Heritage Designation Notes

This what the notification from the City said (address redacted):

“Last Date for Objection: January 6, 2020

“The house was constructed in 1897 and was first occupied by the Warren family.

” The property…is of significant cultural heritage value or interest because of its physical/design values, its historical/associative values. and its contextual values.

“The property …is a representative example of the Queen Anne Revival architectural style, with expression of influences of the East Lake School, in East London. The Queen Anne Revival is demonstrated in the form, massing and detailing of the home. While the Queen Anne Revival architectural style is common in Lindon, the execution of the detailing of the building, particularly its demonstrated expression of influence from the East Lake School, distinguishes the property…from other examples of the Queen Anne Revival architectural style. The property…demonstrates a high degree of authenticity as a representative example of a Queen Anne home in London as its heritage attributes areaccurately displayed. The property…has a high degree of integrity, as the property’s heritage attributes have been preserved and continue to support the cultural heritage value of the property.

“A concentration of decorative elements applied to the home…demonstrates the high degree of craftsmanship and artistic merit, particularly as it executes the Queen Anne Revival architectural style. In particular, the applied wooden details of the gable, the fretwork of the porch and the stained glass windows(particularly the front window) demonstrate a high degree of craftmanship and artistic merits with excellent integrity. The property…also demonstrates a higher degree of applied detail than found on other nearby properties of the same vintage.

” The property has the potential to yield information related to an understanding of the history and evolution of East London and the Hamiton Road area as it relates to Victorian period development that characterizes the area’s development.

“The property is historically linked to the nearby properties at 23 and 35 …Street, as the buildings located on these properties were constructed for children of Charles Warren who lived at .. ……. Street prior to their construction.”

“Heritage Attributes

Heritage attributes which support and contribute to the cultural heritage value or interest of this property include:

– Form, scale and massing of the one and half story L-plan residential building

– The setback of this building from……..Street

–  Steeply pitched cross-gable roof

–  Buff brick veneer exterior cladding, with voussoirs above the window and door openings in the facades

– Entry doorway set in an umbrage with the gable roof projecting above, supported by a decorated fluted wood post set on a base of buff brick masonry with brackets and fretwork in an off-set rectangular pattern

– East Lake Style painted wood entrance door with glass lights framed in scroll with trim and dentil below, a brass ringer/door bell and mail slot, and nine recessed panels below with nail head detail, and transom with water glass texture

– Wood windows and storm windows, including:

– Large plate glass window on the front of the building, set in segmental arched opening with pierced line and dot detail, with a curved, oblong transom, carved floral motif in the spandrel of the transom, and stained glass with colored and textured glasses in a scroll motif with floral accents, a painted stone sill

– Queen Anne style windows in the front gable, with plain lower sashes and colored glass in small squares surrounding plain centre lights in the upper sash

– Wood sash windows and storm windows

– Decorated front (west) and (north) side gables including wood details:

– Bargeboard with naturalistic foliated scroll motif at terminal points

– Raised panels with accented squares with daisy/floral or sunburst patera

– Pierced or perforated details in the corbels/consoles

– Bracket course below the window openings with East Lake style brackets below the two windows, as well as above and between the windows to flank the window frame or stile

– An enlarged or exaggerated bracket course above the window openings

– Alternating courses of square or scalloped wood shingle imbrication

– Ribbed or reeded parallel convex projected mouldings (with the appearance of timber) in the apex of the gable

  • Wood tongue and groove soffits
  • Buff brick chimney in the rear
  • The following interior heritage attributes: The glass vestibule door with Queen Anne style stained glass with textured glass centre panel

The first occupant of the house (1898) was Charles Frederick Warren (b 1832, Devon, England, died 1920, London, ON). The house was owned by his son, Charles F. Warren ( b.1865 – died 1953, also identified as Charles S. Warren), who seems to have been a builder with a business on Talbot St. in London. His father first occupied the house with several adult siblings – Edward, Ethel, Melville and Phillip. By 1900 another sibling – Florence – had moved in. The children ranged in age from 17 – 27. The adult siblings had jobs like boilermaker, car builder, brass finisher, and sewing machine operator. The youngest – Florence – is identified as a dressmaker, but there is no information whether she worked from this address or was employed by a factory or local business.

