Start Here. All Will Be Explained.

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Okay – so I can’t figure out how to make an archive or search feature. Bear with me. If you click on one of the pages there are tags that will take you to similar topics. I’m inserting some links to create a basic synopsis of what is going on with this blog, house and situation:

I bought this house in the fall of 2016, and moved here in November 2016.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/31/trying-to-leave-toronto/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/08/looking-for-a-home/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/08/why-did-you-buy-such-an-old-house/

The heritage tag is a grab bag of related topics. My house is currently under review for Heritage Designation :

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/heritage/

This neighbourhood had some problems, that was obvious. It still seemed less bad than where I had previously been.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/13/east-of-adelaide/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/11/18/john-troubles/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/28/nightmare-apartment-nightmare-neighbours/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2018/10/28/preface/

I thought the house had some really great things going on with it. I loved all the original details. I liked that while it was in plain sight, that it was also private, and far enough away from neighbours, or so I thought.  I knew I didn’t want to live near student rentals, frightening rooming houses, an Air B n B, or anywhere that there was a lot of human intrusion. Commercial neighbours seemed ideal.

The house had a serious case of deferred maintenance, and some unsettling color choices. I was prepared for all the undoing and re-doing. It only took three years to get this point.

I did as much as I knew how to do, which was sourcing vintage or antique salvaged materials, stripping paint, plaster repairs, prepwork, basic demolition and more painting. I had a series of exasperating experiences trying to find professionals who would even work on my house in this area. The contempt and derision from professionals who I would be potentially paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars to work on my house was pretty astonishing. I did not hire anyone who with a bad attitude towards me or my house. Your loss, dudes !

If you are THAT interested the DIY tag will take you through the greatest hits:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/diy/page/1/

The Before and During tag will take you down a similar route:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/before-and-during/page/1/

In context of the whole, it shouldn’t matter whether I spruced up the entire house, or only changed a lightbulb.

What I didn’t expect to butt up against were the grave deficiencies in bylaws and building code within the City of London. I didn’t expect that Site Plans from 70 years ago, that do not even have a written record, would be considered acceptable without periodic review for modern industry. When I bought this house, my neighbour was a used car lot that sold a little gas. It was open 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. The lot was sold, then renovated by a gas station flipper then sold again to a buyer who I suppose wanted a turn key business. I am now living next to a 24 hour gas and convenience store.

This was possible as the City of London does not require a site plan review if a building is renovated, and there is no change of use. The City also does not require any sort of community input from businesses that want to operate 24 hours a day, even if they are right next door to and/or close to other residences. This is a real problem in areas with a history of street prostitution, drug dealing, drug houses and petty crime. Things like 24 hour convenience stores create a plausible deniability for the creepy johns and drug buyers that cruise my neighbourhood, especially after dark.

The City’s only concern is the correct zoning for the land usage. Yet this planning creates a two tiered standard of development. My new neighbour would not have been permitted to create what they made in a new development from the ground up – there would be guidelines for the square footage, traffic control, buffer zones, lighting, garbage containment and so on.

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/08/city-of-london-site-planning/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/07/site-planning-and-gas-station-design/

You can wade through the whole stinking mess with the Hey City of London ! tag:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-city-of-london/

What it comes down to is that the City of London offers NO protection for a residence that is next to a commercial property. A residence thusly located does not have the same rights as other residences, with regards to quiet enjoyment, privacy, safety or even darkness. A residence next to a commercial lot has no rights to freedom FROM their commercial neighbour’s activities. The City of London does not even have ANY bylaws about light pollution or infiltration. Ask me how I know:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/10/02/light-blight/

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I complained when the headlights from gas station customers shone in my dining room and kitchen windows. My elevation was about 48″ lower. The gas station manager said they would put up a fence. No one ever shared quotes with me or asked for a carpenter or post hole recommendation. Decisions were made unilaterally – though the gas station manager first expected that I would contribute $ 2500.00 towards this fence – quotes unseen. This is the fence my commercial neighbour erected – then demanded I contribute $ 1000.00 towards. I refused ! This the fence that I see when I look out my dining room, kitchen, back porch and west bedroom windows:

 

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The 4 x 4 posts are not even securely or properly anchored. Do you trust this construction method ? I do not trust this construction method:

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This is how the front section looked 6 months after it was built. The entire fence flaps back and forth in the wind, as there are no posts set into the ground, and only a small amount of DUCT STRAPPING tethers it to the previous chainlink fence posts:

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Did you know that the City of London’s fence bylaw does not even have a clause which addresses structural stability ? And that there is no requirement of a 24 hour commercial business with vehicular traffic to erect an opaque fence, if they are next to a residential neighbour ? There might be, for a new development, built from the ground up – but not for the Site-Plan-Absent ones that get grandfathered in.

The Hey Look At That Fence tag will take you through the saga:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-look-at-that-fence/

An even worse discovery was made after the gas station renovation was complete. The vent pipe for the gas station’s underground gas storage tank had previously been located on the northeast corner of the property – next to the industrial neighbour’s parking lot. In the 13 months I lived here, while the used car lot was open, I only smelt gasoline vapours once during a tanker fill. This was a day we were working on the kitchen, so we were in and out of the back door many times to access the saw which was set up outside. We could smell this in the yard. I never smelt gasoline in my house.

