Apparently leftover laminate flooring and big staples are acceptable building materials in the city of Toronto.
Am I sounding sarcastic? Probably. It’s a sign of my frustration with the city and its bylaws – or at least its bylaw officers.
About a month ago our neighbours put up this addition on the front of their house:
It was thrown up in a day, while we were out in fact, and finished with leftover laminate flooring, white corrugated fibreglass, and staples. Big staples. We were aghast, as were a few of our neighbours.
So I phoned the bylaw department and left a message. No reply. I emailed our local counsellor. To his credit, he followed up – only to let us know that:
“Toronto Buildings have confirmed with me that following their investigation, this type of enclosure is safe and permitted by the City. As a result, they have closed their file on this case.”
While the “type of enclosure” may be safe – did they look at how it was built? That it was held together by staples? That they basically have a lean-to built on the front lawn?
I suppose what’s bothering me the most is that it cheapens the look of both our properties. I thought the law would be on my side; but it’s not.
But, as Robert Frost wrote, good fences make good neighbours – and the more egregious things someone can do on their property are best hidden behind fences. They’re much less likely to irritate the rest of us that way. If this had been in their backyard, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash. We’re all entitled to do what we like on our own property.
This is important because, particularly in cities, where density is high and where, even in the most expensive neighbourhoods, we live cheek by jowl with each other, we have more of a responsibility toward each other. It is more incumbent upon each of us to consider how our actions affect our neighbours.
But, instead, we often end up turning the other way, minding our own business on the one hand, becoming angry and self-righteous on the other. We create invisible barriers of hostility instead of sturdy fences for privacy.
And irritate our neighbours while we’re at it.