Thursday, April 18, 2024

No Offence, but No Fence Where it Does Not Make Sense

Fences make good neighbours. Seriously? It doesn’t seem like that in Aurora. In reality, I think most of us know why fence make good neighbours. When we moved to our first new home here in Aurora we didn’t have a fence installed right away. Our first issue living in a new home was unfortunately with the neighbour. Neither having a neighbour of our own before nor having experience to deal with our first neighbour issues, we decided to wait and see. Eventually our short term neighbour issue along with the neighbour itself just packed into a moving trailer and went away.

In case you are keenly interested, our first neighbour had a playful dog. They didn’t walk the dog, but instead they would put the dog on a leash and let it play in the backyard. Unfortunately, dog was on an extra long leash. Flicking dog piles to where they belonged across the property line wasn’t something we looked forward to every day. It was like being forced to play a stinky round of golf on our own lawn. There was definitely a need for a fence, most importantly because we were not brave enough to approach the neighbour to cut the slack on the leash.

Some of you probably heard about the recent neighbour to neighbour fence dispute, “Fence built by neighbour puts Aurora resident in a jam,according to the town’s bylaws, the fence was legally built and issues Marnee Buckles may have on her property must be handled on her own.”

Certainly the fence was built legally, but if one actually looks where the fence is, it doesn’t take a genius to decipher that there is something wrong. Currently there is silence around this issue. I don’t know if any progress has been made. However, in my opinion any fence that is placed in a little buffer between houses will cause issues again and therefore needs to be addressed. Perhaps it may be necessary to review this matter at the present time given this is the second incident now (I will explain), and the stable neighbourhoods study is currently underway.

I have read Chris Watts’ blog post Unstable Neighbourhoods and I agree with him. What will prevent the other neighbours on the same street from doing the same, as Chris pointed out recently by laying out an example of other houses with similar property line locations. I agree with him, it isn’t a “one-off” situation, as it was debated in Council chambers. In fact, perhaps the Council and Mayor need to go back to their notes and consider similar neighbour to neighbour disputes that happened three years ago. I happen to remember. I sat through the debate.

Following this complaint, Town Staff pitched a new bylaw for Council’s consideration at the Committee level last week calling on them to enact a bylaw creating a non-permit system to allow right-of-entry at any reasonable hour. This was a recommendation approved at Committee and is set for ratification this week.” New bylaw will allow neighbourly access for home repairs; by Brock Weir, September 16, 2015.

What Brock’s article did not mention is that before the right-of-entry by-law was enacted, for which one neighbour had to wait about six-months to eventually repair their leaky roof, a fence (chain link) was erected between the houses by the other neighbour. I know the neighbourhood, it’s about fifteen years old and there are tight spaces between the houses. The roofers had to work with a fence in their way and with the new by-law enacted they were granted access to the other neighbour’s property. The result was successful, a fixed roof and a new right-of-entry by law. That sounds great, but in a space of little buffer in between the houses with a fence in the middle, an obstacle was created with potential access and safety issues in the future. The by-law was good, but was it good enough for future similar cases?

My suggestion to the Aurora residents regardless of the relationship you have with your neighbour, if your neighbour needs entry to your property in order to do repairs on their house, ask first if the repairman has some form of liability insurance in case of an accident on your property. Are you able to deny him or her entry due to the right-of-entry by-law if there is no insurance coverage? That I don’t know. You need to ask these questions. Ask the Town.

As you can see Marnee Buckles’ fence issue is not the first and because our Town didn’t think it would be an issue in the near future, currently she is only left with this message from 2015, “We would suggest residents work together with their neighbours to try and accommodate each other in those circumstances.” So it looks like when Ms. Buckles needs to do repairs on her house, the fence is so close to her house that it might have to be taken down and put right back the way it was, at her cost.

Therefore, my single word recommendation to the Town of Aurora is PERMIT. A permit to erect the fence needs to be strategically thought out and consider safety for both neighbours as well as reasonable access to the dwellings on both sides of the fence. It needs to be a ‘make sense‘ fence. Not like the one where the Town issued a permit for a fence enclosing a planned swimming pool but did not notice a protected heritage tree obstructing the construction of the swimming pool, thus deeming the enclosure fence permit useless. Note, trees in a heritage district in Aurora are considered heritage trees and cannot be removed. For special circumstances a permit is required.

I have a second recommendation for the Town, but given builders now days are being allowed to pack houses with almost no breathing buffer between them, this is not even a question I am going to pose. In conclusion, the Town should be little more proactive. Lets focus on creating people friendly communities.  And for residents of Aurora, please don’t be that zero tolerance neighbour, because when circumstances change you might eventually find yourself on the wrong side of the fence.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON


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