(That single pipe sticking up over the roofline was the vent location for the underground gas storage tank until spring 2018)

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When the station was renovated, the vent location for the underground tanks was changed. It was now located 4 feet from the property line. I thought little of this. That was until the day in August, 2018 when suddenly my entire house was flooded with gasoline vapours, which entered through my open windows. It was horrible. I photographed the tanker doing the fill and the driver was not even using the vapour recovery system, as required by law. This is where the real nightmare begins.

(Those three silver pipes on the left are the new location for the vent pipes.)

fig9HouseVent.jpeg

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/02/first-gasoline-infiltration-august-11-2018/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/10/boring-but-important-gas-station-vapour-recovery-system-explained/

I contacted the TSSA – The Technical Standards and Safety Association. They are the only entity with jurisdiction over liquid fuel handling. They are so opaque as to be obstructive:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/02/hey-tssa-thats-not-okay-part-1-july-2018/

At first I was told they would not answer my questions without a fee of $ 120.00, and I would have to wait 120 days for a reply ! After much phoning and emailing I was finally given an excerpt from their Liquid Fuel Handling Code – which is not available through any library system, including University collections. I could purchase my own copy ($ 135.00 plus HST) though, from them. Their code, as it pertains to the vent location states:

ventpipescode.png

There was not even a code which addressed residences next to a gas station, bulk loading facility, etc. There was NO CODE for residential neighbours.

It took about a year, but I also discovered how far from a property line an underground gasoline storage tank was permitted to be: 1.5 m. That’s a little over 59″ ! Again there was no separate code for a residential property line. Despite the decades of documentation of LUSTS in North America – Leaking Underground Storage Tanks – that poisoned communities, contaminated groundwater and created clusters of Acute Myeloid Leukemia – this is acceptable code in Ontario in 2019 !

I made multiple complaints to the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment Pollution Spill Reporting Hotline whenever gasoline vapours entered my home during a tanker refuelling. As the weather got colder, I discovered this would happen even with all my doors and windows closed ! And I had storm windows on most of my windows, weather stripping, and doors and windows that fit properly. The gasoline infiltrations would happen whenever there was a wind from the west or northwest.

Eventually the TSSA sent an inspector to my house. He came without any testing equipment whatsoever, and said that he was relying on his sense of smell to assess the issue. It turned out that this inspector was the same person who had approved the vent location to be relocated to 4′ from my property line, adjacent to all my doors and windows. How he had the authority to inspect his own work is beyond me.

When I purchased this house, I did not expect that my home would be periodically infiltrated by volatile and carcinogenic gasoline vapours, as a result of the TSSA’s actions, and that they would claim this vent location is acceptable within their code.

Wade through the Hey TSSA ! It’s Not Okay ! tag at your own risk:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/hey-tssa-its-not-okay/

I did not expect that my pets would become ill or gravely ill after the renovated gas station opened in July, 2018:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/02/26/canaries/

https://blackpicketfence.org/2020/01/04/two-more-canaries/

I did not expect that I would need to consider the implications of waiting for my own Acute Myeloid Leukemia to happen. Benzene is an additive to gasoline. It has been known for over 100 years that workers, children and animals exposed to chronic levels of benzene develop blood cancers, cardiovascular issues, neurological problems. Some light reading about the effects of benzene exposure, and the effects of living close to gas stations can be found under the tag Health Questions, Serious Ones:

https://blackpicketfence.org/category/health-questions-serious-ones/

I have gone in circles phoning and emailing municipal, provincial and federal government entities about my issues with the gas station next door. Without exception, they have all deferred to the TSSA.

The City of London has a bylaw that smoking is not permitted within 9m of the entrances to municipal buildings and recreational facilities (https://www.london.ca/city-hall/by-laws/Documents/smoking-recreation-areas.pdf) but nothing on the books that a commercial entity is not permitted to fill an adjacent property with volatile and carcinogenic vapours.

There is nothing I can do to correct or mitigate the vent location. If I attempted to sell my property, I would need to disclose this extremely serious defect – that is not even a result of my own actions.

This blog is a documentation of my experiences with this matter, but I hope the information can help other people in this situation. This is disgraceful.

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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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light Blight

That’s the side of my house that faces the gas station. The strip of shadow is where the fence ends. Those windows belong to my (former) bedroom, the dining room below, and the kitchen (with the back door). It’s not shown but the french door to my back porch behind the kitchen is also well lit. It looks like this every single night.

I took these photos with my camera on a basic setting. I haven’t tinkered with them to lighten them. The camera makes computerized adjustments.

This is what it looks like from the street. There’s a streetlight a little ways down, towards Hamilton Rd. It’s bright enough with just that. One photo is lighter than it looks in real life, the other is darker. Imagine something in between:

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That would be a reasonable amount of light to be directed at the side of my house. The difference is obvious.