IF the house always had a full bathroom with running water, in the present location on the 2nd floor, this left two modest bedrooms on the second floor. There is a small room on the first floor, off the dining room. Where did everyone else sleep ? Only one bedroom – the bedroom that faces west, is big enough to permit two single or antique 3/4 sized beds in the room. By 1909 the household had thinned out to father Charles, with sons Edward and Melville still living at this address.

The Warren family owned several houses on this street that were built in the early 20th century. They lived right next door – at a residential address that is long gone, absorbed by the commercial bakery,  across the street, and down the street. They also owned a very nice house on Anderson Street, one street over, and one or two very close by on Hamilton Road.

Records show that Charles Sr. had lived in several houses nearby – two on Rectory Street – before moving to this house to be the first occupant. It is unclear whether he owned those houses, or if they belonged to his son or another family member.

The last of the Warrens lived at this address in 1923. After this came a rotating door of rental occupants – grocers, bakers, carpenters, porters, CNR workers, and even a musician. In 1963 Kenneth Kelly, a jeweller, moved in with his family. They later bought the house and lived here until 2005. By all local accounts, the previous owner to me never lived at this address. It was said that he intended to flip the house – but probably discovered that this was not like on t.v.. – with a seemingly insurmountable number of repairs and improvements needed. It is said the house had been rented to a family for a little while, with some disturbing goings on with the police being called numerous times. The garden was full of strange buried things – many plastic toys from the early 2000’s, more than an average amount of cutlery, and very large shards of broken window glass. The window glass was in several spots in the back yard – each discovery was by accident and utterly terrifying.

After this the house was vacant, though the owner’s adult son may have lived here for a little while in the year before it was sold. It seems miraculous that during the years it was obviously vacant, that it had never been squatted or seriously vandalized.

This a video about the history of the Hamilton Road area that offers some insight about the development and industry of this area. My house isn’t in it – but there’s lots of historical photos of nearby locations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Contacted My City Councillor

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The people in the neighborhood outreach at the library told me he was great, and was really receptive and responsive to people in the community. I even voted for this dude as he was the only candidate that even canvased this street.

He got an earful about my fence and gas station dissatisfaction during his canvasing, but never responded to my follow up, via email. I figured he was busy with the election and whatnot.

I tried again on Feb.26. At this point I had THREE gasoline infiltrations that month, and one cat in acute liver failure, which happened within 48 hrs of the 2nd gas infiltration.

I wrote a somewhat long but very specific email regarding this with my address, email and phone number. Did my city counciillor respond to my email ?

This is the reply I received, over one month later on March 29, 2019:

“Good afternoon Andrea,

Councillor Van Holst has followed up with staff in the Building and Bylaw Enforcement divisions and have learned that they do not have jurisdiction over the issues you are experiencing.

As you mentioned dealing with the Ministry of the Environment and TSSA, we would recommend reaching out to your member of Provincial Parliament, Teresa Armstrong, as the provincial government has jurisdiction. Teresa’s contact information is as follows:

Tarmstrong-co@ndp.on.ca

519.668.1104

Warm regards,

on behalf of Councillor Michael Van Holst,

Amanada Swartman

Administrative Assistant

Elected Officials, Councillors’ Office

City of London ”

Did my elected representative make a time to come to my address to have a look around, to see what I was talking about ? No. Did he have a phone conversation with me about this ? No.

Did he even personally answer my email ? No.

Way to go, Michael Van Holst. While it is true that the vent location is not (legally) a matter for the city of London, it SHOULD BE. If he had bothered to speak to me, I could have told him that basically the vent location is hands off for everyone, except the TSSA, who does not even have any code about vent locations and residential property. My gas station troubles are happening in his ward, and are a result of outdated and lax municipal code and city planning, and the incompetent stranglehold that the TSSA has regarding fuel handling.

Update: Michael Van Holst took a leave of absence to run for the right wing Progressive Conservative party. He was not elected, and has returned to his job as city councillor. The CBC did a piece on some of his climate change opinions:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/london-ontario-climate-crisis-denial-fact-check-michael-van-holst-1.5372239

If I could take back my vote which helped elect him to city council I would.

 

Garbage Exasperation

On numerous occasions I have observed a curious habit at the gas station.

Bags of garbage and miscellaneous debris are placed beside or behind their dumpster, but not IN it. I think it is locked, so perhaps staff cannot always find the key ? Several bags of garbage piled behind the dumpster for weeks froze onto the ground and sat there for more weeks. This week a disturbing bundle was wrapped in what appeared to be a pink child’s blanket. I hoped it wasn’t a dead animal. I prodded it with my foot, and it was plumbing or heating plastic elbow joints = ???

