You don't mess with a man's hedge

Post by Mike Klassen in


"They stole my hedge!" says home owner Don Pooley

Most of you probably haven't heard of Don Pooley, an 87-year old WWII veteran who has lived in a small house in the Kerrisdale neighbourhood for forty years. But last week Don was featured in a Vancouver Sun report by reporter Lori Culbert because a builder putting up a new house next door ripped out Pooley's hedge (the Sun report also features a video).

You shrug perhaps. It's just a hedge, and surely they can sort the old guy out by planting something to replace it. But is there more to this matter that you and I should care about?

Looking at this Google Street View image taken in front of Pooley's home in the spring of 2009, one can see the lot just west of his is abandoned and ready for redevelopment. Speaking with Don he explains that his entire block has been a stream of building projects, and the development next door has been going on for two years. A nuisance, yes, but Pooley lives in one of the continent's most desirable neighbourhoods, and many deep-pocketed buyers covet these west side lots.

Pooley claims that the ripping out of the hedge – which was fully on his property, and as we can see from the Google image, immaculately pruned – took place deliberately when he and his wife stepped out for her hairdresser appointment. Whether that accusation is true or not, Pooley is now missing a significant piece of landscaping, and one which he tended to for most of his life.

When he came home and found the hedge gone, Pooley did what anyone might do if someone had "stolen" something from you – he called the police. As Don argues, "If someone came onto my property and took a bike leaning against my house, that would be considered theft. How is this any different?"

The police weren't interested, calling it a civil matter. And while City Hall will swoop down on you for removing trees larger than a few inches in diameter around their trunk, there is no by-law enforcement when it comes to ripping out someone's hedge.

Perhaps feeling a bit helpless in his situation, Don had someone help him to post a web page to let other know what happened to him – see People I've spoken to find this issue extremely frustrating, simply because there seems to be no respect for someone's property here. The property line had been surveyed, and any half reputable backhoe operator knows what those markers stand for.

Certainly all neighbourhoods must evolve. Homes built in the mid-20th Century will give way to newer ones. But there are many folks who simply are trying to 'age in place,' and live out their years in a home that's long been paid for, in surroundings they've toiled over most of their lives. It doesn't seem fair that someone who hires a backhoe seems to have more rights than the owner of a century-old privet hedge.

Maybe cities need better tools to take action against these kind of offenses. Maybe elected officials need to be there to listen and react. What's certain though is that an apology is warranted along with compensation, and there should be a lot more respect for a man and his hedge.

I know if I came home and someone had leveled my garden or trees without my permission, I'd be looking for a more than a shrug from City Hall.

- post by Mike


Typical attitude of ask forgivness rather than seek permission!!

What a shame, the hedge was immaculately tended, what a disgrace...

Insult to injury, it was a hundred year old hedge, tended by a WWII Vet....nice..

He needs a good lawyer . . . anyone out there with a heart want to pro bono a good cause for a WW2 Vet who deserves help.

Investigate why the police didn't act - that is vandalism.

Investigate which morons at city hall won't back him up - at the very least the work permit for that construction should be pulled for as many months or years it takes to do a proper investigation.

Put Emperor Gregor on the hot seat and crank up the flames. Ask him why he isn't doing anything, why he hates veterans.

Gregor is very anti-military, fyi.

Seems to me this is a civil matter. Person A damaged Person B's property, either intentionally or through negligence. Person B assesses the value and go to small claims court.

Why should City Hall be involved? There is no bylaw infraction here They surely didn't give Person A permission to or damage Person B's property.(and, I note, the City is unlikely to respond in the bicycle example either).

The City certainly did not give permission for person A to damage person B's property by any means. However, the city did issue a building permit with underlying conditions, which should have included adequate tree protection and conditions for the protection of surrounding properties. The city may have an involvement yet at that regulatory level, if the builder in execution of the plan ignored conditional requirements.

It may also give those at the city issuing permits pause to make sure that such a cavalier approach is somehow addressed in future. A change in the permitting process may be required to deter those less than honourable builders from violating others' rights in the future (ie a statement from the applicant of the permit that no shrubbery or planting outside the property lines will be impacted by the work). It is my understanding that officials from the COV Development Services Branch have currently involved themselves in order to assist in resolution in this matter.

In the meantime, it does seem to me that this incident hits closest the definition of vandalism, thus involving the police (who wished to abstain). The builder in this case certainly does not follow accepted practices, and there should be some sort of way of registering such behaviour and ensuring there are consequences (for instance removal from BC HPO builders registry - if applicable).

"Put Emperor Gregor on the hot seat and crank up the flames. Ask him why he isn't doing anything, why he hates veterans."

lol. I heard he eats babies too.

