Thursday, July 14, 2016

Three inches of hedge too much

Is our little boxwood hedge interfering with pedestrians? An anonymous local character -- who has made 400 complaints to the city  so far this year about sidewalk encroachments -- apparently has us on his list.  On Thursday we got a notice from the city to cut our hedge back. 

After a similar complaint last year, we took out some overgrown laurels and planted a few new boxwoods to continue the small hedge. They are still struggling to get established. 
My friend Linda has fun with an overgrown laurel hedge elsewhere in the city. Yes, it does need cutting back.

A  blackberry vine -- very thorny -- dangling over the sidewalk brings out the actress in Linda, who mimes what would happen if someone ran into it. 

I think flowers that add beauty and colour to our sidewalk experiences should be given some leeway under city rules. 
I expect our angry neighbour would want even these small flowers chopped back. 
A few days ago, I wrote about our neighbour Audrey getting a notice from the city to cut back her beautiful, widely admired plantings because they were extending onto the sidewalk. Thursday morning, it was our turn.

An apologetic orange-vested city worker rang our doorbell and handed us a notice saying our little boxwood hedge is "interfering with the use of the city sidewalk." We must cut it back before Aug. 13 or the city will do so at our expense.

The same thing happened last year, but that time around, it was justified. Some laurels had gotten way overgrown, so we took drastic measure, and this year, you'd have to squint hard to find a problem. A tape measure just might find the boxwood about three inches over the sidewalk in some places. Normally, that would have been taken care of by now, but a health problem forced our tree trimmer to delay his usual work this year.

In our conversation with the city worker, he told us that of the 800 complaints of this kind in the city's west side so far this year, 400 -- yes, fully half! -- have come from one man. It seems we have a neighbour who patrols the area assiduously, looking for violations.

When I asked the worker, who is with the street operations branch of the city's engineering service, whether this interferes with his other duties, he said it takes up a lot of the time he should be spending on other things. Which made me think of the cracked and bumpy sidewalks that made it a Herculean effort to take mom for a walk when she was blind and using a walker.

Later during a walk with my friend Linda elsewhere in the city, we started noticing all the plants encroaching on sidewalks. A laurel hedge that took up about one-third of the sidewalk and a thorny blackberry vine dangling in the path of passersby definitely needed my grumpy neighbour's attention. But we thought lavender and flowers growing a few inches over the sidewalk should be left alone. They soften the city's hard edges and add character, beauty and scent without impeding anyone.

There is such a thing as discretion and good sense, and it seems wrong for city workers to have to spend their time handing out sheaves of notices about trivial encroachments when they know there's more serious work to be done. Since when should one angry man be allowed to dictate what city workers do?

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