A homeowner who may be slapped with a $10,000 fine said desperation caused him to illegally cut down a tree known to be home to many peacocks.
While a city official said they are taking the destruction of the Sullivan Heights tree “very seriously,” Parm Brar said he was out of options after pleading for three years with the city to do something about the birds.
Brar spoke to the Now-Leader outside his Sullivan Heights home Tuesday afternoon.
Since news broke of the tree being cut, Brar said people have been treating his family horribly. He claims one person gave his children the finger while they were playing outside.
While the Now-Leader stood outside Brar’s home Tuesday, a man in a vehicle yelled “heartless lowlife” as it passed by.
“I can see people getting upset if I haven’t tried anything, if I just went and cut it down,” said Brar. “Then I’m totally guilty. But if I tried for three years? I have videos, I have the city emails.”
Brar has lived in the home for about seven years, and he said before he bought the property, he had no idea it served as a home of sorts to the area’s peacocks.
Brar said dozens of birds came to the tree every night, leaving massive amounts of feces around his yard and in his gutters. He also says they made loud calls at all hours of the night.
— Amy Marie Reid (@amyreid87) May 2, 2018
“My kids can’t use the backyard,” he said, shortly after work crews had finished clearing the tree’s remnants away Tuesday.
Brar said his elderly father was hurt after he slipped and fell on peacock excrement in his entrance last year.
Brar also claims someone is acting as a “caretaker” for the birds in the community, which he says he’s informed the city of.
“He won’t accept responsibility, he says they’re wild,” Brar added.
— Amy Marie Reid (@amyreid87) May 1, 2018
Councillor Mike Starchuk said he was familiar with the situation before the tree was cut down and that he visited the area to get a first-hand look at the issue.
“There was a petition that was presented to me, personally,” Starchuk told the Now-Leader Wednesday, noting it was sent a few months prior. “I took a drive through and I mean, gorgeous birds, but I’m very familiar with his property because he’d put this netting up all around to keep them off the gutter area. They’d been defecating everywhere.”
Starchuk said at one time, he saw 45 peacocks on an acreage behind Brar’s home. He said the city has been trying to figure out a solution, including the possibility of coming to agreement with the “caretaker” of the birds to relocate some or all of them.
“We were moving that way and I think the city was really close to having an understanding,” said Starchuk, who added the city is planning a “town hall meeting” with neighbours.
“Then this happened.”
Despite the tree coming down, Starchuk said the city will continue to work toward a solution.
“But we’re not there yet.”
This is the remnants of a tree that was cut down today, without a permit. You will notice that there are peacocks and peahen surrounding it. What you can't hear is their crying. Someone cut down their home. Without a permit. #SurreyBC @JohnHua pic.twitter.com/osSy3AR9lf
— Cindy Dalglish (@CindyDalglish) May 1, 2018
The tree’s destruction has ruffled many feathers in the community.
As more than a dozen peacocks wandered Sullivan streets on Tuesday morning, their cries rung out as children walked to school. Locals say their calls (eeeiu!) were louder than normal, which they suspect was a show of anger or sadness.
“The peacocks have been in the neighbourhood ever since I can remember,” said realtor Brent Short, standing next to the dead tree Tuesday morning. “They’re just beautiful and it’s a sad day.”
Cindy Dalglish was furious the tree had been destroyed.
“It’s really frustrating that someone in our community feels such contempt toward such a beautiful animal.
“And you can hear them — they’re still very clearly vocal about what’s going on,” she said as cries rung out.
Brar is not without his supporters.
TJ Shergill, who lives a few houses down, took the Now-Leader to his family’s yard, where peacocks sat on a deck covered in feces.
“This is bad,” Shergill said, “but (Brar) had it worst with that tree…. His father got injured. Broken arm, 10 stitches on the face. You can imagine. A tree is not worth more than his father’s life.”
Meantime, Surrey’s bylaw manager Jas Rehal told the Now-Leader the tree, in the area of 149th Street and 62nd Avenue, was illegally cut down and a $1,000 fine was issued Monday.
He added: “We are looking into further legal action against the property owner and the individuals that took the tree down, including looking at fines up to $10,000.”
According to Rehal, Brar had been in contact with city hall for a “fair bit of time now.”
An application for a tree-cutting permit was denied by city hall, said Rehal.
“It was a very healthy tree and removal of it wasn’t going to take care of the peacock issue,” he said. “Taking down a big tree, it’s not something we want happening in the city. We’re going to take it very seriously.”