The removal of several trees along the Liberty Lake shoreline merits a $15,000 fine against Greenstone Development Co. and owner Jim Frank, the Washington Department of Ecology said Wednesday.
The cottonwood trees were within a protected shoreline setback, DOE compliance coordinator Mike Maher said.
Their removal violates a 2007 Notice of Correction issued after the removal of other vegetation in the same area, he said.
Frank denied any violation occurred, or that Greenstone is even involved in the subdivision where the trees were taken down.
DOE, he said, is using the incident to pressure Spokane County into adopting stricter shoreline regulations.
“We’re appealing,” Frank said. “We don’t believe this fine has any merit whatsoever.”
Maher said Greenstone agreed in 2007 to seek DOE and county authorization before any vegetation was removed within 50 feet of the lake. The trees were about 30 feet from the high-water mark, he said.
In addition to the fine, the department wants the trees replaced, no further ground disturbance within 200 feet of the lake, and the hiring of an outside consultant to prepare a site restoration plan, Maher said.
Frank said the MacKenzie Beach project was undertaken by Liberty Lake Conservation Partners LLC, not Greenstone. He is among the investors in the partnership, along with the Harder family, which has owned the land since 1890. Construction is being handled by another company of which he is partial owner, Rocky Hill Homes LLC.
Frank said that company bought the project’s four lake frontage lots and removed the trees, one of which in August dropped a limb that almost hit a child. The trees are between 50 feet and 100 feet from the water, he said, outside the present 50-foot setback requirement but within the 250 feet DOE wants the county to adopt.
The county commissioners in October objected to that standard.
Frank said Conservation Partners donated three acres with 100 feet of lake frontage to the county, is working on donating another 100 acres, granted an easement on 30 acres, and has installed a state-of-the-art storm water system.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done there,” he said.