June 22, 2001 Halifax Herald

Unsightly property: HRM should clean up own act

For the past six or seven years, my family and our immediate neighbours have had to put up with viewing from back windows, and back yards, an unsightly old foundation that is owned by Halifax Regional Municipality. Adding to this aggravation is an HRM-owned stagnant open ditch and dusty road that lie directly behind our properties. The ditch is a breeding facility for flies and a danger to any small children that might fall into it when the water is high. In spite of many complaints, it has probably been part of the subdivision's scenery since Day one, because it was here when we took up residence over thirty years ago.

Complaints directed to the areas Alderman Steve Adams about the existence of these eyesores are usual met with the refrain that they will be attended to next year, or earlier, if money becomes available. Hopefully, great emergencies such as installing new lights for ball fields and adding new playing fields won't keep cropping up to continue to eat up funds for such projects. These sports facilities, by the way, are rarely used by the locals.

Itís anyone's guess how the ditch came to be; it was probably a "temporary" drainage measure. The dusty road provides park access. How the unsightly foundation came to clutter up the scenery is a long story; the following is an abbreviated account.

When Lieblin Park subdivision was built in the late 1950s, the developers constructed a large building in the midst of it that was meant to serve as a future shopping centre. The shopping centre never materialized. Consequently, over the years, the building was used for everything from a dance hall to a warehouse - it even had a few apartments at one time. With the passage of time, and neglect, it became an eyesore.

Then, about twelve years or so ago, the City erroneously gave a permit to an individual to set up a food-processing plant in it. The stench from the preparation of vegetables and other foods under very unsanitary conditions was unbearable. It even caused many individuals and groups to avoid using the adjacent recreational facilities that the city had spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars constructing. However, private property owners were stuck with living beside it because no one in their right mind would have bought our homes under such conditions.

This caused many of us to mount a campaign to have the offending operation removed. With the help of then newly elected alderman Steve Adams, we were successful. The building was expropriated by the city and demolished. However, for some unexplained reason, the foundation was left to rot and clutter up the landscape.

Initially, I was so happy to have the source of the stench removed that I readily accepted the explanation that the foundation would be removed in a few years and the site landscaped. Last year, losing patience with the procrastination, I decided to call the powers that be and find out what was going on.

After going through a dozen or so bureaucrats, I finally found one who committed to look into it. Believe it or not, the Municipality didn't even know it owned the property. Several days later, after he had found and identified the land as part of the properties that were managed by the recreation department, the official called me and said he would look into the possibility of getting it cleaned up and would advise me accordingly. Itís now been well over a year and I'm still waiting.

In the meantime, to try to help move matters along, I contacted the bylaw enforcement staff to see if it were possible to have them lay a bylaw violation complaint against HRM for owning an unsightly property. The official who was contacted informed me that it was not possible. Not being a lawyer, or a person loaded with money to burn to retain one, I've so far accepted his assertion. One of these days through, if I get riled up enough, I might challenge it.

What prompted me to write this column was not so much the aforementioned, although I must admit it helped; it was the Municipality's habit of adopting a holier-than-thou-art posture with other unsightly property owners. Whenever I hear or read about one of them being accused by HRM of violating its unsightly property bylaw, I blanch at the hypocrisy of probably what is probably one of the biggest offenders - HRM itself.

I suggest that HRM lead by good example and clean up its own unsightly properties before ostracizing others. If I were one of the accused, I would fight back by demanding HRM do so.

To gather some of the data needed to back up such a demand, accused persons could come to 100 Lieblin Drive and take pictures of the unsightly foundation, the stagnant ditch and road. With these and other visual proof of HRM violations, the defence they could mount is that by example HRM considers such eyesores improvements that enhance property values. The mess it owns and proudly exhibits beside its multi-million-dollar recreation facility and our homes in Lieblin Park bears witness.

HRM, as a "proud" owner of unsightly properties, commits an act of gross injustice by prosecuting other unsightly property owners under the provisions of its bylaw, while claiming immunity for itself. The finger pointer needs clean fingers before pointing. This should not be taken as an endorsement of unsightly property owners; itís meant to condemn them all - including HRM.

Daniel N. Paul


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