Now the gas station can’t stop people from attempting to put their trash into their dumpster (ie private rental property they pay for). However – the staff could certainly put all trash adjacent to the dumpster, IN the dumpster. This is a minimum expectation for staff.

This is the reason that enclosures are built around dumpsters – to make them less terrible to look at, and so people who aren’t authorized users have less access to them.

When there’s a windy day, the trash that isn’t frozen to the ground blows down the street. No one recovers the XL box from the display drink cooler, or the packaging from lighters or bulk chocolate bars. None of this debris comes from any other neighbours.

Why aren’t they recycling the cardboard ?

It’s maddening. I walked by this trash for a week until I photographed it today. Seriously.

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Talking to Realtors

I wondered if an experienced realtor could give me professional insight on what effect the gas station and vent situation were having on the value of my property.

I contacted several London realtors who had a variety of years in the profession. All of them had an office near this area or had recently represented property in the tainted EOA area.

I wondered if there was some secret guidebook they had to do a valuation, like ” Good landscaping adds $ 5000.00, ugly exterior paint color loses $ 3000.00, etc.”

I was upfront that I was not ready to list my property, but hoped that they could offer their opinion. No one was willing to speak on the record. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time, so no one actually visited my house though a couple drove by to have a general look, and everyone looked at Streetview.

I emailed them all a similar inquiry where I mentioned that I was now next to a 24 hr gas station/convenience store and wondered how this might affect my property value ?

No one said that it INCREASED my property value. The location near a busy street was a deficit, as was the neighbourhood due to the lower values in the area.

The approximate valuation they could give me was speculative – based on the comparable solds from the area. The value of a property is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

As we got futher into the conversation, I explained about the vent location and the problems thereof. A couple of the realtors didn’t seem to take my description seriously and acted like I was complaining about engine exhaust. No one said that my home might be worth $ XXX, XXX but due to the vent location the value would be reduced by $ xx,xxx

I said that I knew that I was legally obligated to disclose this negative issue, or else I potentially opened myself to litigation. A neighbour in Toronto hadn’t disclosed  water infiltration in their basement, which was an ongoing issue they never remedied, nor the owners before them, and had to give the buyer back $ 50,000 due to this.

https://www.thestar.com/life/homes/2017/01/07/what-sellers-must-disclose-about-a-home-ask-joe.html

It gets even more complicated as the defect I would have to disclose is not actually even on my property ! Due to the actions of the TSSA’s approval and the Petroleum Contractor who did this modification a serious issue had resulted that I felt made my property unsaleable as residential or even commercial/light industrial property. Who would buy a home that is periodically filled with gasoline vapours ?

A couple of the realtors said that I should just sell and move, and not disclose this. Take the money and run. I argued that I had made numerous reports to the Ministry of the Environment and the TSSA so I could not claim I did not know there was a problem.

One realtor told me I should not attempt to go public about my situation, as it would give my property a stigma, which would last in the public memory, and potentially render it unsaleable.

All the realtors suggested I what I needed was an appraisal, which would be admissible in a legal context, whereas a suggested listing price would not be.

Hey TSSA ! That’s Not Okay ! (Oct./2018)

I reported another gas infiltration in early October, 2018. A few days later an inspector from the TSSA was at my door(Oct.15, 2018).

I was pretty mad talking to this guy. It turned out that he was the inspector who had originally APPROVED the vent location. How on earth could he have the right to inspect his own work ? Wasn’t that a serious conflict of interest ?

This Winnipeg building inspector got in trouble for doing just that:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/winnipeg-housing-inspector-may-have-inspected-his-own-work-1.1359638

I tried to emphasize that the vents were not in an appropriate location, and that anyone with normal vision could see that my front door and most of my windows were in proximity to this vent. This would have been obvious – and therefore they should not have been located there.

About a week later (Oct. 22, 2018)I heard a large truck next door. When I looked over it was another tanker, getting ready to refuel. BUT – the TSSA guy was there as well. I grabbed my camera, and stood in the window, of the north bedroom, seething. I felt very angry that I was having to fight this fight. Eventually the manager showed up, and the TSSA inspector was at my door again. He explained that he was there to witness a refuelling. I asked him if he brought any equipment to take air quality samples, or an infrared camera to document the fumes.

