It takes more than a fence

Our neighborhood was built on top of what was once a swamp. As a result, most of the houses get water in their basements. Our house was new 13 years ago but it was built during a very wet rainy season and it took a Herculean effort to get the basement level dry enough to pour the concrete. Sadly, even Hercules couldn’t completely solve the problem. A couple of years after we moved in we had to hire a contractor to bring in a backhoe to dig a ditch across our yard so he could lay pipe to carry the water from the sump pump out to the sewer. (Don’t tell anyone that, I’m not entirely sure it was legal.) Since then our basement’s been pretty dry. Not so the house diagonally across the street.

That house is older and gets a lot of water in the basement. The owner pumps it out through a hose that he runs from his basement window across his back lawn out to the street. Unfortunately, that corner of his property abuts another neighbor’s driveway and therein lies the problem. During the winter that water hits the edge of the driveway where it meets the road and turns into ice.

The two elderly women who own the house that belongs to that driveway (the youngest of whom is 72) live in a constant state of anxiety, worrying that one day one of them will slide on that sump-pump-delivered patch of ice and break something. They’ve spoken to the neighbor about moving his hose to a storm drain at the front corner of his property but to no avail. Apparently that would be unsightly and bad for the grass. If you’re keeping score, the risk on his side is a one-inch-wide swath of dead grass versus a broken hip for the other team.

There is a town bylaw (Title III Section 30) that says, in part, “No person shall cause to be discharged any water on public ways of the Town if in so doing ice is formed in such a manner as to make unsafe the passage of vehicles or persons on such public way.” So why, you may ask, did the Public Works office dismiss this particular situation as not applicable? To quote Churchill, it’s a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

One thing is very clear; it takes more than a fence to make a good neighbor. And putting up a fence won’t help this particular neighbor if his irresponsible behavior causes someone to get hurt.

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