One night in July, the South Glengarry bylaw enforcement officer’s car tires were slashed and his mail box was smashed in.
Who could have done it? Well, take a number. Building or expanding a home, or any other type of structure, or even putting up a tent for a gathering in these parts, has become a regulatory nightmare.
Community disgust reached a new high the day before the tire slashing. A large tent professionally erected for a wedding was ordered taken down 24 hours before the nuptials.
It set an example where others said, “We’re not going to comply” and, to their credit, didn’t. That is how to win the fight, not by sneaking around at night to do property damage.
This was followed by a legal victory. The two lads from the tent rental company beat the $1,500 fine for putting one tent up without a permit. The tent permit is the responsibility of the property owner, not the folks owning the actual tents, the court ruled.
With the lawyer costing God knows what, if the law doesn’t officially punish you, the process will.
The fact that the local officer is taking provincial regulations and applying them to the T, perhaps means he shouldn’t be the sole source of all venom.
Most of those attacking him never did read building code regulations when they were passed and never voiced any opposition to them at the time.
But nobody, until Paul Vogel’s plowing match and the wedding of Martin Lang’s son, ever stood up to this township’s building inspector.
For a joke, a local wag sent Martin sprinting in a rage when he drove into Martin’s yard the day before the wedding with what looked like the official township sign on the side of his truck.
In a separate case, Frank and Sarah were slated to build their new $650,000 home on Neville Road in South Glengarry. Frank took the spring and summer off from his pipeline job out west to help with the construction.
Sarah’s dad is a major contractor and, as luck would have it, a former local building inspector.
Hence, all the I’s were dotted and the T’s crossed when they went in with their plans, but, alas, the building inspector, who never built a chicken coop, found stuff wrong with the documents.
Time revealed that everything was in order. No matter, there was a problem the second time around.
Then, when a formal meeting was conducted with the mayor, everyone discovered that the building inspector did not work for the mayor. The building inspector followed the law as he perceived it. In this case, a tongue lashing from the mayor did not persuade the building inspector one bit. He turned down Frank and Sarah’s request for a building permit a third and a fourth time.
With a similar issue near Perth, the problem is perceived this way. It’s like driving 120 km/hr on a 100 km/hr highway. You pass a cop and he’ll let you go. But in today’s climate in more and more small townships, the new crop of inspectors will nail you for going 101 km/hr. They adhere to the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law.
Frank and Sarah’s plan to build went south. “Look, I can’t do you now until September,” said the foundation guy who was slated to form and pour concrete back in April.
It was mid-June when I picked up Frank to go to our daughters’ soccer game. “Take a little drive down here,” he said. We sat at the end of a magnificent property down the road in the same township. The house was back behind the trees. There was a for sale sign out front.
“I have an appointment to view this tomorrow,” said Frank. He and Sarah toured it the next day and that evening were buyers, lock, stock and barrel, moving in three weeks later. It cost more than it would to build but they got extra value in the increased acreage and property beauty.
Frank is back out on the pipeline, his father-in-law way up north doing construction.
It makes you wonder how many people are coming into the township with a plan to build and giving up before jumping through every hurdle?
It took someone like Frank to recognize that the politics and paying of “fees” to put a pipeline through a native reservation, and building a home in these parts, are the same damned thing.
Complying with regulations is a large part of doing business these days.
At what cost? The loss from not building one home extends to a lost job for a local contractor and many local trades people. The lost tax revenue is more than $8,300 per year.
Just from one house. But, hey, it’s just money.
Ian Cumming is a former Glengarry County dairy farmer and now farms with his son in northern New York state.