Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Housing Character of Community

I was reading a Toronto Star Article about a family that bought a home in the beaches that was not designated a heritage home. However, since their neighbours have found out that they plan to build a new home on the lot, they have tried very hard to get a hertitage designation to stop the Teehan's from doing so. Part of the Teehan's reason for wanting to build a home from scratch is to enable them to make it wheel chair accessable for Mrs. Teehan, who woke one morning to find out she had a rare nuerological condition and that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheel chair. The idea was to build a house that would be as accessible as possible to her.

After just reading the article, I found myself mostly siding with the Teehans. Although, I do believe in preserving historic properties, I also recognize that the cost associated with major renovations of an older property are much greater than rebuilding. Furthermore, many older properties have structural deficits and wiring and plumbing issues, and are rarely economical to heat. They may also have mould or building materials that pose health issues. Some special properties are definitely worth saving, but I don't think it is sustainable long term to say that every old house deserves and must be saved. Buildings have life spans. They can be renovated, but that isn't always the best option. There has to be a balance at any rate.

Here the thing though, after looking up Mr. Teehan's blog and taking a look at the house in question on Google live view, although there is an easier to link to picture here, I have to wonder if Mr. Teehan was looking for trouble. Now, they did say this was the only property in the neighbourhood with a wide enough lot and a low enough price, and they did check to see if it was a heritage house first, however, they may have set themselves up for this battle by choosing a house that is cute and then planning to build something that is as different as possible on the lot. The house they are planning to build (see pictures on flickr) does seem a bit monstrous and out of whack with the neighbourhood. The current house is cute in a quaint, pink-trimmed way and while change isn't necessarily bad, and I am not qualified to say whether its a heritage piece. I was surprised to find some sympathy for those opposing a change of that magnitude. I'm not sure that the image does the real thing justice, but I think a peaked roof and some minor changes to the exterior materials would have avoided the neighbours wrath. Its not so much that the old house is wonderful (its cute in a cartoony, possibly tacky sort of way), as it is that the new house is so modern and blocky and inorganic that folks used to looking at a cute little white and pink cottage with a turret might find hard to swallow. Now of course, the opponents are bent on proving its a heritage house and pretty much likely to stay their course. That the battle has become so entrenched is a shame, because the opponents are not likely to be willing to compromise. Even if the Teehan's win their case, they will likely find the animosity takes away from the joy of their new home. Yet, for financial and emotional reasons they have a lot invested in doing what they planned, whether or not it means living with hostile neighbours and more public attention than they would like. Its a lose-lose situation and now that its in the media both sides are likely to stay entrenched. If the neighbours had approached the Teehan's and requested nicely that the new design be a bit less of a change, a bit more quaint and cottage, the Teehan's could have made a few minor changes to the design and everyone's property values would go up and then they could all live together in the community on friendly terms instead of it being a dispute from the very beginning. This battle is seems to be an unfortunate extra burden for the Teehan's who have frankly had more bad luck than any family deserves and could have used a break from their neighbourhood. Even if they win, their victory will have some sourness to it.

I'm impressed by the number of posts by folks on the issue and that many of them are well thought out. I'm used to reading comments on political articles that are usually intentionally offensive to anyone who disagrees. It was nice to see some balanced opinions. I think the best hope for everyone is reconciliation. Right now both sides are backed into a corner and its going to be lose-lose. They are also using the heritage property vs property owner rights argument, even though I suspect that isn't at the root of the problem. A good community counselor would not take sides, but instead act as a mediator to see if a win-win solution could be found. I think the best compromise is that the Teehan's build from scratch, but maybe they could consult with their opponents to find some reasonable measures to make their exterior of their house a bit more appealing to folks used to seeing a cottage-style house on the lot. They could work together, treat each other with respect and then when the Teehan's moved into their dream home, they would enjoy it fully because they would be surrounded by neighbours that they have a positive relationship with, who might even reach out to them and maybe even be kinder than you'd expect in the lonely land of the city. This event could be an opportunity to build real community on this street to the benefit of all. Sadly, I suspect that it'll end up resulting in hardship for a family that could use a break. They'll either be forced to sell the property at a loss or they will build their house, but have to live with neighbours that feel like they lost and so are not only strangers, but angry strangers. I think this situation is typical of so many other situations that people make for themselves when they start out as antagonists believing that there is no chance of finding middle ground or because they feel threatened. Think of all the bad situations at work, home, and in the world as a whole. How many wars are fought because neither side even considered negotiating a compromise before they dug themselves so deeply entrenched in oppostion that they had no way to change their mind without losing face... I guess we all can learn some lesson from this mess and I hope for the sake of the Teehan's they find a way to turn this hurdle into something positive because I think they are due a bit of luck.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

So the year turns

The world has a habit of being in a continuous process of change. Change can swing to the good side or the bad. Change is sometimes simply change. Spring following winter (whenever it gets around to it), getting a year older, the sun rising and setting, the internet getting faster, the minutes ticking by.