Because the gas station is on the most elevated portion of the street, and the way that the canopy and pumps are arranged, the headlights from a large truck or SUV that pull in from Hamilton Rd sweep across four of the houses across the street, right at the level of their living room windows. I am confused why my neighbours are not furious about this. This is a completely predictable outcome ! This is an issue about the elevation of the gas station property, but also the PLANNED direction for gas station customers. The pumps and canopy could have been oriented  perpendicular to this street. That way the canopy would have completely sheltered customers as they walked from the pump to the convenience store, and headlights would not affect any residential properties. This is a couple of  houses right across the street when the headlights sweep across:

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This is what it looks like inside my former bedroom at night. This is facing the gas station. My half curtains are semi-opaque:

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Viewed from the hall:

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With the windows at my back facing the hall:

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In the hall and stairwell. The light shines through the doorway and transom and illuminates the far side of the house ! From dusk until dawn.

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This is excessive and unnecessary. Other municipalities actually have laws which address light pollution and light infiltration. Not London, Ontario, though !

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/light-pollution-east-carlaw-memnon-1.4888524

Click to access nuisancelighting2013.pdf

Toronto has a very comprehensive document about effective lighting in an urban context:

Click to access 8ff6-city-planning-bird-effective-lighting.pdf

Did you know that the light from bright LEDS can cause negative effects on humans, including permanent retinal damage ? And endocrine disruption ? And serious negative effects on wildlife ?

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/exposure-to-led-lights-could-be-harmful-scientists-suggest-a-simple-solution-58544

https://inews.co.uk/news/environment/bright-led-lights-can-affect-wildlife-as-much-as-midday-sun-scientists-warn-282156

Many businesses (and people) believe that bright lighting prevents crime. There have been studies which contradict this. One even found that criminals PREFERRED bright locations, as it helped them to see what to steal, and it made THEM feel safer !

Click to access LightingForSafetyAndSecurity.pdf

Obviously the Dark Sky Society has an agenda – less light pollution. Here’s more information about lighting, safety and crime:

Lighting, Crime and Safety

Here’s an interesting study about service station lighting that shows that reduced and shielded lighting for gas stations actually increased sales at those stations:

Service Station Lighting

Click to access canopy.pdf

My neighbour’s excessive lighting actually makes my property less safe. The glare from the EXTREMELY BRIGHT lights over the tire compressor make it impossible to see details in my front and back yard. If this lighting was replaced with a lower, shielded task lighting, none would infiltrate my property. Tire compressor users would also probably have a better time seeing what they are doing. As it is the light is above and behind the compressor – making the instructions for use harder to read. That light is much brighter than at my doctor’s exam room – yet no surgery of any kind is performed by the tire compressor. The lighting could also be motion sensitive – so it would only come on when in use.

It all brings me back to questions about why this is exempt from City Planning and bylaw enforcement ? It is excruciating to look at and serves little positive purpose.

Unsafe In My Own Backyard

The winter of 2018 held on into 2019 far later and longer than it usually did. It was damp, chilly and miserable throughout April and into May. Even my perennials were at least two weeks behind schedule. When the weather improved I was happy to spend some time in the yard again.

I repainted my vintage patio set and hung up some leftover canvas drop cloths. The area beside the terrible fence still had 42″ chainlink.

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This had the gas station’s gas meter, and had become a dumping ground for whatever debris was abandoned – old tires, torn cloth flyers, partial boards and whatever else got dumped there. There was no gate to contain this, and the mess was visible in my yard, right next to my patio area.

dumpingground.jpg

At some point I noticed a black box on the ground, pushed right up against the fence towards my side. It was unmarked. At first I thought it had something to do with cable or internet. When I walked home from the library I noticed another one in the factory’s parking lot, pushed right up against the chainlink fence at the back of the lot. This one WAS marked, and I realized they were rodent bait traps. But this wasn’t even on the gas station’s property !

I did some googling, to find out what the laws were about these things, but could not find much information. I contacted Health Canada, and after a somewhat protracted inquiry process learned that the use of these horrible things was legal, even adjacent to a residence. I also learned what was in the bait stations: Bromadiolone.

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/bromadgen.html

As I have cats, I have never had a rodent problem. I am also very careful with food storage, and have most of my loose food staples in jars or tins with tight lids. I never have dry cat food left out, either. The cats are fed at mealtimes and the empty dishes picked up.

While I compost, I also compost the cat’s wood based litter. The poop is scooped and flushed, the peed on pellets turn to sawdust. Cat urine is said to be a powerful mouse DETERRENT: https://www.hunker.com/13422387/how-to-get-rid-of-mice-with-cat-urine

The gas station has ongoing issues with staff not using the dumpster properly. I’ve complained about it before:

https://blackpicketfence.org/2019/03/09/garbage-exasperation/

I’ll bet gas station customers dump all kinds of horrible trash in the cans by the pumps – rancid drive through food containers, junk food wrappers and anything else that might be floating around in a car or truck. As far as I can tell the convenience store does not sell any kind of fresh food. Many bottles, cans and wrappers end up in my yard.

This summer there were several small bags of wretched smelling garbage dumped by the tire compressor. I could sure smell them on my side. At the same time, the mountain of garbage built up beside the dumpster and stayed that way for close to a week, in the sweltering sun. Here’s a photo from the beginning of July, 2019:

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Here’s a photo from the end of July, 2019, featuring the horror garbage by the compressor:

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Now if there was a rodent issue at the convenience store – which only sells pre-packaged foods in sealed containers – then the issue seems to be with SANITATION. Stinking bags of food related garbage, like leftovers and wrappers, that were not emptied daily into the locked dumpster seem much more likely to attract rodents than my compost, yard or garden. There were no rodent bait stations next to the dumpster or receptacles by the front door or pumps.

