"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 www.pooley.ca. 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