Gottsegen v. Berges Massawipi is a rare case of the effective enforcement of an environmental covenant on private property. The Québec Court of Appeal upheld the covenant, after 10 years of litigation.
In 1997, Gottsegen and his wife owned waterfront property, subject to a conservation easement that obliged them to leave a 3 m wooded area at the water’s edge. The easement had a built-in penalty for breach, of $100 per day. Nevertheless, they cut many of the trees and built a retaining wall; the neighbourhood Association sued.
11 years later, the conservation easement and penalty have been upheld. The easement was clearly registered on title, and Gottsegen and his (former?) wife had agreed to it at the time of purchase. They were ordered to remove the retaining wall and restore the wooded area. However, the litigation had taken so long that the $100 per day penalty had added up to $365,000. Considering the lack of actual environmental damage, the costs that Gottsegen will incur to restore the damaged area, and the lengthy litigation delays caused by both sides, the court reduced the penalty to $50,000, plus legal costs.