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Tree cutter talks

Update 7 p.m. Apr. 26: Harry de Haas, the man who cut down his neighbour's trees, goes on the record.

Original story posted April 25.

The old adage that you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your neighbours has reared its ugly head, after one couple says a neighbour came into their yard earlier this month and chopped down four of their trees.

John King has been renting a home on Braeloch Road for the past four years, while Harry de Haas lives on a slight hill behind him, along Lakeshore Road. Both enjoy sweeping views of Okanagan Lake, but de Haas’s view was limited by what he is referring to as nuisance trees.

The property owner on Braeloch did not want Castanet to use his name, but King says he has been authorized to speak on the man’s behalf.

King tells Castanet that de Haas came to his home approximately eight months ago to ask about cutting down one tree on the property.

“I said if this was my property, and you were paying for it, I would be all for it,” says King.

“And that is all that was said. For me, when I said ‘if this was my house’, right there that would tell me that this was not my house, so why would I agree for you to cut down the trees. And then I heard nothing more of it.”

Three weeks ago, King says a neighbour notified him at work that de Haas was on the property cutting down the trees, including a 100-year-old Douglas fir.

de Haas says the initial conversation went a bit differently, and took place seven weeks ago. He allegedly proposed to cut down some nuisance trees at his own expense, and told King to pass word along to the property owner. If King did not respond by saying the owner was opposed to the idea, then de Haas would continue with his plan.

After some time had passed without hearing from King, de Haas says he set out one morning to complete the task while the Kings were away from the property. He knocked on the door, no one was home, so he went ahead and cut down the trees.

He justified the chain of events by saying he had previously spoken with the renters and informed them of what was going to happen. de Haas believes he has created a better space for his neighbour, regardless of the questionable lack of permission.

He goes on to say the owner had planned to tear down the house anyway and de Haas was doing him a favour. The homeowner meanwhile has told Castanet that he had planned to retire in that house, with no mention of any changes to the landscape.

“It looks to me like it’s one of those, I’ll do it now and beg for forgiveness later,” says King.

“And that’s what he’s done. That’s what I see because I can’t see it being any other way.

“There is no misunderstanding. There is no way someone should go into other peoples' property and cut down trees without the owner’s knowledge.”

de Haas admits the owner of the property was disturbed once he found out about the trees, but says the two are now in dialogue about the situation.

As far as King knows, that is not the case.

The home owner told Castanet he was shocked that someone would cut down another person's trees without permission.

"I can't get over it. My property value is probably down $30,000 while his is up $30,000." The owner said, referring to the sudden improvement in the view de Haas now has. 

All parties are unsure which trees (if any) may have been on city property, and when asked if de Haas contacted the proper authorities ahead of time, he instead offered to provide Castanet with the phone number to his attorney.

After a call from Castanet, the City of Kelowna says it will also be looking into the matter.

-- By Ragnar Haagen and Jennifer Zielinski


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