For one California couple, this proved to be a very expensive endeavor that ended up with the couple in front of a judge.
Peter and Toni Thompson bought the land in Sonoma County where they planned to build their new home. On the property there was a conservation easement, which meant there were certain rules they had to abide by while preparing the land for construction of the house.
According to the Sonoma Land Trust, the Thompsons didn’t even give the easement a second thought. They just bulldozed the entire area.
The tree in question was a 180-year old oak, and surrounding vegetation was also included in the conservation easement. Court records show that the 34-acre property, which had sat undisturbed for years, had been bulldozed so the couple could adjoin that property with the land on which their house sits.
Court records also show that a dozen other trees and vegetation were uprooted in this process. The director of the Land Trust, Bob Neale, says he has never seen anything like it. He said he had seen photos of the damage, but “it’s nothing compared to actually seeing it.”
The old oak tree died as did other vegetation that allegedly could have been saved. And according to court records, all of the work was completed without a permit.
“It was really the most willful, egregious violation of a conservation easement I’ve ever seen,” Neale says.
And a judge has agreed with him. In his ruling, the judge wrote that the landowners, Peter and Toni Thompson, “knowingly and intentionally” violated the conservation rules. They “demonstrated an arrogance and complete disregard for the mandatory terms of the easement,” he wrote.
And then, the judge ordered the couple to pay $586-thousand in damages. The Thompsons are appealing the ruling.
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