Like an expert hand at a game, Alexander spread the cards from the City of North Vancouver wishing him and his family Merry Christmas. One is signed personally by former mayor Darrell Mussatto expressing thanks for the support during the time it mattered the most, the elections. There is a note from Mayor Linda Buchanan, so grateful for allowing election signs on his yard.
And then there is the folder with a seemingly endless trail of documents and back-and-forth letters, including one from the CAO, on how the city is going to get back to him soon — a heap of broken promises over a 10-feet back lane that has cost Alexander and his wife thousands of dollars over the last few years.
Alexander now jokingly calls himself a “tennis ball” for the number of times he has bounced back and forth to the City of North Vancouver.
His ordeal started four years ago, when CNV decided to pave a small section of the back lane behind Alexander’s property, between St. Andrews and Ridgeway in the Grand Boulevard area of the city. The city, however, was unable to secure an easement on one property, which meant the lane started off 20-feet wide from St. George but narrows down to 10 feet at the end on Ridgeway.
Still, what was once just bushes was now a paved lane, and that meant cars, the city’s garbage trucks and the big tandem-wheel trucks were able to access the back lane from one end to the other.
The trucks, however, are unable to enter the narrow end without damaging Alexander’s property, and it keeps happening over and over again.
The trucks have damaged the rain gutters and the garage fascia as many as five times, which starts a cycle of appeals to the staff and the councillors and the same empty “we will get back to you” responses from both.
In 2017, Alexander said he appeared before the council and then met the city section manager for streets and requested him to put a ‘No entry’ or a warning sign on the lane. He says the official flatly refused to do anything. But then there was hope again in a letter signed by former CAO, Ken Tollstam, promising that someone would get back to him.
And yet again, no one did.
He called up Mussatto, then the mayor, who promised to do something. He also got former councillor Craig Keating to do a tour of the back lane to better understand the issue. They agreed that something must be done.
Still nothing happened.
Alexander keeps going to the city council, which he did again on September 9, hoping that perhaps this time someone in the council would listen.
“The city just doesn’t care that this will be the fifth time that I will be paying to have my gutter replaced with possible fascia damage as well. I am now 82 years and I am advised by my doctor to not climb ladders therefore I have no choice but to hire someone. I have been asking the city till I am blue in the face to do something about this problem but to no avail,” he told the council.
His wife, Marilynn, says his health has suffered due to constant stress. “His blood pressure gets high and he gets angry and upset. I live with him and I can see how it affects him every day.”
The city’s apathy isn’t easy on her either.
More than once, she had to run to block a big truck from entering the narrow lane. She stood in front of the truck, which forced the driver to reluctantly back off and enter from the wider side. She says the drivers avoid it because it would mean the hassle of backing up a big truck, and often, the other side of the lane is blocked by other construction vehicles.
The 10-feet entrance is an easy way out, but it ends up damaging not just their home but city’s property as well. The sidewalks along the lane have several cracks developing due to the impact the trucks have on the concrete.
One of the trucks owned by Smithrite has sent them a $1,000 cheque owning up to the damage, but most truck drivers ignore their requests. When confronted, the truck drivers respond with two words: “No English”. It is a frustrating, she says. “There are no consequences for anyone here.” Once she saw a bylaw officer who looked like he was going to give a $600 ticket to the truck driver, but didn’t because the thought of a heavy fine made him “feel bad for the hard-working driver”.
Now Alexander is planning to install cameras so they can capture the number plates of the trucks so they can submit a complaint to ICBC if their property is damaged. They are also exploring what legal options they have if the city doesn’t install a regulatory sign warning trucks not to enter.
“Something has to be done because it always happens all the time. This has to stop somehow. Hopefully, you will end this thing,” he told the Mayor and council on September 9.
Mayor Buchanan promised that the CAO will follow up.
He hasn’t heard from the official yet — and he isn’t holding his breath.