He looked surprised by my questions. He told me that he would be using his sense of SMELL. Great. How could this be quantified ? Was my sense of smell better than his sense of smell ? How could this be used in a legal or scientific context ? We could argue over our memories of the strength of the smell, with $ 500.00/hr lawyers sitting around ? I thought this was completely ridiculous and unprofessional.

The tanker began the refuelling process. The inspector watched as the hoses were attached, and the manager stood around with his cellphone. Soon there was an obvious gas odour, and gas fumes were VISIBLE coming from the top of the vent pipe. The manager was recording this on his camera phone. The inspector walked around, and in my front yard, by the driveway next to the front door, the smell of gasoline was very strong. He had to admit that there was a problem. This was happening with the vapour control procedure being used appropriately by the tanker driver.

It was a grey and chilly day. I went inside, and the fumes were not terrible inside. I walked in all the rooms to check. I could smell the gas in the front foyer, but that was as far as they penetrated, that day. I went back outside.

I felt pretty angry that this was happening. With that vent location, how could it NOT happen ?

There was some verbal back and forth with the TSSA dude. He claimed that the vent pipes were actually located further away than code specified. I went inside and grabbed my print out. The code specified a distance of 6 m. However this only applies to railyards and bulk loading facilities, of which I was neither. There was absolutely NOTHING in their code about the vents in relation to residential property. I read out the sections that specified that the fumes were not to enter an opening in an adjacent building, like a door or window, and that the fumes should NOT affect people ! But they were affecting people. I am affected, and all my friends and family are affected by having to listen to my dull grievances regarding this matter. Will my house go up in flames ? Will my pets get cancer ? Will I get cancer ? What if I did want to sell and move ?

I asked the TSSA dude if he would purchase a property that was regularly infiltrated by gasoline vapours ? I asked him if he would feel safe with his family living there ? He did not answer. I asked him what he thought this might do to the value of my property, as this would need to be disclosed to a prospective buyer, or I could be sued for not disclosing an obvious deficit.

I asked him what actions would be taken by the TSSA regarding this matter ? He didn’t really say. He said he thought that maybe the vent pipes could be made taller ? I said that wouldn’t help as it was their location in relation to my doors and windows that was the problem. I said that since I was on a lower elevation that the fumes WOULD sink, that was just gravity and science.

I said that I felt the vent location was an issue related to the entities who had renovated the property. This vent location never should have been approved. I also said that as far as I knew the present gas station owners had purchased this as a turnkey business. It was my opinion that the TSSA and the developer and possibly the petroleum contractor that did the renovation were all responsible, and should pay the costs to move these vents to a safer location.

I told the inspector that the TSSA should deal with me in WRITING regarding this matter.

Then, of course, nothing happened.

 

Hey TSSA ! That’s Not Okay ! (Part 1, July 2018)

The TSSA is the Technical Standards and Safety Authority.

They are supposed to have oversight of many diverse safety-related departments. From amusement park rides to elevator safety to upholstery (???) to HVAC to fuel handling.

Here’s their site: https://www.tssa.org/en/index.aspx

I started asking questions about what the code was for the distance an underground gasoline storage had to be from a residential property line, and what the permissible distance for the vents for this tank was.

The City of London told me that the TSSA was responsible for this, that it was completely outside of their jurisdiction. I looked all over the TSSA’s site, but could not find the information I was looking for. You would think this information would be pretty basic, and therefore easy to find ?

I submitted the contact form, with my questions to the TSSA, via their site, then received no reply. Many days later I sent another one. Still no reply or acknowledgement of my inquiry.

I contacted the Ontario Petroleum Contractor’s Association. I spoke with someone there who was initially very helpful. This person was angry that the TSSA would not answer basic questions. Strangely, the very next day the TSSA finally sent an email. Shortly after the person I had dealt with at OPCA would not return my calls.

The TSSA’s reply was a pricelist, which gave the impression that I would have to pay them considerable sums to have my questions answered !

TSSAPrice.png

There was a two page PDF document attached to this, which was the “Application for the Release of Public Information”. Of special note was Section G, which stated that the TSSA would provide a fee quote, before any information would be released, with notes on payment options. A minimum of $ 120.00 will apply to research and review a request ?

It gets better (email received July 16, 2018, from TSSA):

“Thank you for your email.  We will respond to your request for information in the order it was received.  The turnaround time for a confirmation is approximately 2 business days.  Requests for documents are currently being processed in 120 days.