The menial retail jobs I’ve had always had rules about making sure the shop was tidy before it was opened, and before it was closed. I have a hard time understanding that a 24 hr store does not have rules about staff ensuring that the store and yard were tidy. If people dumped their trash on the gas station’s property – it was still the gas station’s responsibility to ensure the garbage was properly contained. Of course an enclosure around the dumpster would help with that a lot. Why isn’t there one ?

About the Bromadiolone: This is a powerful anticoagulant. Rodents who visit the bait station ingest the Bromadiolone, but it takes them close to five days to die. They bleed to death internally. This is much crueller than a snap trap.

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/bromadgen.html

Many animals die from secondary exposure to Bromadiolone. A cat, or hawk or owl eats the poisoned (but still alive mouse), then dies from the anticoagulant the mouse consumed. Given that the station is approximately two blocks from wild parkland next to the river, this is unconscionable. This explains what happens:

https://www.audubon.org/magazine/january-february-2013/poisons-used-kill-rodents-have-safer

I have cats, including a couple who are mousers, that eat their prey. The presence of these bait stations has meant that I cannot even safely let these cats into their own yard !

Here’s a terrible account of what happened to one cat, from a cat rescue group in NYC (Little Wanderers, July 5, 2019, Facebook). Even the veterinarian could not save this cat, who was otherwise being treated for a minor wound:

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As far as I know, there are at least 11 cats that live on this street, and 6 dogs. Right across the street from the station are two sketchy rental houses with at least 2 dogs. As any pet owner knows, it can be impossible to see what your pet has in their mouth, if you’ve turned your head for even a moment. If your pet has suddenly become unwell, the ER Vet Clinic can do what they can to diagnose and treat your pet – IF you can afford it. Critical care for a pet can quickly cost thousands of dollars. If they can save your pet, they will – but there are no guarantees. They will do what they can. Despite this your pet may still die, and you have to pay that bill for services rendered.

You can call the Animal Poison Control Center, but even that phone call will cost $ 59.00 USD for someone to try to help you: https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com

I’ve been careful to not have toxic plants in my yard, I don’t use pesticides or herbicides and I am still not able to keep my pets safe on my own property due to someone else’s actions.

There’s many things a household or business can do to PREVENT a rodent infestation – most of them are common sense. Poisoning is such a hateful and lazy solution.

http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/2014/09/cruelty-free-pest-control-rats-and-mice/

https://www.jcehrlich.com/mice/why-are-there-mice-in-my-house/

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/pest-control-tips/rats-mice.html

 

 

 

Summer 2019: Fence Redaction

The terrible fence erected by the gas station hurt my brain every single time I looked at it. Through the winter, strong winds pushed it around. Since the 4 x 4 posts ARE NOT EVEN SET INTO ANYTHING the winds loosened up the weakest points. It was built at the end of August 2018. By Feb. 2019, the fence looked like this:

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Only the unused vintage light post stopped it from falling over completely:

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The guy who built the fence was bullied into making some kind of repairs, none of which could fix the lack of structural integrity.

Suddenly in June, part of the fence was disassembled. I had some hope that a properly constructed fence would be put up in its place.

fenceundone.jpg

The same guy who built the fence took the fence apart. I gave him the name of the posthole place I had previously used, and said the fence needed properly set posts. A gap was left in the fence, which exposed part of my backyard, which made me nervous. I screwed up part of a sheet of plywood to at least make access more difficult. After 10 days or so, work on the fence resumed.

Gas station’s solution: have the guy who made the terrible fence reassemble it in exactly the same way, but with gigantic 3″ screws this time. And a couple of extra boards. And a little more duct strapping to secure it to the 4′ former chain link posts, now augmented with another piece of post inside that one:

badfence repair.jpeg

No concept of the “good neighbour side” here.

London, unlike other civilized municipalities, makes no mention in the fence or property standards bylaw that the structure of the fence must be stable ! This is what the City of Ottawa’s Property Standards document says, for example:

https://ottawa.ca/en/property-standards-law-no-2013-416#part-i-obligations-and-repair-standards

“Section 10 – Fences and other enclosures

(1) Fences, retaining walls and other enclosures around or on a residential property shall be kept,

(a) in good repair;

(b) free from accident hazards;

(c) protected by paint, preservatives, or other weather resistant material, except for wooden fences made of cedar, redwood or treated wood;

(d) so as not to present an unsightly appearance;

(e) stable;

(f) vertical, unless specifically designed to be other than vertical as in the case of retaining walls; and

(g) free of barbed wire ”

The City of London is not Ottawa, though.

The 3″ screws poked through the boards in my direction, in a most alarming fashion.

I contacted the same posthole place I previously used, to inquire about how close to the retaining wall posts could be set on my side. The guy who came to quote was baffled by the fence the gas station built.