Gregor has shown his true colors with Veterans, Billy Bishop Legion is a perfect example and then lets not forget

Or should we point out the poor behavior on his part at the Remembrance Day events...this is a battle you can't troll and win boo,

a respectful society appreciates the efforts of Veterans....

For the record, the construction firm in question is:

Wing Chong Home Improvement Ltd.
604-817-3038 OR 604-828-2213

A google search reveals that this firm has been had legal issues in the past:

It amazes me that there has been no attempt to at least suspend their building permit while the matter is being investigated.

As a neighbor, I notice that they have now upped the pace of construction at this site, in an attempt, presumably, to complete their planned fence/wall as soon as possible, before Mr. Pooley can do anything to stop it.

Same logic persists: they what they want now, apologize for it later and hope that the old man is too tired to bother fighting it.

George--I'm not commenting on gregor or anything to do with veterans, I'm commenting on the ridiculous exaggerations and comically over the top accusations that go unchecked on this blog.

Development, at all costs. Screw the old guy, eh? A guy who tends somethig so lovingly, for so long is just a sentimental fool up against the rapacious builder.

I hope someone can do some pro bono here and sew these bastards civilly. Terrible thing.

Thanks for the digits of these cretins.

The link provided shows the legal issue is a builder's lien, of which they were the plaintiff back in 2007. In other words, the company is seeking monies they believe owed them in the course of their work. A builder's lien is not a judgment, nor is such a legal issue necessarily a negative reflection on the company.

It does not paint this company in a negative light on the surface of it. In the 2007 instance, the builders are the plaintiff, not the defendant. Someone did not pay them. The builder's lien act is a different kettle of fish entirely from what is happening here, and a builder's lien can occur in the course of a project for a myriad of reasons.

I question bringing up this particular piece of the company's lien history, and the purpose behind it. I am not excusing what this company did. However, posting a 3-year old piece of lien history in order to establish some sort of pattern of wrongdoing is in this case inaccurate and out of line.

It would be like if you drove into my parked car, and I brought to court the history of your missed credit card payment as proof your actions were intentional. It is not an accurate reflection on the situation here.

There's no respect anymore. Respect is a thing of the past.

no boo
I understood what you were doing.. and with all due respect your comments are the ones that tend to be unchecked and over the top....

If the hedge was fully on his property they had no business taking it out.
We also are living in a construction zone the last few years.
When the house next door was built the builder asked if we minded him taking out the hedge (it was on both properties)
We said no (but notice we were asked)
Yes,it made it easier for the builder to work on the property but we were consulted.
A fence was eventually put between the properties.
That hedge was on both properties.

Lack of respect.

Invoking Wing Chong's previous legal entanglement was not an attempt to cast the company in a specifically negative light.
My thinking was that it may suggest something about the difficulty of reaching an agreement with this company when it comes to matters of compensation.
It might also indicate, ironically, that this company was once on the receiving end of being screwed over, and took the matter to court. Now that they are the ones doing the screwing, they shouldn't be surprised if this matter too goes to court.

lol ok George. I guess you're right, stating that gregor really does hate veterans is just peachy.

Never said he hated Veterans Boo, just pointed out he has a record of showing disrespect to Veterans, well documented.

In his eagerness to put down War, he has shown disrespect to Vets on more than one occasion... big difference. Certainly a far cry from your baby eating spin.

Please stop putting untrue words in my your attempt spin away, it just makes your argument look foolish.

When it comes to the sacrifices these men and woman made on your parents behalf, and your behalf, the least you can do is be respectful.

Sadly, there seems to be a lack of that quality, with this generation.

I'm very happy to see this man get the press he deserves. Of course this type of infringement occurs far to often. My property has also been damaged by neigbouring construction, and I've located several more in New Westminster (I've talk to the occupants of several neighbours beside similar construction sites) and the city does little or nothing about them.

Of course the windfall of increased municipal tax generated from this careless construction might have something to do with the lack of response.

George, you miss the point yet again.

I never said you said that. I said it was said by someone and no one had any apparent problem with it. So I jokingly said something equally outrageous to prove that point. Get it now?

Your weird twisting of my view regarding that one post on this blog to somehow have that equal me disrespecting of veterans is quite remarkable.

Should he be pro war? Should anyone? Are you? Does being anti-war = being anti-veterans? There's so many bizarre stretches from you here George, I don't even know where to start.

As for the topic, yeah, the developer should compensate. I know the 'value' of the hedge won't be what it was worth to this guy, but I'm not sure what the options are.

No one is asking WHY the contractor illegally took out the hedge.

Is the contractor the developer, or is he hired by a homeowner? If taking the hedge out made the new house 'more saleable' in his view as a developer, perhaps there is a motive there.

