Mess persists despite complaintsSisters have spent more than four years next to honeybuckets in the heart of the city
Evan Kiyoshi French
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 5, 2014
Torn-open garbage bags, fully-loaded honeybuckets, and the strong smell of mildew have been metres away from the Thomas sisters' dining-room window for more than four years.
Sharon Thomas said she and her sister, Darlene Thomas, have had to move their dining room table away from a window facing the vacant home next door, which remains a mess, despite repeated complaints. - Evan Kiyoshi French/NNSL photo
Darlene and Sharon Thomas, who share a home in the Northland Trailer Park, said they've been complaining to both the City of Yellowknife and Yellowknife Condo Corporation No. 8 - the condo board that governs Northland - about the mess on their neighbour's property since they moved in, to no avail.
Around Sept. 1, the sisters noticed their neighbours were moving out. Darlene Thomas said she called the condo corporation's phone number to find out if, and when, the property would be cleaned up. Thomas said when she dialed the listed number for Condo 8, a woman - who didn't identify herself as being an employee of the corporation - wouldn't confirm that a clean-up operation would ever happen.
"I said, 'Is anyone going to come around there and clean that up?' and she said, 'Well, I'm not sure'," said Thomas. "So then I told her that there's a couple of bags of garbage just torn open. The ravens have got it all over the place ... and she said, 'Well, I'll have someone come around and look at it.' And it's still there today."
When Yellowknifer called that number a representative of Yellowknife Condo Corporation No. 8 said it's the property owner's responsibility to clean up the mess, and if neighbours have concerns they should direct their complaints to the city's Municipal Enforcement Division (MED).
Sharon Thomas said the sisters last complained to the city about the mess next door on Aug. 28. She said bylaw officers came out to the property to take photographs.
Doug Gillard, Municipal Enforcement Division (MED) manager for the city, said there are no active complaints against the property owner. Bylaw officer Daryl Foster said there was one complaint against the property filed in August, anonymously.
Gillard said the Unsightly Lands bylaw is a complaint-based bylaw which - upon receipt of a complaint - gives the property owner 14 to 30 days to clean up the mess. If the problem isn't rectified within that time, he said, MED can issue a ticket and wait for a conviction in court. If the city decides to go ahead and clean up the mess itself, the cost associated with the operation falls to the property owner, and can be levied through property taxes.
Shortly after they moved in next door in 2010, Thomas said the sisters called the city to remove an old van - filled with mildew-covered clothing and other refuse - which was sitting derelict on their property.
"The licence plate said 1994, so it (must have) been sitting there for almost 10 years," she said. "The city came and took that away."
Darlene Thomas said she and her sister have had to move their dining room table away from the window facing the property next door. She said she has enjoyed her time in Yellowknife, having moved here from Brampton, Ont., about eight years ago. But she said they feel trapped next to the messy property, since they have been unable to sell their trailer.
"We're going to look at that all winter?" she said.
The sisters are confused over who is responsible for the trailer park, now that the city has shouldered the cost to repair aging sewer and water pipes which sit beneath it - with the intent of having the cost paid back by property owners.
Northland is a condo corporation, and basically a private entity, said Chris Greencorn, director of public works and engineering for the city.
He said when the development was designed and constructed, it was not done to city standards. The water and sewer mains zig-zagged through private units, and the roads are very narrow, he said.
"The city administration at that time would not accept responsibility of any of the infrastructure built and the developer just did what they wanted anyway," he stated in an e-mail. "That's why it had to become a condo corporation and take care of their own infrastructure."
Once work on the new water pipes, sewer pipes, and roadways is complete, the city will take ownership of the them, said Greencorn.
The work is being paid for by the city on behalf of the condo corporation, he said, to be reimbursed by the residents through a local improvement charge. Greencorn said the project is expected to be completed by Sept. 15, 2015.