Developer illegally cut down thousands of trees near river, county officials say

DeKalb County officials have ordered a Michigan-based developer to stop work on a 100-acre lot off Moreland Avenue, where they say thousands of trees were cut down without the proper permits.

Channel 2 Action News reported that earlier this year, the county alerted property owner Crown Enterprises to several possible environmental law violations. DeKalb's Department of Planning and Sustainability warned of fines of up to $2,500 per day, and showed photos of illegal tree harvesting.

A red stop-work order was posted at the site off Moreland Avenue.

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“I can’t understand, number one, how a company could have so little regard for the environment and so little regard for the law,” Carol Hayes, the elected district supervisor for DeKalb Soil and Water Conservation, told Channel 2.

She said Crown did not have permission or permits to disturb more than 50 acres on the site, which is near the South River in southern DeKalb County.

A stop-work order was issued in April, but barbed wire fencing and locks have gone up in recent weeks, the news station reported.

The plans for the development are unclear.

The county has since taken legal action against the property owner; officials told Channel 2 that the Warren, Michigan-based company did not show up for a pretrial hearing on June 2 in DeKalb County State Court.

In a statement, Crown Enterprises president Michael Samhat said it anticipates meeting with DeKalb officials shortly, and that it is working with local engineers and surveyors who are at the site.

Hayes visited the property last month and wrote a letter to DeKalb officials.

“The egregious illegal destruction of trees and vast and severe soil erosion were not what was most shocking to me,” Hayes wrote. “The developers involved had an arrogant disregard for the offenses they have committed and pretended to be obtuse to the laws which they have been breaking.”

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