So this couple in California bought some land and then… started destroying things nearby.
It all started when Toni and Peter Thompson, building a new house in Sonoma, decided to take three trees from a nearby property and put them by their house, because “don’t take trees from property you don’t own” is apparently a really hard thing to wrap your head around.
The land trust first became aware that something wasn’t quite right on the Thompsons’ property in 2014 after a neighbor reported seeing heavy machinery on the protected land, the Press Democrat reported.
When staff from the trust arrived for a site visit, they were stunned by what greeted them.
“I was not prepared,” Bob Neale, the trust’s stewardship director, told the Press Democrat. “It was really the most willful, egregious violation of a conservation easement I’ve ever seen.”
Portions of the area that had once been blanketed by untouched native plants were reduced to mounds of loose dirt, and others were scraped down to bedrock, according to court documents. Some photos showed a massive oak tree in a trench with its roots bound and surrounded by yellow construction equipment. A dirt road stretching for about a third of a mile was also carved through the land, destroying 12 smaller trees and other vegetation in the way, the ruling said.
Why would anybody think they could do this? They were fined $600,000, which seems pretty cheap for all that damage. Everything wound up in court, where the couple said they were trying to save the trees, because the local utility was going to prune one of them, which turns out to be a complete lie.
Over the course of the trial, the Thompsons offered a dozen defenses, none of which the court found had any merit. The pair were “further undermined by their persistent failure to tell the truth,” Broderick wrote.
Their lawyer says they’re… well, not sorry, really; in fact they seem to feel quite put upon.
“They are very decent, committed, responsible, law-abiding citizens,” he said. “They just got involved in a situation improving their property that spiraled out of control and had some unfortunate results.”
Yeah, sometimes major construction projects just sort of start, and there’s nothing you can do to stop them, even when you’re paying for them.