Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fences & Neighbours and all that

I'm so tired of dealing with people who hear the proverb "good fences make good neighbours" and don't understand the irony. I'm more of a Robert Frost devotee, I agree with this point of view, right here.

Why am I thinking about this now?

Because my neighbours are today unilaterally extending the fence between our houses, all legal supposedly. It's already a very very high fence between our backyards, yes an okay design, but way too tall. The sole reason it was built so tall is because the female half of the couple next door is paranoid and convinced we are peeping in her house and staring at her. She also hates children and does not want to look at ours, or hear ours, or know that children exist. (She has said this to other neighbours who reported it back to us. She used the exact word "hate". She also told me that she is afraid of crowds and people touching her. Sigh....)

We are in a very urban neighbourhood, with high narrow houses, skinny long lots, and really, not much privacy. This particular neighbourhood is child central, a place where pregnant women, small children and dogs go together like lattes and biscotti. This is probably the absolute last place on earth that a child-hating woman should have moved. It's hard enough for an infertile with a history of pregnancy loss to be here. If it wasn't for my kids I wouldn't even have moved here! I can't for the life of me figure out why they picked this area. She is slightly older, and from what she has said never wanted children, never tried to have them, nothing. She knows our history so I'm sure she was telling the truth.

The fence will now extend in between our houses and gives us only 1 foot of space for people to come in and clean our eavestroughs or repair the wall or roof if needed. There are no windows and doors there, so it wasn't like we could see them anyway, but we are just going to find it impossible to maintain our property now. Plus we had planned on doing some renovations and construction and we need to be able to access the side of our house to rip it down or change it. The fence will be destroyed in the process, and we will now have to pay to rebuild it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Whenever I have discussions about this with Mr.Cotta btw, he assumes that I am saying that people should be barred from living in certain types of neighbourhoods, or doing what they want with their own property. And I'm not. I just despair of a world full of people who keep trying to fit their personal square pegs into round holes.

Like, if you are an elderly widower, is it smarter to live in your own home, a non-handicapped accessible home full of tripping hazards and stairs, with no one to talk to but your cat and expensive repair issues? Or is it smarter to move to a local senior's apartment building, with friends and activities, and railings in the bathtub, just in case? Memories are lovely, but broken hips are painful, I think.

Or if you are a person who can't stand children and longs for silence and space for your garden, should you move to a downtown urban neighbourhood filled with kids and traffic and a postage stamp for a backyard? Will you possibly be unhappy? Will you make your neighbours unhappy?

I know I'm ranting again, but I'm also completely unclear as too why she keeps building bigger and bigger fences all around her. What the hell is the point of this?


  1. She's sad and afraid.

    It can be very tricky dealing with neighbors. I think my husband ran our last neighbors out of town when he (discreetly) pointed out to the town board that their planned driveway was asinine and not to code.

  2. Magpie, you are right, it IS tricky dealing with them, isn't it? That's why I'm ranting here instead of standing outside in my yard and saying something inappropriate.

    Very very difficult...

  3. She sounds like a very unhappy woman, and possibly even mentally unwell. I feel sad for her. But I also understand how much trouble she is causing you. Very inconsiderate.

  4. Truly fuck with her head and cut out a tiny little window into her yard into the fence.

    It'd be worth it to replace 2-3 planks just to have her wig out.

  5. That can't be legal, can it? Aren't they supposed to be like 5 ft. tall? As for paying for it to be rebuilt? What a waste of wood. She should pay for it twice, if you can't do you reno.

    As for the square peg in the round hole. I am one of those, but the difference is that I want to be the round peg, and she doesn't/never did. She should move!

  6. I'm also completely unclear as too why she keeps building bigger and bigger fences all around her

    Probably for the same reason I keep building bigger and bigger fences all around me.

    But speaking non-metaphorically, you might want to call the local zoning board as Magpie suggested. It seems hard to believe that it's legal to leave such a small amount of space between the fence and your house for exactly the reasons you point out -- it makes it impossible to maintain or renovate your own property. So generally, there's some required setback. I'd at least check it out.

  7. "...why she keeps building bigger and bigger fences all around her..."

    Ah... there's the real question right there! The answer? Who the fuck knows, but honestly, there must be a lot more to the matter than we could know.

    HOWEVER... HOWEVER... I'd seriously be checking into your local building code and by-laws. You know I'm a developer, granted out here in B.C., but I'd be shocked if there isn't some sort of similar ruling about the maximum height of fences (here it's six feet), and the minimum property line set backs (Here, it's 4 feet, in fact we had to move my studio six inches because a neighbour came over and measured, we didn't know she'd built her fence one foot inside her own property line and we measured from her fence.) Maybe I"m wrong, but her fence sounds crazy and I'd be shocked if there isn't some control in place to prevent this!

  8. Yuck. I agree with the zoning board comment, there must be rules on this.

    And, having just visited Niobe's blog, it occurs to me you could plant a wisteria on your side of the fence, which would surely collapse it in two years. Oh what a tragedy that would be...but such pretty flowers! ;)

  9. You're arguing logic, AC! And logic doesn't apply with this woman, as evidenced by past (bizarre) behavior.

  10. It is very, very hard when you have difficult neighbors. We have nice older neighbors, but one of them is on occasion a bit of a busy body, and always wondering what we are up to. It's tedious at times, but she is tolerant of our boys and otherwise a decent lady, so we keep our eye-rolling to ourselves.

    Your neighbor on the other hand.... Oh dear!

    I think all of the zoning suggestions are good, but I also realize that could open a whole other can of worms. It is hard to "take on" one's neighbor, even if you are right.

    I'm sorry you are dealing with this on top of everything else!

  11. Your neighbors and my neighbors should live side by side. The rest of us could sit back with popcorn and watch the show.

  12. How strange.... I can't imagine that giant fences would be aesthetically pleasing...

    I'm with the others, definitely approach your council. Here in Oz we aren't allowed to increase fence size or build on to our house without submitting the plans first and have them approved...

  13. Ditto everyone else's comments about zoning. Generally there are setbacks and the like for buildings so am assuming the same applies to fences. She has some issues above and beyond the fence. For that reason alone, I might be glad she put the fence up - to keep her in rather than others out.

  14. Wow! We have a neighbor who built the great wall of China between us too! Of course, thinking of your situation and there being no room inbetween, you do need to get with the city on this.
    You have to think of fire and safety as well as legal easements.

    She is probably a paranoid, miserable woman who regrets moving there but may feel stuck for reasons unknown to anyone else.

    We found out our neighbor has pulled the same junk everywhere she goes. Some people just enjoy being miserable and unhappy.