Of course, the school year is officially over in just over a week. This means that some friends are heading out for good. Its strange. With it being cool and the ground still fairly covered in snow, its hard to believe that that end is coming, I haven't really started thinking beyond exams. Which is good, plenty of things that need my attention without daydreaming about the summer, which will likely be a lot like last summer... Thesis... thesis... and more thesis. My goal is to put more than 1000 km on my car. I'm sure there will be lots to look forward to, but in the short term I'd better keep my eyes on the road.

One good change, I bought 2 floor mats today from one of my friends heading into the great blue world of roads and coffee shops and stuff... and they are perfect. My little home is just a touch awesomer and it'll be a nice reminder of her.

Back to work for me though...
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It may be colder than freezing, but slowly we are melting down

The ever cruel weather folk are now promising 11 C weather within a week. Since they've yet to deliever on promises of above 0 C weather as of yet, I'm not exactly holding my breath. Still with brightness all the time and hot weather in the Yukon and spreading into Yellowknife there is hope.....

Its a busy weekend. I'm hoping that shortly after finishing this post my kitchen will return to a clean state - the dishes are already waiting. The coffee is brewed and then I'll have to see what I can find for lunch - I have a 1/2 a case of ravioli that I should whittle down a bit....

I'll keep you posted on the weather and try to throw up a few more pics this week, but its a busy bustle from here until the end of the year. I'm laughing at myself though. I've actually missed hockey the past few days. I don't even generally watch hockey - but its comforting to discuss and read about and watch the scores. I think I might watch some of tonight's game while I tackle some marking - at best its the 7th last of the season.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sun Bunting Awing

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Beautiful Sky

Oh... its still winter, but they are promising positive temperatures in the later part of the week. Here is to hoping...

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tourism a la Sewage Lagoon

A beautiful sunset just West of the only natural system sewage treatment facility in northern Canada. Its on two good walking routes and so far has been the best place for finding wildlife lately.

We are in the last hundred meters of the annual marathon, and the runners are worn, but trying to sprint to the finish. After being spoiled in March and April, the temperatures have been seasonal or slightly cooler in May. I had a random visual memory of the perrenials department at Terra Greenhouses pop into my head, leaving me wondering how the columbine and other early bloomers are doing. Hoping that those rascally lily beetles keep their chowing maws off my lilies until I can get home and fight them off for a little bit. Its funny. Having a sudden urge to garden when its still normal for the temperatures to be sub-zero and we had a blizzard bad enough to shut down everything only 6 days ago.

Still... I think I might have to scratch that itch by going through a couple batches of gardening photos... and maybe post one up here.

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Monday, May 17, 2010


Still wearing his white coat this hare is quietly snacking away. Its sunny for the first time in a few days and the weather looks to be staying a bit warmer the next few days - so hopefully I'll manage to find a bit of time to go for a walk and maybe see some more wildlife.
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Take Sunset Photos While Ye Can

We are approaching that time of year where those of us living in the north cease having that phenomena of night. Already, the sky is still bright at 11:30 or so and the sun is rising just after 4 am. As of Thursday, we will no longer meet the requirements for Civil Twilight. Last year the lack of night took far more of a toll on me that the lack of hours of sunlight in the winter, I found that my body really wasn't happy about the lack of nighttime. I really found that my body didn't want to sleep when it was light out even if my room was dark, exposure to bright light at any point after 9 confused it.

Anywho, I have some thesis stuff to tackle and my never ending pile of normal work facing me this fine Sunday. I remember in high school calling 1 pm on Sunday the depressing hour.... and some how it seems that Sunday has become my big work day. I don't know if I'd call my work depressing, but I wish I could be knitting or painting or going for a hike or reading a book for fun.

I did get my first knitting project started after about 2 months of not knitting. So the sun has set and risen and been up above the horizon for about 8 hours now....

I'll try and keep up some quick posts and more pictures as spring slowly changes the arctic snow into bravely questing ferns and moulting hares and ptarigan. (Ukaliq and Aqitgik (spelling - trying to correct into the new spelling from an old dictionary)


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Friday, May 14, 2010

Moving Day Blog Trauma Remedied By Amazing Sibling

Whew... for a while there I thought I'd have to revisit the process of individually reattaching pictures to blogs (with 1000 more posts than the last time I lived through that)... but... fortunately... I have good friends with good computer brains and almost magically the pictures reappeard on my blog with little intervention from me.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.... my friend at

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It is done