In the Neighbourhood

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Originally posted June 3, 2015 written by Lesley Gaunt

“…and there’s always construction work bothering you in the neighbourhood…“
(Tom Waits).

Disputes between neighbours are nothing new, not in Canada, not anywhere else in the world. The libraries are full with case studies and history is replete with famous examples of warring neighbours.  The massacre of the Donnelly family, in the township of Biddulph (near London, Ontario) by an armed mob may be an extreme example as this immigrant family from Ireland was bludgeoned to death by their neighbours on February 4, 1880.
More commonly and closer to home many of us will have had occasional problems with neighbours involving noise, untidy premises, dogs, fences, trees and hedges, second-hand smoke, water issues, or trespass.
For most of these conflicts there are bylaws in municipalities that deal with these types of problems. Also on Bowen. The extensive catalogue of Bowen Island Municipality’s (B.I.M.) bylaws and policies is an interesting read and contains, amongst others, a noise control bylaw and a noise control bylaw exemption policy, a dog bylaw regulating leashes and poop pick-up, a heron nesting policy and numerous water system bylaws.  There is no shortage of regulation on Bowen Island and in all likelihood typical neighbourhood disputes can be referenced to precedence, an applicable bylaw or policy.
Of course, in most cases, it is advisable to first try talking to the neighbour that causes the problem. After all he or she may not be aware of the effect they’re having on their neighbours and talking to them may solve the problem. However, if speaking with your neighbour is not possible or if speaking has not solved the problem, there are always other options.
Usually I would not have thought about the brewing dispute between Cape on Bowen (C.O.B.) and several property owners and dock proponents at the Cape and B.I.M. as a neighbourhood issue.
I do not agree with C.O.B.’s views and more docks at Cape Roger Curtis (C.R.C.). But I get it. Mr. Ho may have painted himself into a corner.  As President of C.O.B. he is accountable for the shareholder value and to C.R.C. property owners to deliver on the terms and conditions agreed in their purchasing agreements.
On the other hand, our municipality has a mandate to uphold our community values and to protect the public interest.
C.O.B. and C.R.C. owners threaten to sue. In their perception of reality the public interest in an undisturbed shoreline doesn’t measure up to corporate and private interests in maintaining high property values. The bylaw draft is labeled unfair, prejudiced and threatening the annihilation of newcomers. No doubt, strong words, but I get it.
I believe in justice and when it comes to litigation I like to remember Mark Twain: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” So sue if you must. Business as usual.
The matter becomes personal when we are being told that protecting public interests on Bowen Island is not neighbourly.
Mr. David Chen of CNS Law Corporation spoke on behalf of Mr. Shu Lin Dong and Ms. Zhen Wang, the respective owners of lot 17 and Lot 3 at C.R.C. Basically his clients wanted him to address two things: ”…
one is called neighbourliness and the other is simply unfairness of the proposed bylaw…” He continues: ”Throughout the discourse of this dispute, my clients Mr. Dong and Ms. Wang, have only been referred to as property owners at Cape Roger Curtis or tenure applicants. I submit that those words they annihilate a person…” Mr. Chen goes on to remind us: ”They are in fact your neighbours, they are newcomers, and they are moving into the neighbourhood of Cape Roger Curtis.”
Being patronized by one of the legal representatives of CRC property owners on our neighbourhood values is condescending. His statement is designed to shame us all into submission. It is designed to create confusion and clouds the issue at hand by personalizing it. All of a sudden I feel that I am being accused of being unfair, prejudiced and plotting the annihilation of newcomers. And so are you and so are your neighbours.  We are all being patronized and moralized. And painted in a bad light.
In my life I have moved often and lived in many foreign places including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, China and Singapore. Each move made me a newcomer. After a while I picked up some of the do’s and don’ts of that role. “Take some time to absorb the new culture”, usually served me well.
As far as Bowen Island goes, our neighbourhood values are robust. The community is resilient and respectful of the rights of others. We know who we are and we look after each other.
“It seems that often when problems arise our outlook becomes narrow“ (Dalai Lama)
There will always be differences in the neighbourhood. Solutions can be found or forced in different ways. In my experience mutual respect, kindness, honesty and genuine consideration go a long way.

– Lesley Gaunt

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