Please note that all requests for documents must be accompanied by a completed Release of Information or Bulk Database Product Application form and the required prepayment/deposit.  Please note that multiple record and bulk data requests carry a $120/hr fee in addition to the stated document costs.”

So a minimum of $ 120.00 to have my questions answered, which will take 120 days ? Four MONTHS ?

On July 19, via email I was advised that I could purchase my own copy of the Liquid Fuels Handling Code, from the CSA. Why is there no publically available copy of this ?

Finally on July 24 I received an answer from the TSSA regarding the location of the vents, from the Liquid Fuels Handling Code (LFHC). This is what the code states:

VentPipescode.png

Let’s break that down. The only measurement given is the distance requirement (6m or 19.7 feet) with regards to truck loading or parking facilities….at BULK PLANTS or RAILWAY TANK UNLOADING FACILITIES ? Which this is not, and could never be mistaken for. What is this 6m distance from ? It only references sources of ignition. Why is there no indformation whatsoever regarding the distance a vent pipe should be from an occupied residence ?

BUT – while the vents are to terminate in open air (yes), with a weatherproof hood (yes, as far as I can tell) they are to be located outside buildings and be located in such a way that the fumes cannot enter a building via door, window or other opening (ii) (NO)

  • They are to located to minimize the impact of gasoline vapours on people, structures, and mechanical equipment (d) (NO)
  • NOT ENTER A BUILDING (f) (NO)

Let’s look at that vent’s location again. It is approximately 24 feet from the corner of my house to the cement retaining wall, the presumed property line. The vent pipes appear to be about 48″ from my side. There are no guidelines whatsoever with regards to residential property ?

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Let’s look at my house. The vent is adjacent to my driveway. On the front of my house, facing west, there are 4 windows (not counting the transom) and the front door. Three of those windows have storm windows, and the door has weather stripping and a door sweep.

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Here’s a photo from October 2017, before the back fence went up. There are five windows facing north, including the basement window.

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Here’s the backdoor to the kitchen which also has a storm door, with weather stripping and a door sweep, and the kitchen window, which now has a storm window. This faces north, too.

The back room behind the kitchen is an ugly disgrace, so I seldom take photos of it. Here’s the listing photo. It now has a french door, with the original aluminum storm door still there. You can sort of see the bathroom window upstairs, which is almost on the south side of the wall. Let’s not include that.

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In total, the North side of my house has two doors and six windows. The West side of my house has four windows and a door. (The south side has five windows, and the east side has one window).

So TEN windows and THREE doors are facing the gas station, or are very close. My bedroom windows are at almost the same height as the top of the vent pipes (see driveway photo above).

WHO ON EARTH THOUGHT THIS WAS ACCEPTABLE ? !

The TSSA, that’s who !

 

 

 

More Creeps – June 2018

After the spring of 2018, that wasn’t – I was still wearing mittens in late April – summer suddenly happened. Full-on, full blast.

I don’t have AC, so a few days of heat makes the second floor pretty stuffy.

I was restlessly tossing and turning so I got up to have a drink. I stood in the kitchen mindlessly looking through the lace curtain as I drank my water. It was after 1:00 a.m..

Suddenly I saw a male head pop up over the top of the chainlink fence, behind my canvas screening. This was definitely not right ! I ran upstairs to look out the bedroom window, where I could see the now repaved parking lot next door. A guy was crawling through the sliding glass window next door. Then that guy came out a minute later carrying stuff. He ran to where the dumpster was, then dropped whatever he had taken over the chainlink fence into my yard, then went back in.

Suddenly it made sense why one of my smoke bushes had several broken branches !

I called the police, they came, the guy was long gone.

The next day I spoke to the renovation dudes, to let them know. They hadn’t even noticed anything was gone, but then realized they were missing chargers, batteries and a radio. Small potatoes but still.

One of the guys said this was the second or third break-in they’d had.

There had been one weekend, where one of the crew forgot to close a side door, and it was wide open – beckoning to all local crud. I watched it and went over after dark. I called out and poked my head inside. I wasn’t one of Charlie’s Angels ! I wasn’t a cop ! What I was doing was stupid. I shut the door, then told the crew when they were back.

