Anyone hanging out here for any length of time will already be familiar with Bureaucrat’s Rule #1, but for the benefit of any newcomers, here it is in all its repulsive glory:
Bureaucrat’s Rule #1: The Rules are More Important than People
As you can see, it’s quite a simple rule and it is gleefully used the world over by tyrannical bureaucrats who love nothing more than crushing mere citizens under the weight of their ever-more-oppressive rules.
Steven Boyd and Karen Bursey bought some property in Conception Bay South, Newfoundland. They proceeded to build their dream home and things were going fine until they discovered they had violated one of Conception Bay South’s many rules about how you can build on your own land.
The town bylaw says the home must be 1.5 metres from the property line. They had an exemption of up to 1.35 metres by the town council. Their home is 1.26 metres from that property line.
The problem was discovered after the foundation was poured, and was compounded by the shape of their property, located in a cul de sac. The property lines are curved, not straight.
As other commentators have said, that’s about the length of a single poker card.
Hardly seems worth forcing someone to tear down their home, does it?
Only if you’re a mindless automaton of the State whose life purpose is living by Bureaucrat’s Rule #1. In this case the mindless automaton of the State has a name: Conception Bay South Mayor Woodrow French.
“It’s not about an inch, it’s not about two inches, it’s not about four inches, seven inches,” French said.
“It’s about the policies of the town and where buildings have to be located within the town.”
“We have rules and regulations in place, and everybody has to follow those rules and regulations,” French said.
Ah yes… The Rules are More Important than People.
Conception Bay South Councillor Ken McDonald doesn’t agree with the mayor, however. He believes the council should give the couple an exception and let the matter drop.
“They want them to tear down a wall, tear down a concrete wall, and patch it back in to suit three and a half inches?” McDonald said. “To me it’s ludicrous, it’s ridiculous.“
I couldn’t agree more.
Forcing a new couple to tear down their home is a heck of a way to welcome them to your town, isn’t it? It hardly lives up to the words on the town logo: “Bright town. Bright future.”
Mayor Woodrow French doesn’t care about welcoming anyone new to town. He’s got rules to enforce, dammit!
Steven Boyd and Karen Bursey could buy the poker card strip of land from their neighbours, but instead of being neighbourly and helping out the people they will be living beside for many years, they want to profit by their neighbours’ nightmare to the tune of $25,000.
Ironically, that’s the same amount it will cost for the couple to tear down the wall, tear out the concrete foundation and move it back a few inches.
Now, to be clear this is NOT the neighbour’s fault. Not one tiny bit. They’re not the ones who poured a concrete foundation a few inches too close to the property line. That’s entirely the fault of Steven Boyd and Karen Bursey and their home contractors and nobody else’s.
That being said, there is a thing called being neighbourly. After all, they’ll be living beside Steven Boyd and Karen Bursey for a very long time.
To quote one of the folks who commented on the CBC news story,
“Remember the days when Newfoundland neighbours would help each other build houses, bring in hay, launch boats, deal with crises and so forth. Welcome to the new Newfoundland. It’s made in the image of Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Brampton, etc.”
There was a time when neighbours helped each other out without hesitation.
Now we want to profit from them over some stupid bureaucratic rule and a jerk mayor who can’t comprehend people are more important than rules and forcing this couple to tear down their home over the length of a playing card is just plain un-Canadian.
A similar scenario that happened to Steven Boyd and Karen Bursey in Conception Bay South, Newfoundland occurred not long ago in my town.
Only the incident I cite revolved around a land developer breaking the bureaucratic rules when building an apartment house a scoch too close to the property line.
For some reason, which I didn’t know was acceptable, the City inspector had offloaded his duty onto the on-site engineer. Although the precious rules were infringed, the City Council chose to overlook the slight error rather than waste time getting its bureaucratic knickers in a knot over minutiae.
Nobody was hurt. The error didn’t encroach on the neighbouring building. The new structure was a smidgen too close to the property line but did not cross the legal property line.
It could be argued the error was the City’s fault in the first place because their employee had shirked his duty. If anybody was going to get punished, he should have been the first person fingered.
Or, who knows, maybe fault was with present or past surveyor(s); some are very good; some aren’t so good; and some are just plain awful.
Granted, this case involved a commercial builder whom I daresay would be more likely to receive concessions than a private home builder.
Not fair, but that’s politics. It’s not what you know but who you know.
Regardless, the point is, the error was minor. Instead of the City beating the bushes looking for a scapegoat, the councillors dropped the whole affair and got down to more important business, which is my advice to the Conception Bay South City Council.
According to the article, the CBS town bylaw says houses must be 1.5 metres from the property line. The town council gave Boyd-Bursey an exemption of up to 1.35 metres. But, for some unknown reason, the foundation and walls of the unfinished cul-de-sac house ended up 1.26 metres from the property line.
I’m no mathematical whiz. But my calculation over this Conception Bay South kerfuffle indicates that construction is off by about 8.89 cm, or 3.5 inches. Yes, as the article states, the length of a poker card.
I have to admit that if I were the Boyd-Bursey neighbour, I, too, would be reluctant to bail them out of a dilemma, either giving up valuable property gratuitously or for pay.
The problem belongs on the backs of the homeowner and contractor who can duke it out…unless the error dates back to when the lots were originally surveyed. Then it would conceivably be the City’s problem which would undoubtedly turn Mayor French’s face red, especially if he had to apologize for his arrogance.
From what I can determine, Conception Bay South City Council consists of a Mayor, Deputy Mayor and seven councillors. Mayor Woodrow French is not the “be all, end all” in this debate, or, if he is, he shouldn’t be. That would mean he is an autocratic ruler and the remaining serving members are mere puppets.
The Mayor simply has an opinion; his differed from Councillor Ken McDonald. Now how about hearing from the Deputy Mayor and six other councillors and get this foolishness resolved with a democratic vote before the City Council is found responsible for a survey or some other sin.
If the council is determined that somebody has to be “punished” as a way of learning “rules are rules and have to be obeyed”, how about fining Boyd and Bursey…oh, say $10 per cm for a total tax of $90. Council can keep the change for the extra .11 cm.
That sounds like a good price to “teach those sinners a lesson”. And the sinners could be required to attend the next council meeting.
There, the couple could pass out $10 bills, symbolic of having just cleaned up on a fresh poker game–in which the length of one playing card equals the same size as their 3.5-inch infraction, which is diddly-squat in the real estate business, especially when the owner’s oversight is contained within his own property line. It happens everyday.
Better yet, I suggest Conception Bay South City Council put a lid on this whole childish tempest in a teapot and find something more important to deal with–such as rewriting less rigid bylaws–rather than focusing attention on abusing citizens.