Disputes between neighbours can get nasty, personal.

From property lines to dead rats

Neighbour disputes are varied, yet common

At the end of November, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Punnet handed down an award of $35,150 to Beth Gibson, the former mayor of Colwood, as a result of a dispute dating back to 2011 between Gibson, F.K. Developments, and a neighbour, Fritz Kruger (who was involved with the development the company developing the properties neighbouring on Gibson’s home).

The dispute centred upon Kruger taking it upon himself to remove the tops of mature Douglas fir trees on Gibson’s property, without permission, in order to improve the view for his own properties.

And as much as Gibson now wishes to put the entire unpleasant debacle behind her, the details of her particular case serve to raise questions about how often this sort of dispute arises and what can be done to restore peace when, as they did in Gibson’s case, circumstances and attitudes seem destined to spiral out of control.

Const. Matthew Baker of the West Shore RCMP maintains that dispute resolution is all about empathy.

“It’s important not to dig your heels in and, instead, try to understand the other person’s position and what it is they’re upset about,” Baker said. “When they get to the point where they won’t talk to one another, that’s when disputes start escalating. By the time one or the other starts calling the police, I would guess that everything else has failed.”

Baker explained that he doesn’t see a lot of incidents where the police are called to get involved, and when they are, they generally find that there is no criminal cause for a complaint.

“These are generally civil matters and more suited for mediation or legal action than calling the police,” he said.

Susan Belford, administrative director of the Colwood non-profit group, Dialogue and Mediation Services, agreed that most of the cases they see stem from people being unwilling to communicate.

“As human beings we tend to want to believe that we’re right. We look at things from our own perspective, often losing sight of the fact that the other party has their own perspective and equally believe that they are in the right,” Belford said.

“Most often you’ll find that both parties want the same thing and, if you can get them talking, they’ll find a way to find a middle ground but the key is the willingness to negotiate. Finding a solution through mediation can only happen if there is a willingness to voluntarily work with the other party.”

Sometimes disputes result from issues that have nothing to do with the stated point of dispute, according to City of Colwood bylaw officer Paul Lambert.

Lambert has been in his position for 10 years, having come from the UK and Australia where he worked as a police constable.

“I find that we’ll get a call and find that there’s really something else going on that has nothing to do with the issue they call about. Maybe they’re upset about the fact that a neighbour has a trailer in the driveway and, since that isn’t illegal, they focus on whether a fence is slightly encroaching on a property line,” Lambert said.

“I’ve seen people lose their minds over six inches of property and spend thousands of dollar litigating an issue that could have been resolved with some reasonable conversation.”

But sometimes, said Lambert, neighbours have legitimate concerns and part of his job is to explain the problem to the offending party.

“I remember getting a call about a powerful stench coming from a property. I arrived to find a gentleman in the backyard, incinerating dead rats (he’d trapped) and the smell was horrendous…so much so that he was stark naked, not wanting to get the smell of the burning rats on his clothing,” recalled Lambert with a chuckle.

“With all of that, he seemed genuinely surprised that the neighbours had complained.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

New Sooke councillors face old issues and new challenges

First meeting of new council sets the stage for the future

Passenger passes out on a bus in Sooke

Man was revived and was alert and coherent

Island Corridor Foundation optimistic about restoring rail service

If green-lighted, first priority would be Langford to Victoria route

Firefighters rescue horse stuck in Saanich mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Food service workers at Victoria airport protest for second time in four months

Negotiations continue to drag on with employer Compass Group Canada, VAA refuses to engage

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Vancouver Island remembers

Important stories shared as Islanders salute those who made the greatest sacrifice

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Cowichan school district defends lack of notice to parents following elementary student arrest

Officials with School District 79 stand by their decision not to send out an alert.

Canadians more prepared for weather disaster than financial one: poll

RBC recommends people check their bank app as often as the weather app

B.C. dog owner sues after pet killed in beaver trap

A Kamloops man is suing the operator of a trapline north of the city after his dog died

Most Read