It was possible for the station to have posts professionally set into the asphalt surface on the gas station’s side, so I wasn’t just imagining an unworkable solution. It would also be possible for posts to be set very close to the retaining wall, on my side. HOWEVER – due to the difference in elevation (close to 48″), I would be breaking the fence bylaw to erect my own fence as tall as the gas station’s mediocre one. To build my own law-breaking-fence would easily cost close to $ 3000.00 including materials and labour. The city could force me to modify or remove the non-conforming potential fence.

I couldn’t look out my dining room, kitchen or back porch windows without seething at their fence atrocity. Walking out the front door was a little less bad, but it still wasn’t a neutral sight.

I pondered what could be done. The fence was so unstable it made no sense to attach some sort of covering like a trellis. I planted Smoke Bushes in the front, in 2017, but they will take 8 – 10 years to be tall and full enough to obscure the fence.

Painting my side seemed like an exercise in futility. There would be no way to control the drips onto their side. This was a labour intensive solution, and even the blackest paint could not obscure the fence’s obvious deficits.

I pursued information on the fastest growing hedge, vines and trees. For anything to grow 10 feet tall, to reach to the top of the fence, to densely obscure the offensive construction would take years to grow. Quick “solutions” like planting tall cedars were fairly expensive, and unreliable. I stared hard at all the local hedges I encountered, then looked backwards via Streetview to see how long they took to attain their height.

I wondered about hanging up some sort of privacy cloth. Proper canvas for exterior applications – like awnings – is made from acrylic, which has decent UV protection against fading and rot. This lasts for about 5 years until it starts to deteriorate. I priced various cloth options. The 6′ fence height meant that cloth would need to be horizontally pieced to make it wide enough. This volume of cloth, soaking wet from rain or snow, also gets heavy. I calculated that I would need 30 yards to cover their fence.

I noticed an ad for recycled billboard tarps. They were HUGE – 14 x 48′. They were printed on one side, and opaque black on the reverse. The vinyl was UV resistant and reinforced with fibers to strengthen it. This made me think. I went and looked at it once, then went back a second time to buy one. Each tarp weighs 40 lbs, and they are unwieldy. Even black plastic would be better to look at than the ghastly fence. This was the least expensive ( $ 80.00) and least labour intensive option.

It was nerve wracking marking and cutting the tarp. I didn’t have a space large enough to lay out the entire thing (ie trees and bushes in my yard) so I unrolled smaller sections and measured twice. I stitched the edges and installed grommets.

It was impossible to make the tarp sections lay flat due to the bizarre construction. I did what I could to make it presentable:

redacted1.jpg

The backyard had the worst, most seasick fence construction. I didn’t love installing the tarp, or the lack of smoothness, but my brain felt so much quieter not seeing the awful fence:

theworst.jpg

backtarp.jpg

The tarp is screwed to the fence, so it is completely removable. To install the sections meant standing on an extension ladder, with my weight leaning on the fence. To say this felt precarious is an understatement.

One small unexpected bonus of the tarps was the amount of lught they blocked. I was surprised to see how much light infiltrated between the fence boards. This is with the section to to the left covered, with two sections left to go:

fencelight.jpg

The redaction is a far from perfect solution but it is an improvement.

Now if only there was some kind of code or bylaw about commercial neighbours adjacent to a residence, light pollution, privacy, sound control and basic building code ???

 

 

 

I Contacted the Public Health Department

My email, sent May 28, 2019:

” I am wondering if you could direct me to any guidelines regarding health and safety for people who live adjacent to a gas station ?

I am a resident of London. The commercial lot next to me was recently converted to a 24 hr gas station. The vents for the underground storage tanks are now located 4′ from the property line, and adjacent to the doors and windows in my home. When there is a tanker refuelling, depending on the wind direction, I often have gasoline fumes in my home, even with all the doors and windows closed.

Does the Public Health Department have any information about the effects this has on nearby residents, or other guidelines ?

I have been in contact with the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment, and have gotten nowhere. There is nothing I can do to correct this situation.

Any information would be appreciated.

Thanks.

Andrea ”

Their reply, from a Public Health Inspector, May 28, 2019:

“Good Afternoon Andrea,

Thank you for sending along your email. The designation and approval for the placement of gas stations and other commercial properties is controlled by municipal planning and zoning, a department within the city of London which would be able to answer your questions more precisely in regards to this operation. As the City of London designates these locations, they should also be able to refer to best practices for the safe operation and prevention of volatile vapours such as gasoline. Although the Middlesex-London Health Unit does not specifically govern these types of land uses, the City of London in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment should be able to assist you.

If you require further information or assistance please feel free to contact me.

Regards,

XXXXXX XXXXXXX BHSc, CPHI (C)

Public Health Inspector

Food Safety and Healthy Environments Team ”

I replied:

“Thank you for your prompt reply.

The previous use of that lot was a used car lot that sold a small amount of gas. As the building was renovated – no new construction – and there was no change of use, this was exempt from Site Planning Approval. The last site planning that occurred for this address happened approximately 70 years ago ! The previous business was open 8 hrs a day, 6 days a week. It is now a 24 hr business.

I have contacted all the local city departments, that I thought might help, including Site Planning, Bylaw Enforcement, etc. At present, the City of london does not even have a bylaw for nuisance lighting. I have also contacted the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office, who redirected me to the TSSA.

I have contacted the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment. The TSSA is responsible for fuel handling, and therefore a municipality has no say in the location of the vents.

