Sunday, July 29, 2007

Vecchiato's Voice - July 29, 2007 - Black Kettles and Vocal Pots

Sometimes, a vocal pot calls the kettle black, lending us an image of personification. In this particular case, it appears that the Township is the vocal pot.

In the Langley Times (July 13, 2007), an article "Tree Protection Sought" includes interviews with Township staff in relationship to tree surveys as well as the condition of a property adjacent to Mountain Secondary, which township owns and had leased to a tenant.

The article states that "the site has the appearance and smell of a homeless squat...putrid, stagnant water in a half full basement contributes to a smell of human excrement that might come from a leaking septic tank." Township administrator is quoted as saying, "it is not a healthy situation."

Since when is a tenant responsible for septic maintenance? According to, a landlord "must keep a place healthy, safe and 'suitable for occupation' .... has to make any repairs that are needed for your health and safety. (The) landlord is responsible for repairing: heating, plumbing electricity...Anything included in your rent must also be maintained.... The landlord is responsible for repairing: garages and storage sheds.

But let's add the Township's own legislation, stating, under its Property Maintenance and Repair Bylaw 2003 No. 4231, "where "the Corporation of the Township of Langley deems it necessary for the health, safety and protection of persons and property, to regulate the maintenance and repair of properties within its jurisdiction." It also states in section 3 that "The Owner of a property will maintain the property...concerning the health and safety of the property."

It seems clear that the staff interviewed wished to steer away from the initial issue of the article (Tree preservation) and paint the tenant in a most unfavorable light. Township, however, shoots its own foot because they were, in fact, the landlord, yet never checked on their property.

I've been both landlord and tenant and understand that regular inspections is one way to guarantee the condition of your property. Township has violated its own by-law and not lived up to provincial laws legislating the responsibility of landlords.

But back to the initial issue: "Tree protection sought." With some investigation, I found that the Township was not able to produce a tree survey when requested, although Parks Manager is cited in the article, by saying, "the township has produced a tree survey as part of the topographical survey of the whole Willoughby Community Park site." When asked for the survey, one wonders why our public servants remain so furtive. There are, of course, things the township does very well, and part of this is providing some of the best recreational facilities available to a community. Consideration of heritage properties and the importance of the historic elements of this area are more laudable than other municipalities. However, an antagonism seems to develop between taxpayer as critic and staff contorting into a defensive position.

My feeling is that taxpayer as employer is often forgotten. We should not be forced into using the Freedom of Information Act, but maintain a transparent government that needn't play spin doctor, but instead, serve the people in the community.

Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for the past 5-1/2 years. She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and a community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities. Cathleen formed and leads the Langley Conservation Network. Editor LFP.

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