Some Cranbrook residents are expressing their concerns after a fence was erected without warning along a backyard property line in the Mission Crescent neighbourhood.
Michael Pequeneza, and several of his neighbours, want to know why they were never notified that the fence would be installed.
Pequeneza decided to move back to Cranbrook this spring after having lived in Alberta for work for the past several years. He purchased a home on Mission Crescent – with plans to retire there.
Pequeneza says that the listing for the property promised an area of green space behind the home, which was one of the main reasons he purchased the property in the first place.
A few months later, to his surprise, a fence had been installed along his property line and the few houses on either side. The fence runs between his back yard and the trees he was so looking forward to having access to.
“I bought the house in May. It closed on August 6th. I moved on September 11th and the green space was gone,” he explained. “I bought a house with a shed that I can no longer access, because this fence is blocking the door. The price of my property has gone down significantly. I just want people to know that any green space around their properties can get taken away without warning.”
The green space in question is City land – a covenant property between the houses on Mission Crescent and the property located behind, which is owned by the company FabRite.
At the end of July, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the City and FabRite, stating that FabRite could erect a fence along the covenant property line for safety and security purposes.
“This MOU serves to authorize the construction of a fence over and around Covenant XH31843, in an effort to help circumvent homeless camps, criminal activity on and around the covenanted land,” reads the MOU.
Pequeneza says that his neighbours have never seen homeless activity behind their houses in the many years they have lived there.
He adds that he and his neighbours are frustrated with a “lack of communication” between the City and the neighbourhood. He says they were never notified that a fence was going in.
“Why were none of us notified? This was done without [our] knowledge. One day there is lush green space behind our home, and the next the trees are taken down and a fence installed? Does the City have a right? What are their reasonings for doing this?” asked Pequeneza.
According to the MOU, the intent of the fence is to “inhibit trespass, damage, homeless camps, criminal and similar activities”.
City staff confirmed to the Townsman that because the green space is City-owned covenant land (and the fence is on City property) the MOU did not need to go through a formal approval process, such as a Council meeting.
City staff explained in email correspondence to Pequeneza and his neighbours that the fence was a request from FabRite, who doesn’t have permission to actually use the covenant property. The area isn’t designated as a park or green space.
“This is the City’s covenant for a buffer of use between industrial and residential land, and was never meant as an easement to access backyard properties, nor is it a park. FabRite does not have approval to use the land, only to fence it for security purposes. They are not to use the land for industrial purposes,” reads the correspondence.
Pequeneza explained that there is only a foot or two of space between his shed and the new fence. This goes for his neighbour’s sheds as well. He cited concerns of safety, especially in the winter time when there will be snow there.
“What if a child or a deer gets stuck behind there? We’ve already had deer get stuck. It’s a death trap,” he said.
The houses further down the block on Mission Crescent also have businesses behind them, however there are several feet of trees and grass between the fences and the yards.
Pequeneza says that he has opened a file with the BC Ombudsman as well as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. He says he has spoken to the Bylaw officer as well as City staff.
“I just want to know why? Why would they fence on that side of the land, and not along [the business’] property line? How can a town like this just take away green space?” Pequeneza said. “If it can happen to me that easily, it can happen to anyone else.”
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