Main photo of eastern limb
When Arthur blew through Fredericton in the summer of 2014 it cracked a large tree on the land between homes on Edinburgh and those on King’s college.
The result was a dangerous situation with two giant limbs hanging precariously where children, dogs, lawn mowers and others are able to wander.
Until recently, and for some even now, land owners adjacent to this strip of land believed the City owned the property, so the City of Fredericton was called and advised of the problem.
In October of 2014 the City said that several years previously it had looked into title and discovered that the land belongs to the Estate of Constance Montgomery and so is private land. Unfortunately, no one knows who the beneficiaries of the estate are nor, obviously, how to contact them. Although the City has an easement on the land, it has no right to remove any trees unless they obstruct the City’s access. In this case, it is evident the City could not ask its workers to go near the tree because it is a threat to their safety. But this is insufficient to get them to act.
Further, because it is private land, no adjacent property owners can take down the hazard. It was suggested that one could go through a legal process of “quieting the title” to get the land transferred to an adjacent property owner. But if that were done, at great expense, then the cost of dealing with the hazard becomes the responsibility of the new property owner.
In June, 2015 City staff said they would recommend to Council to seek fee simple ownership of the property. Five months later nothing happened although the intention remained in place and action was expected in a couple of months.
Fast forward another 5 months to the present and City staff now say they do not intend to seek ownership of the property.
So the hazard remains, neither adjacent owners nor the City can legally fix the problem. Furthermore, if the property in question is private then it should have been subject to tax during all the years it has been in private hands. Apparently there were no tax assessments, because the province believed the land was owned by the City. Furthermore, no bylaws, either regarding unsightly premises or public safety, can deal with the problem.
The situation is ridiculous and if this is what the law stipulates, i.e., that no one can do anything about the hazard, then, as Mr Bumble stated in Dickens’ Oliver Twist, “the law is a ass—a idiot.”