The Blessing of Great Neighbours

The understatement of the year is:  It’s great to have good neighbours!

One of the most interesting elements of being on Council is interacting with residents on a daily basis.  My hope is always to work with them to address their concerns to improve their daily lives here in St. Albert.  I’ve received many, many calls about the cost of living in St. Albert, downtown development, industrial development, utility costs, public transit service delivery, train whistles, dogs on leashes and backyard farming opportunities to name just a few.  All of these types of issues generate a great conversation and whether there is agreement or not on the proper path forward for St. Albert at least there is some “give and take” on the issue and some common ground is usually found.

This, unfortunately, is not always the case when the issue brought to my attention is a conflict between neighbours.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet with residents who have disputes with neighbours over tree leaves in their yards, tree roots invading their yards, smoke from burning fire pits or cigars/cigarettes/pipes smoke blowing on to their decks, sump pumps venting on to their grass, noisy parties late in the evening – again just to name a few.  On occasion, a bylaw or some ordinance is being broken and a resolution is not hard to identify, but for the most part the disputes involve a difference of opinion on what constitutes appropriate neighbourly behaviour.

In the most difficult situations, no one is doing anything wrong.  For example: a neighbour may be enjoying roasting hot dogs or marshmallows over a legal fire pit in their back yard yet the smoke generated from the burning wood exacerbates a neighbour’s health condition thereby eliminating their ability to enjoy their own back yard.   Short of getting lawyers involved, is there a solution to this issue?

The “Golden Rule” states ‘treat others they way you would like to be treated” with many saying that the application of this rule will solve all neighbourly disputes.  Perhaps.  However, to truly apply this rule, individuals need to understand their neighbour’s circumstances and then be willing to put themselves in their neighbour’s “shoes” to truly come to grips with what good neighbourly behaviour is.   This requires communication, hard work and personal sacrifice.  If both neighbours are willing to do these three things, neighbourly disputes would be a thing of the past.

Like I said, the understatement of the year is: It’s great to have good neighbours!