If he is working for a homeowner, did the homeowner instruct him to take out the hedge because the Don Pooley's new neighbour didn't like the hedge?

The hedge was removed because it was obstructing efforts to construct a wall/fence along the property line. Because the hedge bordered the property line, it made it difficult for crews to construct this wall.
Fearing, presumably, that Mr. Pooley would refuse to relinquish his hedge if asked, the contractor waited until they left for lunch one day, and then went ahead and bulldozed it. His thinking was that he could justify this later by saying that adjacent digging caused the hedge to collapse and necessitated its removal. He figured a cursory offer to install some flowers in place of the old hedge would placate the 87-year-old couple, and things would continue as planned.
Not so, it seems.
His excuse, apart from being highly implausible, is simply not true. I am a neighbour of the Pooleys on 35th ave and was witness to the entire thing. I arrived home as they just beginning to bulldoze the hedge. I observed no signs of the hedge's having collapsed. I also observed no signs that, as I believe the contractor at one point claimed, that the bulldozer "slipped". The contractor was standing there, clearly directing the bulldozer to demolish the hedge. This was, coincidentally, also witnessed by the Pooley's grandson who arrived to the house at approximately the same time I did.
Shameful, indeed.
Construction along the Pooley's property line where the hedge once stood continues unabated. Why the company's building permit has not been at least temporarily suspended is beyond me.

If the city were to rescind or even suspend every permit that caused a neighbour's complaint the construction industry would stop in its tracks, no matter how justified the complaint.

The permit process involves preliminary reviews with departments such as building, planning and landscape. A permit cannot be issued without the landscape department's approval of any removal of significant trees, and adequate tree protection measures put in place. However, this requirement does not extend beyond the property lines (save street trees) and into a neighbour's property.

Perhaps it is time to extend the requirements so that a permit applicant depicts on their drawings not only the landscape proposal for their property but all landscape elements (including hedges) extending 2m outside their property line, along with a statement from the applicant that the neighbouring landscape elements extending 2m into the next property remain intact during improvements to the applicant's property.

A simple change to the applicant form, and a new stamp for the applicant to affix their signature to on the drawings, and the applicant assumes all responsibility for the condition of the neighbours hedge during their construction. Failure to adhere to those conditions (or subsequently make good) and the city now has the power to withhold occupancy for lack of adherence to the permit.

Any thoughts?

Good suggestions Doug. Perhaps the regs need to be clarified along the lines you suggest to make this more up front and explicit.

On the other hand, there may be some liability in this case in spite of the lack of clarity in the process. Was the fence in question shown on the approved BP drawings? Did the designer and/or the Building Department not pick up on this problem at that stage? They could have and should have foreseen this conflict.

Bill - I agree wholly with you re: liability. I think the builder really crossed the (property) line here (forgive me - could not resist). Nor do I see necessarily any city culpability in this matter. My idea may need tweaking and its why I throw it out there. But I think a little forethought could mitigate future problems, and put anyone developing on their property on notice that they have those neighbours to consider.

I don't mean to be throwing it back on the city, but if somehow the neighbour's rights are taken into account as a condition of permit, the more rogue elements developing/ building in this city may be controlled.

I also think that incidents like this should be addressed by the HPO in terms of suspension of approved builders licensing, but that would involve getting the HPO to actually do something other than take money for printing licenses, so I figured I'd start with the City.

PS - best of luck with your candidacy

With the amount of recent construction on Pooley's West 35th Ave street (four new residential developments in three years) long sitting residents have been inconvenienced by heavy duty trucks, tradesmen's parked autos, crushed boulevards, and broken water mains (which, by the way, are always on the property owners' side, alas) I wonder whether the new construction's owner adjacent to Pooleys will restore their damaged hedge as well as the collapsing driveway and carport? Without support from City inspectors or the police, I hope that their new neighbors will have the decency to make good on the damage they caused. Or, will the term "neighborhood" cease to exist for Pooleys and other individuals throughout the city.

Doug, thank you. Please remind me next year to follow up (fingers crossed). There have been a number of very constructive suggestions on these blogs. They should not be lost, but there is so much going on, frankly it's difficult to remember everything. Also, small ideas can yield significant benefits. Our quality of life is created at many levels, all of them important.

Obviously Mr. Pooley should have been consulted...on any construction that occurs on his property. I am sure that had this courtesy been extended to Mr. Pooley, that a mutually agreeable solution would have been reached without much fuss.
I suspect that the neighbours don't like the hedge, and that rather than take the chance of not being allowed to remove it, just went ahead and did so anyway because it also made their job easier. Hopefully the contractor is going to replace the hedge..rather than some horrid concrete wall. It is far too common that people feel that they can reach over a fence and trim a neighbours tree...but theft is another thing...did they resell the hedge?

Check out!

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