The TSSA sent an inspector. This was the same inspector who approved this vent location. How he has the authority to inspect his own work is beyond me.

Since the gas station has been open, I have had three cats develop a variety of health issues, including eye irritation and oral ulcers, another cat went into acute liver failure after several gasoline vapour infiltrations in one month, and a third cat became so ill with severe anemia and liver and kidney failure that she had to be euthanized. My vet clinic has little information about chronic exposure to gasoline vapours in cats, and less experience, as this is uncommon. None of these cats had these health issues before.

When the gasoline vapours infiltrate my house, there is nothing I can do to stop or mitigate this. I can’t even open a door or window as the vapours are coming from outside !

I have been told by the TSSA, and the Ministry of the Environment, that I must arrange for my own air quality tests, to prove there is an ongoing issue. This must be done by licensed environmental consultants – I cannot gather my own air samples. Each visit, with samples taken, lab work and a report costs $ 2200.00 plus HST ! There are no grants to assist a homeowner in this situation. The TSSA and Ministry of the Environment have taken NO air quality samples.

If there is another department that may be better able to assist with this situation, please direct me to them

Thanks,

Andrea”

To this email I received no reply.

Hey TSSA, that’s not okay ! (Part 3)

Who is the TSSA, exactly, and what are they supposed to do, anyway ?

Wikipedia has a very short entry about this entity:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_Standards_and_Safety_Authority

” The Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) administers and enforces technical standards in the province of Ontario, Canada.

“It is a non-profit organization that has been given powers to enforce and create public safety rules in such areas as elevators, ski lifts, amusement rides, boilers, pressure vessels and operating engineers in order to protect lives and the environment.”

This doesn’t mention the fuel handling angle, but the TSSA is the sole authority for matters of regulations surrounding fuel handling – which has removed a province or municipalities from having any jurisdiction like bylaws regarding things like, say, vent locations for underground gasoline storage tanks. Despite being a non-profit organization that is concerned with matters of public safety, the information and codes are only available for a substantial price (ie $ 135.00 plus HST for the Liquid Fuel Handling Code), and this information is NOT available through a public library or online. In my experience the TSSA has been incredibly unhelpful to the point of being obstructive – between refusing to answer my questions – to sending me a form to request any information ( $ 120.00 plus a 120 day waiting period for answers, plus an hourly rate for any extra research required.). As a homeowner living next to a gas station, I am not even able to access information about what the legal distance those underground storage tanks are required to be from the property line. I asked the TSSA this question in an email in July 2018, and no one has ever answered.

https://store.csagroup.org/ccrz__ProductDetails?sku=2425551

The TSSA has the authority to approve things like the relocation of the underground gasoline tanks and storage vents, which are then done by a petroleum contractor. In my particular situation, when I complained about the gasoline vapours entering my home due to the new vent location, they sent the same inspector who had approved the vent relocation to inspect his own work !

Since then, he is the only TSSA inspector I have dealt with. I have not been recording our conversations, but from my perspective I perceive there has been a lot of “gaslighting” going on. I have been told contradictory and frankly untrue things. I have been given explanations that plainly make no sense. I have been told that my interpretation of the code surrounding the vent location was incorrect, though when he actually reread the code had to admit that my understanding of it WAS the correct one. It is my word against his, as I do not have recordings of these interactions. I have been told that if he returns to continue to inspect – that I will be charged an hourly rate for this. The TSSA has not taken a single air quality sample, and does not have any documentation that the vent pipes are in a safe location, and that gasoline vapours are NOT entering my property. There is no test equipment that documents the volume of gasoline vapours released from the vent pipes. The TSSA has never provided me with any written documentation of their findings, with regards to my complaints.

I am not the only one who has had troubles with the TSSA.

Here’s a press release from the Ontario Federation of Labour, from 2013, about their concerns about the TSSA, as it pertains to the Sunrise Propane Disaster in Toronto (2009):

RELEASE – Conviction in Sunrise case confirms failure of privatized TSSA

More information about the Sunrise Propane Disaster:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/anger-sunrise-propane-blast-1.4779912

Did you know that the TSSA only started tracking residential inspections in January 2018 ?

https://www.cbc.ca/news/toronto-tssa-inspection-ontario-ministry-consumer-safety-sunrise-1.4611619

The auditor general says that the TSSA is not doing its job properly (Dec.2018):

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/tssa-auditor-general-report-1.4933359

Here’s what the people who work (or worked, past tense) at the TSSA have to say about working there:

https://www.glassdoor.ca/Reviews/TSSA-Reviews-E714721.htm

https://ca.indeed.com/cmp/Technical-Standards-&-Safety-Authority-(tssa)/reviews

Here’s what people in various industries have to say about their dealings with the TSSA:

https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/tssa-toronto-ontario-c295285.html

Here’s what some people in the HVAC trade have to say about their dealings with the TSSA:

https://www.hvactechgroup.com/hvacforum/index.php?topic=616.0

This is beyond unacceptable. The TSSA needs to have its authority removed, and replaced by a competent, FULLY ACCOUNTABLE and transparent organization, that actually, ya know, works toward safety for businesses and residents.

As it is now is shameful.

