It would appear that even when one tries to do something good, other things happen that could be considered bad.
Our newspaper has devoted space to the ongoing challenge the city faces when it comes to forcing derelict property owners to clean up their messes. Lengthy grass, sofas in the driveway and fecal matter produced by pet populations that would give Bob Barker a heart attack have gained local media attention, as has the tougher stance city hall has taken with bylaw breakers.
The clean-up is a good news story and something the city should be proud of.
But the other shoe has apparently dropped on this subject – or perhaps that should read "snowflake" instead of shoe.
Roy Perkins, a well-known Cornwall businessman who also helped spearhead the recent Cornwall Community Hospital Foundation fundraising campaign, contacted me last week on this subject.
For years his home improvement operation on Marleau Avenue, Perkins Rona Home Centre, has used an adjacent property near Carleton Street as a snow dump.
Perkins owns the property.
The plan, as he explained it to me, would include moving the snow from his store's parking lot into the property, when the snowbank in the parking lot became too large.
Perkins said the strategy had worked for more than 20 years – but things will change this winter.
A late winter (or perhaps early spring) complaint to city hall this year, presumably from a property owner in the area, resulted in the city's bylaw department paying a visit to Perkins.
He was told, in a nutshell, that the property couldn't be used as a snow dump any longer as it contravened municipal law. The property is zoned residential, and Perkins said he was hardly in a position to argue.
But the kicker came when the city gave him instructions to have the snow removed, or face a $200 fine.
That's when Perkins dug in his heals and suggested that shelling out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars made little sense for two reasons: 1) Paying the fine would actually amount to a smaller expenditure in the long run and (more importantly) 2) It was April – the snow would likely be gone in a matter of weeks anyway.
To make a long story short he had his day in court recently…and he won. Not because he wasn't guilty (he was) or the city was wrong (it wasn't) but because of a legal technicality concerning the paperwork filed with the court.
Perkins got the message anyway – he has plans to find another snow dump area this winter.
But his case should spark come interesting debate.
Suppose he had lost his court battle. It would have been more proof the city is getting tough with property owners who break the law, and is taking complaints from residents seriously.
But what is this costing taxpayers in the end?
Surely the $200 pocketed by the city (to use Perkins' case as an example) is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money being shelled out for lawyers and the like to win the case.
Which smacks of taking one step forward and two steps back.
I'm all for writing tickets when someone breaks the law – but is it costing us too much in the long run?
Now that the city has decided to take this tough stand with property owners, it would be interesting to known how many other cases like this are going before the court.
I've been an advocate, and I still am, of getting tough with lazy property owners who only cut the grass so that they can make the trek out to the mailbox once a month.
One time I even saw someone throw an entire (used) turkey carcass in their driveway. No garbage bag, just the bones.
There is a problem in some quarters of Cornwall, because common sense and civic pride have been replaced with laziness and outright ignorance of responsibility.
Perhaps an education campaign, or public shaming (it worked when the police chief put signs up on properties where drugs were being sold) would better benefit the city and taxpayers when it comes to the issue of cleaning up the slovenly messes left by people who don't seem to care.
The point is I agree with the city's "get-tough" mentality, but I also pay taxes. Are we doing everything we can to make sure that property owners get the message, before we begin setting dates for trials?
The city's bylaw department is one of the most shorthanded on the municipal roster. You could probably double the size of the department and still not cover all the bases.
The problem, though, is writing tickets and hoping a court date can be avoided could end up costing us more than we'd like to pay.