Another time I heard a loud bang late at night. One of the doors was now open. This time I didn’t go over but I watched it for awhile. I didn’t see anyone coming or going. I closed the door the next day, and told the crew again. The last thing I wanted to deal with was a sketchy pop-up crack/theft party happening next door. The gas station building was made from cinderblocks, so at least it couldn’t get torched by accident or on purpose. I told the crew when they showed up next.

 

Scraping Paint

It took awhile to feel confident on the scaffolding. It felt sturdy, but due to the projection of the corbels and whatnot, there was an 18″ gap between the scaffolding and the house. Even with the safety crossbars I worried that I would make an oblivious turn and step, tumble and fall off the edge.

Most of the wood detail on the front of the second story was sound, which was a major relief. A few areas were dried out or fragile, but nothing was mushy or hollow. I started scraping with a putty knife, then moved on to a heat gun for the areas that were large enough. The edges of the wood are the most vulnerable to igniting, so I brought a spray bottle of water with me, to wet any areas that seemed to smoulder.

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Work on the scaffold was further complicated by my aversion to the sun. As a pale redhead I burn. Migraines are easily induced by a glare in my eyes. I worked for a few hours here and there in the morning into the afternoon, before the sun moved to direct exposure, and after supper.

I discovered that some of the decorative shingles had an embossed pattern, of what appeared to be a flower in a vase. I had never seen this detail before, or noticed it on other local houses. This must have looked extra fancy when the house was brand new – another decorative detail on an exterior loaded with them. I wondered about who built this house – and why there was such an intense amount of exterior detail ?

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The areas that had been under an overhang had paint that was still very sound. I was quite surprised that it was holding up so well. I didn’t know when the house had been last painted – definitely not by the previous owner (c. 2005 – 2016) – and possibly not by the previous- previous owner (1974 – 2005). For all the issues with toxicity, those oil based alkyd paints really performed well.

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I scraped as much as I could reach. John was back up north, so I was waiting on his return for the rest of the scaffolding. More of it went up late in October, but it was a wet and cold fall, so my scraping ended there. In theory I had thought that it would take me (working alone) three weeks or so to get the front scraped and primed, then painted. This might be true – weather permitting – but other variables like waiting on scaffolding slowed this down. The storm windows needed to be removed, and the putty repaired, but  this also meant that the scaffolding would need to get raised a level to reach properly.

I ruminated about whether it was better to prime all the areas I scraped, or to just leave those areas bare until next spring, when I could resume, and work in a continuous fashion upwards. I did know that primer should be painted fairly soon after application – otherwise it accumulates surface dirt, which will impair the paint adhesion. I worried about whether the exposed wood areas would be more damaged, or if a winter of exposure would mean little ? (You can see the weather won, by where the scraping stopped.)

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One night I slept really badly, and kept waking up from vivid nightmares. One of the nightmares was that a man had broken into my house, and was standing over my bed, reaching up to take something off the wall. I woke up from this just before 7:00 a.m., spooked and got out of bed. One of my cats had knocked a box of screws off the  worktable downstairs, and they were spread out over the floor. I looked out the window in my front door – like I do every morning – as if my missing cat might be waiting there – and I could see that the ladder was laying in the driveway. It had been firmly attached to the scaffolding, so it wasn’t like it just blew over !

I went out in my pyjamas and moved it to the backyard, and felt deeply unsettled. Did the sound of the screws hitting the floor spook the thief and they abandoned it ?

I knew that creeps will suss out a place, particularly any place that was having work done, to assess how many tools might be on site to steal, security (if any), etc. Anyone walking by would have seen me using basic hand tools, and basic corded tools. I was more concerned that they planned to steal the scaffolding components and the ladder.

Was it a lazy opportunist planning to pawn or a creepy contractor stealing what he needed ? Both scenarios made me uncomfortable. EOA.

 

 

Gallery

The Black Picket Fence

I contacted the city before getting the posts set for the fence in the front yard. London is weird in that there are very few fenced front yards. Those that do have fences in the front often have them set back at a strange distance from the sidewalk, 5 or 6 or more feet back. This I understand is because while your property is measured at Y x Y feet, that the city owns a certain portion of the land adjacent to the street. – even though it seems like YOU own it

This makes very little sense to me, as the city does not mow the lawn, provide plants or attend to any of the things that a reasonable property owner is expected to do. The documents attached to my property specify the dimensions and make no note of the city owned areas. I suppose this applies when a city wants to widen a road, or do infrastructure work, as the city utilities are typically in this area – but how often does a city do this ?