 

 

Heritage Questions

(Photo found on FB of the adult male grandchild sitting where his grandmother, Peg, once sat, 60 or more years later.)

Just after I bought the house (fall, 2016) I contacted the City of London to inquire about the heritage designation process. I wasn’t from London, so I wasn’t sure if my house had any value as a heritage property or not ? It was on a list of heritage inventory, but I believe it was misidentified as a bungalow. After moving, and beginning on the fixing, pursuing the heritage designation research was on the list of things to do, but not a priority.

I bought the house BECAUSE it was old, and looked old, and retained many original details. I can’t explain why, but I have never felt comfortable with new buildings. It often has to do with the space – the low ceilings or ridiculous cathedral ceilings – but also the building materials themselves. Unless it was built with real architectural and design considerations (ie very expensive) things like hollow core MDF doors just make me inexplicably angry. The ripples and flaws in an old pane of glass make me very happy, however.

I was the very youngest grandchild, so my grandparents were much older than my friends grandparents. Their final house was a modest late 1940’s or early 50’s house. Despite being Saskatchewan farmers, they liked to travel, and brought home souvenirs and curios. My grandfather made a museum in his basement, that often had out of town callers, who had to sign the guestbook. It was a mishmash of homemade folk art (a farm made completely out of small cut and polished slabs of stone, including the people and animals), things like a shark’s jaw, unusual rocks, antique bottles and things from the farm and other oddities. I visited it many times, even though I knew every item by heart.

The town I grew up in was a small, boring grain farming town. People were very suspicious about old things, unless it was a farm implement. There was not much to do except go to the library. The library had the regional museum on the 2nd floor. It had a chain across the stairs, but if you asked the librarian she would let you go upstairs, unescorted, and she would turn on all the lights. The displays never varied. There were WW1 items, and photos and steroscopic viewers, and some antique clothing and dishes. I don’t know how many times I looked at the displays. As a kid in the 1970’s it was hard to imagine living with a kerosene light fixture, or a curling iron that had to be heated in the fire ! In context – these items predated me by about 60 years. I don’t know if kids these days are awed by a 1959 light fixture, for example. My father (b.1919) grew up in a house with no central heating, and an outhouse. Just the state of oldness really fascinated me. There was a surviving sod house, built around 1910 or 1915 that was still inhabited by the family that built it. I remember as a kid visiting the house. It was normal for local residents to call up other local residents to see if they could bring company to look at a local thing – like Bert Johnson’s stone fence, or the sod house. I remember the sod house residents as being somewhat eccentric – old men brothers. They had a cold cellar that was accessed through a door in the floor, down very steep stairs. In the basement you could see the slabs of sod the house was built from that still grew grass or peat. The exterior was stuccoed I think – it didn’t look like a dirt hut – but it had old windows and doors. I found that house very strange – a real contrast to the fake wood patterned melamine and shag carpet in all the newer homes in the area. I could not understand why those men lived in a house like that.

Now I am one of those geezers.

Perhaps it was the desire to distance myself from the psuedo suburb I grew up in, and everything it represented.

Ask artist Dean McDermott. His entire career has been built on the fascination with living in another time:

Anyhow – I contacted the City of London to begin the Heritage Designation process.

I sent photos and received an interested reply. A couple of representatives came over to have a look. They seemed happy to encounter a house that was quite intact – except for the kitchen and bathroom, of course. Those rooms are always the first casualties of “improvement” and “progress”.

They gave me some research about who they believed the first owners to be – a family named Warren, and a successive list of occupants. The Warren family lived in the area in several houses – and the children stayed close to their parents as adults, one living two doors down (in a house long gone).

Old houses and storefronts are the survivors, the rebels. Somehow they managed to keep going without interference or interruption. Usually the upgrades create the most damage, and undo the integrity of the building.

This house has been here since 1898 or so. I’ll do what I can to keep it going.

 

 

The (expensive)burden of truth

The burden of truth is a complicated concept. The philosophical approach deviates somewhat from the legal perspective. In a legal perspective the wronged party must demonstrate proof of the harm that was done.

From this paper: “From Permissive regulation to Preventative Design in Environmental  Decision Making” by M’Gonigle, Jamieson, McAllister and Peterman, Osgoode Hall law Journal (1994)

https://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1678&context=ohlj

“Private citizens may have recourse to a number of common law causes of action to protect both their private interests and, indirectly, those of the environment. These include the torts of private and public nuisance, riparian rights, trespass, negligence, and strict liability. Of all the causes of action, however, only a public nuisance action might lead to a remedy for environmental damage per se (usually through the intervention of the Attorney General 38), as all the other causes of actions require the plaintiff to establish that a personal, proprietary interest has been affected. In such civil actions, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that, on a balance of probabilities, health and/or private property has suffered as a result of the defendent’s actions. Environmental protection through the common law occurs as a by-product of such civil actions. The plaintiff may seek compensation by way of damages or may ask the court to grant an injection to prevent a potential, or ongoing wrong. Thus, the common law achieves environmental protection either by granting an injunction to deter the defendant from allowing the wrong to continue or by requiring payment, both of which act as deterrents to others who may undertake similar actions. 39”

In my situation, I must prove that there are gasoline vapours in my house, which originate from the improperly located vent pipes.

