to the parcel in question) by a professional arborist using a scientific method recognized in the arboriculture field to come up with a best guess of the number and types of trees that were removed.

After the analysis on the ADT property was complete, Canton’s attorney was invited to submit a “settlement” proposal by providing a number that would resolve this dispute without litigation. In correspondence dated September 13, 2018, Canton’s attorney laid out the violation, and some possible resolutions.  As of Tuesday, October 23, Canton has received no response from their attorney.

Due to the existence of a county-owned drain and Department of Environmental Quality-regulated wetlands on the Percys’ property, the Michigan DEQ, Wayne County and the Wayne County Drain Commissioner’s Office have also issued violation notices to Mr. Percy and are requiring remediation on the property that was fully clear cut without permits from any of these agencies.

Mr. Pattwell’s statement that the property is a “retired grazing field” is false.  Attached are aerial photographs of the property from April and October of last year, showing the property before and after the tree removal. 

Finally, in response to the claim that the Percys intend to start a tree farm on the property: This is a change from a prior assertion that they were intending to plant corn on the property. In either case, such use would not be permitted under the Zoning Ordinance, as the property is zoned Light Industrial, is too small (minimum 40 acres required for agricultural uses) and it is completely surrounded by other industrial uses.  Additionally, a commercial tree farm must be licensed by the state.