Antagonists, Protagonists and Fenceboards

Pictures of the yard and fence were added yesterday afternoon. Folks subscribing to me with RSS might have missed them, so click back a day to check them out.

Having become a snooty little inner city couple, my wife and I frequently admonish the suburbs, especially here in Calgary. Calgary’s suburbs would qualify as other towns or boroughs in many other cities. But it’s become abundantly clear over the past two weeks that Calgary’s suburbs have at least one advantage over existing inner city neighborhoods: definitive property lines.

Anyone, I’m sure, who has built a fence between themselves and neighbors has experienced the push/pull, natures and intentions of next door neighbors. In newer neighborhoods, property lines are nearly indisputable. They are straight, for starters, and are well defined by “benchmarks” or are otherwise staked. And in the newest of neighborhoods, neighbors typically build a fence right away, getting it out of the way as it were, so that it is done.

The house we are currently in was purchased last June. A little over a year ago, actually (yay!). The house we bought enjoyed both a front yard and back yard of weeds, dirt and rock. “No” maintenance. And there were only two 8′ sections of fence on one side of our back yard (where a total of 27′ need to be). Not conducive to imprisoning a dog. So for the past year, while we’ve landscaped both yards, we had chicken wire running from the existing fence sections and along our deck (built up to the property line), temporarily finishing off the fence. It was our intention to finish it this spring.

Our next door neighbors, an interesting family that has been there for what we estimate is between 10 and 15 years, have, up until we moved in, taken advantage of the lack of fence on our side. They’d attached a gate to their deck railing and hinged the other end to one of the existing posts, thereby closing off their yard. This gate was swung into our property in order to get their lawnmower from the back yard to the front yard. A “real” fence would inhibit this entirely, which is, truth be told, partly what we were after.

We let them know two weeks ago that we were intending to finish the fence. Because the existing sections had rotted through their posts, we would replace them too. This notice was met with, I’d say, 30% enthusiasm and 70% trepidation. How ever would they get their lawnmower through to the front yard?

We made it clear that we would pay for the new sections of fence, share the cost of replacing the existing sections (a sum entering 4 figures), and do all of the labour, because it was our initiative and our yard to seal off. Quite a concession, I’d say. Subsequently, they proceeded to measure successive distances from their deck to ours, which up until then had served as a virtual property line. They then measured the width of their lawnmower, which turned out to be 22″. Their immediate concern was that their lawnmower wouldn’t fit between the proposed new fence and their deck. But how did they approach this? Not by expressing overwhelming concern for their lawnmower, but by challenging where the property line was. Not a good move against someone like me.

It was abundantly clear that all this drew out because of the concern over their lawnmower, but they argued that the undefined property line was actually beneath the edge of our deck (which, as they explained, became so because the previous owners hired an unreputable journeyman builder who apparently didn’t know what he was doing) instead of what straight vision revealed was actually 4-6 inches off the edge of our deck. This disagreement encouraged me to refer to my industry sources (including our property lawyer), my property report, and even at one point to scheduling an expensive new survey. I am a man for compromises, but if you’re going to fight for inches, I’ll fight for mine as well.

We hung a string from a definitive point at the back of the yard (side of our garage) to a definitive point at the front (sidewalk) and based on that conclusion we had a full foot off our deck, thus further tightening the space they had for their lawnmower! “But,” they said, “who knows if those points are even accurate?” You must be kidding me.

In the end, I compromised to an extent and said, look, we don’t need this to be on the property line as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care if it’s our fence – we’ll ensure that is factually stated on a new property report. I mean, we are paying for it! But frankly, I don’t care if they can’t get their lawnmower through. They should have thought of the potential of their neighbors eventually closing off their yard before they installed their air conditioning unit (in Calgary for goodness sakes) on the other side of their house.

Well, the story somewhat concludes with the fence being 80% built this past weekend, and come Sunday night, there they were with their tape measure, measuring each post to their deck, discovering that they have between 26″ and 28″ between the posts. All except for one, where they have a 4″x4″ post extruding from their deck, where their gate was formerly hung. This reduces the distance to 21.5″. They’ll have to remove this post (or, God forbid, tilt their lawnmower at this juncture), which at one point they told me was “holding up their deck” (closer examination reveals the post is fixed to their deck by a single nail). Good for them. Good luck. And damn the City of Calgary that I can’t build my fence out of stone and another 6 feet taller.

Pictures reveal, in penciled color, the added sections of fence, and on picture two in red, the post they’ll have to deal with on their own. The red line is what I projected the real property line to be, while in green, where the fence line now is.

Thanks for reading.

About the author cdub

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