  • Air quality sampling, conducted by trained personnel : $2200.00 plus HST, per samples gathered on a single day

I contacted FLIR Systems, who manufacture the camera that makes gasoline vapours visible (“Optical Gas Imaging” is what they call it). To purchase a camera is extremely expensive, like close to a hundred thousand dollars or more. They have a distributor in Ontario, who offers a rental. However, the representative I spoke with could not answer my questions about whether an individual who was not a trained operator would be able to use the footage as legal evidence. It astonishes me that the TSSA and MOE or any of the Environmental Consultants I spoke with do not use this camera in their investigations.

–  FLIR Systems camera rental: $ 4500.00 plus HST per week

My vets could neither prove nor disprove my various cat’s illnesses as being a result of being exposed to concentrated gasoline vapours within my home, on multiple occasions. There is very little medical literature about gasoline vapour inhalation in a veterinary context (v.s. tests on lab mice or rats). A necropsy could provide information about what was going on in a deceased animal’s body (ie location and type of tumours, toxicology, etc.) . However, a necropsy could not indicate what caused the illness, unless it was a result of something like blunt force trauma or a mechanical obstruction.

https://www.acvp.org/page/Necropsy

– Necropsy, performed by a licensed veterinary pathologist : $ 900.00 plus the cost of transportation to Guelph, and cremation afterwards

With regards to my cat’s illnesses, while their symptoms can be documented, and if there is a cluster of unrelated cats in a household all having similar illnesses that are not the result of a specific food, or products used within the home, proving that their illnesses are a result of the numerous gas vapour infiltrations becomes much more challenging. Correlation is not causation, so the relationship between gasoline vapours and their particular illnesses must be proven, not presumed or suspected:

https://www.understandinghealthresearch.org/useful-information/correlation-and-causation-15

Anyone who has watched nightime t.v. dramas has seen the myth of the crafty, underdog lawyer who gathers valuable evidence that everyone else missed, and the courtroom gasps as the judge bangs his (95% his) gavel and finds the bad guys guilty.

It is my experience that life does not work this way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Contacted the Ontario Fire Marshal

Next I wrote to the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office. I have been told (though I can find no citation for this) that the location of the vent pipes need to be a certain distance away from a flammable structure, like a fence.

My email, sent Feb.27, 2019:

” I live next to a gas station that was recently renovated, with new underground gasoline storage tanks. The vents were moved from a previously troublefree location, far from my house. The vents are now 4′ from my property line, then another 24′ from my house. They are adjacent to my front door and most of the windows on my house. When there is a tanker refuelling, gas fumes are sometimes released. My yard is often filled with gasoline vapours. Depending on the wind direction my house is often infiltrated by gasoline vapours – despite all my windows and doors being closed. This is toxic and volatile. My property is on a lower elevation (approx 40″) so the vapours sink. There is nothing I can do to rid the house of gasoline vapours when there is an infiltration as opening the windows and doors would only let more vapours inside. I have made numerous reports to the TSSA and the Ministry of the Environment regarding this. The TSSA has sent an inspector who witnessed a refuelling, who had to admit there was a problem. I believe this situation is potentially extremely dangerous. Can the OFM help me or is there another enitity I should contact ? I am in London, ON.”

Their reply (March 12, 2019):

“Hello Ms. Johnson,

On behalf of the Office of the Fire Marshall and Emergency Management, I’d be pleased to respond to your question about gas stations. A shortcut to the Ontario Fire Code and a transcript of your question can be found beneath my signature. I have also included links to the various links of legislation cited in this message.

The Technical Standards and safety Authority (TSSA) regulates gas stations under Ontario Regulation 217/01, a regulation under the Technical Standards and Safety Act. 2000. The regulation adopts the Liquid Fuels Handling Code, 2017 (LFHC), which specifies the requirements for the storage, handling and dispensing of gasoline and associated products that are used as fuel in motor vehicles or motorized watercraft. All gas stations are required to comply with the LFHC. However, they are not necessarily required to comply with the Ontario Fire Code, and part 4 of division B of the Ontario Fire code specifically deals with flammable and combustable liquids. However, Part 4 does NOT apply to the storage, handling, transportation and use of flammable liquids to which the TSSA Act, 2000 apply. This is referenced under the Ontario Fire Code, clause 4.1.1.2.(2)(a). This provision outlines that TSSA is the authority having jurisdiction as it relates to gas stations. If offensive odours continue to persist, I would suggest that you re-engage with TSSA to express your concerns and/or discuss this matter with a member of your municipal government.

I have provided the coordinates for you to connect with customer service represntatives from TSSA.

regards,

Jay Current P.Eng

Fire Protection Engineer

Office of the Fire marshal & Emergency Management”

He attached a bunch of links, including one for the Liquid Fuel Handling Guide, which only took me to a portion of the site where I could buy my own copy ($ 135.00, remember ?) but not actually access the code.

Again – authority is deferred to the TSSA, who does not actually have any code pertaining to the distance these vents should be from a residence. The TSSA  who does not take any samples to prove the vents are functioning properly or safely, the same TSSA who gave authority for the guy who approved the vent location to INSPECT his own work when an issue is reported. The same TSSA dude who told me I would be charged an hourly rate if he has to come back to my address again.

Shameful.