The posthole company had locates done, and where they would have probably set the posts – in that odd location halfway in my yard – was complicated by the location of the gas lines. They could not dig within a meter of the gas line. Thus, the posts were set closER to the sidewalk.

What the city said to me, in a phone call and in an email, implied that as long as my fence did not violate the height guideline – no taller than three feet tall – and IF the city needed to access my property that I would agree to the fence being taken down, there should be no problem. Now that the fence is mostly built, I am waiting for that other shoe to drop.

“City of London Fence Bylaw

Part 10

FENCES ON CITY PROPERTY

10.1   Street line to sidewalk- prohibited – exception

No person shall have, erect, construct, maintain or permit to be erected, constructed or maintained a fence from the lot line abutting a street to the sidewalk and along the same on the property of the City unless:

a) such fence conforms to the height requirements as prescribed herein: and,

b) the owner of the land abutting the property of the City upon which such fence is erected obtains a licence or other authority from the City and agrees to remove the same from the property of the City as and when directed to do so.”

This was the reply I received from the city regarding this matter (city employee’s name withheld):

“Good morning,

Thank you for your inquiry.

As per the City of London Fence By-law PS-6;

  • The maximum height for a fence in any yard is 7 feet provided the fence is not within the driveway or corner visibility triangles. A maximum height of 3 feet is permitted within the driveway and corner visibility triangles.
  • A minimum of 2.7 metres (8.9 feet) from the sidewalk or street line (if there is no sidewalk) is required to place a 7 foot high fence, however, it is up to the property owner to determine the location of the property lines as to not erect the fence on City Property.

For more information regarding the above, please see the below link to the City of London Fence By-law.

https://www.london.ca/city-hall/by-laws/Documents/fence-PS6.pdf (Fence)

If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact me and I will do my best to answer them or refer you to another staff member.

Regards,

XXXXXXXX XXXXXX ”

Is my fence a violation of this bylaw ? Even I don’t know.

I am prepared to argue that due to the social issues in this area, that on numerous occasions unknown strangers have been personally observed:

  • drinking in my yard
  •  urinating in my yard
  •  hiding stolen goods in my yard
  •  sobbing in my yard
  •  falling down dead drunk partially in my yard
  •  walking their leashed dog in my yard
  •  throwing their trash in my yard
  •  attemping to steal the ladder from the scaffolding in my yard
  • leaving used hypodermic syringes in my yard

therefore a short fence would at least create a psychological barrier. Would they open the gate to do these things ? I need to add that the business next door inexplicably, regularly leaves boxes of its trash beside their dumpster, which blows into my yard and is never reclaimed. Would they toss it over a fence instead ? It would be easier to put it in the dumpster I’ll bet.

The City of London Animal Control Bylaw states :

” 4.11 Animal – running at large. No person shall permit any animal to run at large”

“4.12 Tresspassing – by animal. No person shall permit any animal to trespass on any property.”

Any cat except for a disabled one can easily jump over a three foot fence. However, several of my senior cats are too lazy to do so. A front fence would assist me to comply with the animal control bylaws.

The city does allow people to trap animals that are “trespassing” in their yard and take said animal to the city pound, EVEN IF THEY KNOW THAT ANIMAL IS THEIR NEIGHBOUR’S PET ! (There are no laws that prohibit a trapped pet to be dumped elsewhere – like far in the country or by a busy highway for example. Nothing legally compels an animal trapper to only bring that animal to a shelter or be charged with cruelty and/or theft). If your pet has been taken to the city shelter, and you want to get your animal back, you will charged a certain dollar amount per day that your pet is in the shelter system, or you cannot get it back. Obviously microchipping is an excellent idea.

This law is all kinds of messed up. More front fences = less roaming pets. It should be an offence to trap another person’s pet, as in the eyes of the law a pet is considered property. Trapping a pet = theft. (Obviously this shouldn’t apply in situations where an animal is neglected, abandoned, ill or injured or appears this way.)

Anyhow, I wanted to make a picket fence in my front yard.

Did you know that pre-cut wood fence pickets are no longer available in Canada, at least at the many places I looked ? Home Hardware’s Building Center had just discontinued them. I did not want a white vinyl picket fence, the only other alternative.

