Neighbourhood issues aren’t easy

Good fences aren't always enough.

Good fences aren’t always enough.

Neighbourhood disagreements are among the toughest things for local governments to sort out.

It could be loud music, messy yards, overhanging tree branches, racing motorcycle engines, barking dogs or any number of other things that cause neighbours to differ, but usually it’s related to peace and quiet.

A person’s home is his or her castle, and people just want to be able to enjoy it. Seldom do they go looking to get into a problem with their neighbours; in fact, they usually go to considerable lengths to avoid it.

Unfortunately, when things go awry in a neighbourhood, they often impact several homes, not just the ones next door to each other.

Bylaws are there to settle differences when they happen, but bylaws can’t fix everything. I’ll give you an example.

I won’t name names because it’s not my intention to embarrass anyone but it shows how difficult it can be to settle these things.

The situation has been going on in a neighbourhood in our electoral area for several months and it involves a couple of dogs and a 16 ft. by 32 ft. outbuilding that’s being used to shelter them.

The dogs are cougar hounds, and neighbours say they’re kept in the kennel-like building except when taken out for hunting. Noise, odor and dog feces have been issues for the neighbours, though the dogs have been fixed and fitted with barking collars and the noise apparently isn’t as serious as it used to be, at least not at night.

Several other remedies have been tried. The TNRD has an anti-noise bylaw but enforcement hasn’t been deemed appropriate for this situation. The SPCA has been consulted, again to no avail.

Nevertheless, the matter came before the TNRD board — on a zoning matter. The dogs’ building was constructed on a concrete slab too close to the property line, and after a complaint the owner sought a variance to allow it.

Staff recommended against granting the variance for reasons unrelated to the dog issue. The board was unanimous in agreeing with the recommendation, and the variance was rejected.

Rejecting the variance won’t in itself resolve the issue between neighbours. If the owner moves the dogs’ shelter only about a meter further away from the property line, it will become legal.

I argued in vain that the regional district should seek other ways of intervention, such as mediation, to find a permanent solution to neighbourhood concerns but the fact is the TNRD has no other enforcement tools that fit.

I find it frustrating when we can’t play a more effective role in helping maintain the livability of neighbourhoods. Certainly, there are many times when rules do help sort things out but sometimes the rules that we have in place, or are within our authority, just aren’t enough.

In this case, it looks very much as though the neighbourhood itself will have to find the answers.

 I wrote this article for the Sun Peaks Independent News.

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