The only leg council has to stand on when trying to balance neighbourhood harmony is written in the rule books.
In other words, what is, or isn’t, regulated in each municipal bylaw.
That is what Warfield council is facing this week after a group of village residents came forward during the Wednesday night meeting to voice concerns about one particular residence.
With limited staff and a tight budget for bylaw enforcement, the village’s commissionaire is contracted for up to 30 hours each month. Meaning, there isn’t time for him to regularly circulate the neighbourhoods. Instead, home visits and follow ups are made only when complaints are brought to the village’s and/or council’s attention.
That leads to the current matter, wherein longtime Warfield residents on Shakespeare Street came to council with queries about residential bylaw infractions and how the contested situation can be peacefully resolved.
The property owners in question also attended council, seeking clarification about the growing list of neighbouring concerns.
A group of eight spoke of discarded materials in the front yard, large woodpiles, tall grass and weeds, a front yard tree house encroaching on an adjacent property line, and a newly erected fence possibly exceeding height regulations and built with aluminum material.
“We have differences but tall fences make good neighbours,” said the delegate.
“But there are razor sharp edges and I have grandkids. When I look out all I see is a tree house, not completed, that is an eyesore as far as I am concerned,” she said. “I don’t know what your bylaws are but I would like council to look at it through the eyes of people all around who have to look at it. We don’t want to be unreasonable that’s why we presented to council. We have to live next door to each other and want a resolution, we are not out for a fight.”
The homeowner spoke earlier, noting he had looked into fencing specifications and conceded while there may be height issues, he said the aluminum sheathing is allowed according to Warfield’s bylaw. Additionally, he said the village was contacted and the regional district building inspector made a site visit for the tree house, which he noted was completed in October.
While both parties agreed some front yard clean up had been accomplished, large woodpiles remained of trees that had to be cut down some time ago, on advice from an arborist.
“The front yard is messy,” said the homeowner. “I am busy, everybody is busy, but we are working on it and it changes from time of year to time of year. I had the trees removed and I’ve had it (wood) sitting there because it’s getting seasoned. Instead of taking it away and chipping it, it’s going to get burned.”
He reiterated the village had been contacted regarding the tree house, but with a changeover in staff, prior verbal discussions and other correspondence could not be substantiated by new staff or current council.
“Someday I am going to put my house on the market,” another neighbour replied. “And this is probably going to cause me problems. I look after my yard, maybe not as well as I should, but I look out at this thing (tree house) that’s unfinished and it does not look good,” he continued. “And I think there’s something in the bylaw about doing things that devalue the property around you. I think it devalues my property and the people next door to me.”
Warfield Mayor Ted Pahl and his four member council listened to both sides, but deferred any talks or decisions until they’ve had adequate time to thoroughly review the village’s existing bylaws that cover rules for unsightly premises and building infractions as well as the regional district’s building inspector report.
“We can’t comment on what transpired in the information gathering because the people you talked to are no longer here,” Pahl said to the homeowner. “But what we can do, is look at the bylaws.”
Sometimes the problem can be the omission of certain parameters, Jackie Patridge, Warfield’s manager of corporate and financial services, pointed out, noting there is no mention of tree houses in the village’s current bylaws.