I did want the picket fence badly enough that John was willing to cut boards to length, then individually cut each picket. I didn’t want pressure treated lumber – it just looks awful to me. It is also so wet from the chemical infusion that you have to wait for almost a year to paint it.

We did all the pickets assembly line style. I made a template and marked the boards, John cut, and I moved the uncut and cut boards. As per my calculations – done twice – I would need 256 pickets.

I love the really old picket fences – where the pickets had fancy shapes or decorative notches. I wasn’t prepared to have my life taken over with a scroll saw, to do this myself, so I made peace with the notion of having a plain picket fence.

SHORPY-01590a.jpg

I watched some fence building videos, and the consensus was that it was more sensible to paint all the pickets first, before the fence was assembled.

This is what some but not all of the pickets looked like once they were cut. The wood was damp from outside storage at the lumberyard, so I propped them against any available surface to dry out

picketcut.jpeg

Then came my summer of black paint. I used oil paint from the hardware store, diluted with Penetrol. Penetrol helps the paint to sink into the fibers of the wood. I painted as many pickets as I could lay out to dry. I did this over and over all summer, two coats each side, including the bottoms:

picketpaint.jpg

blackpickets.jpg

When John was available again in the fall, he cut and installed the (prepainted, 2 coats on all sides) rails, then I started attaching pickets. I sat on a milk crate with my drill (corded).

I discovered that a paint stir stick was 1″ wide – the spacing I had calculated – so I used that. Since my property was on a slight incline, the position of the screw holes moved around some. I had never assembled a picket fence before. It wasn’t hard – but was slightly tricky. I needed to fudge the spacing somewhat to make the pickets all fit with no major and no minor gaps.

John had things going on in his personal life including a major move, so the gate for the driveway didn’t get made before the first snow. Despite this, I was pleased with the progress that had been made:

fence1.jpg

fence2.jpg

fence3.jpg

 

 

“Why didn’t you buy a better house ?”

That’s a good question.

I wanted a house that had the potential to be visually appealing to me, with enough space for the things I need. I also needed enough psychological space from neighbours.

I did look at a few places that had been renovated, but what I saw usually just made me angry. Many of the improvements were lazy – like painting over wood panelling. Or tearing out a wall to make a 200 square foot kitchen in a house that was perhaps 900 square feet, creating a senseless layout. The flipper houses were the worst, in that many sins were covered up vs actually being resolved. I just couldn’t deal with that. The trendy tile was to distract you from the roof that would need replacing within 2 years or less.

I wanted the most amount of house for the least amount of money, but preferred a place where the major stuff like plumbing and electrical were at least up to code.

I looked at many listings above my price point, for comparison, but didn’t bother to view the houses. A more expensive house usually meant more of the things I really didn’t want – like an entirely new bathroom with ugly tiles – or potlights – or giant stainless steel appliances. It wasn’t like there were a bunch of houses with exactly everything I wanted, if I just paid a little more. Or even just one perfect house.

I had plenty of experience painting and repairing plaster, and I was pretty persistant in sourcing house parts. I figured that I could handle most of what needed to be done, and hire professionals for the rest.

Hiring the professionals turned out to be the most challenging of all.

If everyone who actually worked on the house had been available when I needed them, the work would have been completed in about 1/6 the time. Tradespeople who are good at what they do are usually busy, and booked up.

I suppose it also depends on what your idea of a good house is. My minimum was “habitable”. My mother has no comprehension of why anyone would choose to live in or buy an old house. When she visited my former house, the one I bought with my not-ex-yet, I could tell she was deeply appalled. She did compliment the front doorknob – a crappy builder’s grade shiny brass one. She couldn’t see the original stained glass or plaster moldings or high ceilings as anything desirable at all. A house like this was a symptom of economic and moral poverty, in her frame of reference. I’m sure she was deeply, secretly saddened that my not-yet-ex and I couldn’t afford to buy a nice new town home in a sub-division.

My mother now has dementia, and lives across the country, so she hasn’t visited this house. I made her a photo album of it, with very brief captions. I tried to focus on the nicer things she could appreciate – like the flowers on the Catalpa tree. When we speak on the phone, as soon as I bring up my house she does this trick she has done her entire life: she pretends someone is at her door so she has to go, rather than talk about anything  unsettling to her. How she had a daughter who would choose to live in a “place like that” is probably one of her deepest shames.

Fixing the house WAS exhausting, and everything cost money. This was what I signed up for. There is only so much good fortune to go around.