Should Urban People be concerned about Property Rights? By Shirley Dolan

Published February 1, 2015

There were events last week in two different City’s in Ontario that demonstrate how urban property rights are being eroded – one in Ottawa and one in Ajax. There were probably more but these two made the news.

Last week in Ottawa, a community became outraged when a senior citizen was given a deadline that would force him to remove graffiti from his backyard fence in the middle of winter. This is the third time John Gutterman, 74, has been targeted by vandals and it probably won’t be the last. The message from bylaw is that if he doesn’t have the graffiti removed by March 1st, the City could do the work and demand payment within 30 days or have the charge added to his tax bill. Where are this citizen’s property rights?
Ottawa is experiencing a cold winter this year and it seems unreasonable to ask this gentleman to go out into his back yard and paint over the offending spray-painting. The fence is not facing a residential street – it faces the transit way, but apparently some people passing by on public transit are offended by the spray paint on Mr. Gutterman’s fence and have reported it to Bylaw. In this case, his councillor is working to help and the community is also supportive.

But what about the bylaw itself which says that property owners are responsible for removing the graffiti within the City’s time frame, and if they don’t, the City may hire a contractor to remove it at the homeowners expense?

This, like other bylaws, operates to a certain extent on the snitch line. If a complaint is made, the City must respond and issue an order for the graffiti to be removed and then they appear to get caught in their own rules and common sense goes by the wayside, as has happened in this case. We expect that Mr. Gutterman will correct the problem, as he has in the past, by painting over the graffiti. How well will that work in -25 degree weather?

I am told that the bylaw has been successful in reducing the instances of spray paint vandalism in some areas. This is a good thing, especially in commercial areas where businesses are concerned about a clean, unmarked storefront. But surely in residential neighbourhoods, there can be some flexibility in applying the law. Also, one wonders if the same result could not have been achieved with an educational program instead of a bylaw.

But back to the complaints. Graffiti vandalism is a criminal offense and it should be reported to the police. We need to put more emphasis on protecting the homeowner from this type of crime rather than victimizing him a second time.

See City pushes homeowner to remove graffiti in mid-winter http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/public-citizen-city-pushes-homeowner-to-remove-graffiti-in-mid-winter .
The other example of urban property rights abuse happened in Ajax http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/01/22/ajax-family-ordered-to-dismantle-tiny-front-yard-ice-rink-or-face-fine-of-up-to-25000.html. A neighbor complained about a family who had constructed a front yard rink. Apparently, it’s OK to have a rink in the back yard but not in the front yard. This wasn’t possible for this family – the backyard slopes and there is a swimming pool there. Bylaw says the problem is the boards around the rink. The family was given two weeks to remove the boards or face a $25,000 fine. It appears there have been several instances of anonymous calls to bylaw targeting a number of people in this neighbourhood. Cities have to get out of the business of settling neighbour-on-neighbour complaints through bylaws. Once the complaint is made, bylaw is obliged to follow through with the letter of the law and it seems that common sense is not permitted.

6 Responses to “Should Urban People be concerned about Property Rights? By Shirley Dolan”

  1. Len Harris March 18, 2015

    Hi from Down Under,
    I’m not sure if this is applicable in Canada as it is in Australia, but

    Take your mind back to the old imperial terminology of Links and Chains that surveyors used, a Link is app 200mm, the land owners own alternate links on the dividing fence.

    The solution is simple require the Traansit Authority to remedy their individual 200mm sections of the fence that has been defaced and then the elderly gentleman would do his, in other words make the Transit Authority to lead by example in carrying out the community responsibility that they are informing on the public.

    The alternating link ownership can be at times useful in resolving disputes over dividing fences in general.

    Len Harris former Senator.

  2. Jason February 24, 2015

    Why not just have the city bylaw officer charged with trespassing when they step on your property? In the case of the ice rink, if they took the boards they could also face theft charges.

  3. Steve Ilievski February 6, 2015

    Jeff Herman, you have good advice for John. But while he is at Karl Lentz on the internet, please Jeff, and John and all landowners, look up Mark Kishon Christopher under “tricks & traps of the court”. He has other videos as well, all very instructive. Watch them over and over to really learn what he is teaching us, it is nothing short of freedom from all the parasites.

  4. Jeff Herman February 1, 2015

    John Gutterman,
    You fortunate man. Gladly accept this gracious order, with thanksgiving. Inform the wo/man, that for such a large order, you require a signature from the one who bares the liability for such a generous order. The order is so generous, John, that you could require a portion of the $25,000 contract/order to be paid prior to commencing your end of the agreement. Keep it fair, at say $5-7,000. It’s yours to decide, but take care not to scare this beautiful order off. Think about it John; if you gave Me/Burger King/McDonalds/Fred’s Greasy Spoon a $25,000 dollar order I/we would be overjoyed, but cautious and therefore, require similar conditions from you. Remember to always be courteous when dealing with these poor misguided souls.
    John, I am presuming this fence is your property and not property of Ottawa, to and in which you are bound by oath or contract to tend for free, or expect and suffer penalties.
    You can go through life hoodwinked into a ‘person’ or you can be a man. Find Karl Lentz on the internet…Unkommon Law or something. The supreme Law is the Common Law, by God’s grace. Use it or loose it.
    Jeff

  5. Grace Joubarne February 1, 2015

    I am willing to bet that there were no complaints whatever. When bloated bureaucracies need work to justify their ridiculous numbers and salaries, they make up ‘complaints’. This is a ruse and they get away with it because they claim they cannot release the name of the complainant.

    Iknow from personal experience that the By-law manager will not act when there is a serious danger repeatedly reported, even if your council member takes a look for himself, shares concerns about the increasing dangers and asks her to.

    In my case, they told the neighbor that I was complaining and then the by-law officer started after me with a manufactured violation. The by-law officer sat in her car at the front of my property for hours, then called me to tell me she was doing surveillance on me, etc. etc.! Meanwhile, the neighbor was piling trash, furniture, name-it, higher and higher in the yard, up against our fences, blocking access to the building on the property and causing issues with blocking the street, throwing used condoms out their windows at passersby and onto neighbor’s properties and so on..

    The neighbor is a chronic hoarder of cars, mattresses, lawn mowers, chairs, sofas, left over lumber, flammables…there is no place to walk in his backyard and if/when a fire starts, there is no way the firefighters could manage to get in there. As we speak there are 4 vehicles, 3 have not moved in 4 years. All this puts the neighbors at risk and the firefighters lives in jeopardy. This IS something important and they will not act.

    Meanwhile, in the background, this same manager was spending our tax dollars writing by-laws that would give the City the power to tell owners of vacant properties how to manage their properties…when to re-roof, what colors to paint, what vegetation they can have, etc. Many OLA members attended the Hearing at City Hall a couple of years ago over this proposed Vacant Property By-law.

    In her presentation, she claimed that it was because unsightly vacant properties were a serious problem in Ottawa. When a smart councillor asked her SEVERAL times how many vacant properties were a problem, she dodged and deeked and then finally passed the ball to the Chief Building Official, who then admitted there was only one problematic vacant property owner after all! And sure enough, the property owner had his building permit and he was co-operating with the City, but obviously not fast enough to suit the feudal lords.

    This bureaucracy is so bloated, so out of control, so morally and ethically bankrupt that it would need a complete clean-out first, followed by a hiring of 1/3 of the present numbers of management staff and officers, preferably all with some common sense and preferably not of the old gang.

    These city staff must create work for themselves and they take down entire neighborhoods with them in the process. The waste of taxpayer’s money interfering with people’s lives and concocting property takeovers is beyond what property owners should accept…but here we are…accepting the unacceptable, instead of rallying several thousand property owners together to demand the firing of some of these wanna-be Hitlers.

    Apathy knows no bounds it seems….and things are getting worse.

  6. Ted Lizak February 1, 2015

    Hi, Last fall the Town of Grimsby sent me a letter to remove graffiti from my 20′ van parked in the yard at my farm. If I don’t then the town will come on my farm, clean it up and send me the bill. This I did Not do.
    To date, I have not heard from the town.

    Cheers, Ted Lizak

    P.S. My parents purchased the farm in 1946.


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