“I know you probably can’t do anything about it.”

That was the last line of an email I received at 12:06 AM in the early minutes of the past Saturday morning. It was from a resident at wits end with an out of control house party. It was the first email and third call I had received that day about similar situations and it troubles me that we can’t get a handle on this annual concern. But more than this, what truly bothers me is that a resident feels – not at all without reason – that a Councillor or Council “…can’t do anything about…” a situation that is entirely within our responsibilities, our authority, and our resources to address.

It is not uncommon for residents to wonder why Council does not put more muscle behind things like:  social housing, single use plastic bags, to name two recent requests to Council. In fact council contributes to these community issues as it can, although in these cases the Town of Wolfville is largely limited to moral suasion and/creating opportunities through zoning and other planning initiatives.

Quality of neighbourhood life however is ours to address. We have a variety of current resources – bylaws, our contract with the RCMP, our compliance officer, communication initiatives, and  moral suasion with our partners – Acadia, the ASU, local businesses and landlords. And yet, with these tools and resources – and more that we know are being used in other communities to address similar issues – it is not uncommon for me to receive this sentiment from a rightly stressed out resident (and some businesses).

Some residents, not directly troubled by the noise, garbage, property damage, and yes, public urination, question why the Town spends so much time talking about the core. Perhaps they are right – it is time to stop musing about these issues, stop thinking that part measures are enough. It is time to use more than moral suasion. Soft compliance warnings and discussion work well when the players stay the same, when we can build a relationship with the individual landlords, temporary residents, student leaders. The reality is that while these “institutions” stay the same the individual players change annually. And so, we need tactics that recognize this reality. (Because I know some will read this and suggest I am tarring all “temporary residents of the core” let me be very very clear – I know it is not all students, not necessarily Acadia students, not any student all the time etc. But the reality is that 99.9% of the time, the issue highlighted here, would not be here but for the fact that we have a transient population, often away from home for the first time).

No resident should be told by authorities, or by temporary residents, that maybe the best thing for them to do would be to move [yes that happens]. No resident should feel that moving is their only option for a regular good night sleep. No resident should feel that they can’t enjoy their property or neighbourhood. All residents must abide by community standards written into our bylaws and policies. Somehow, what we are currently doing is not enough to handle a manageable issue – much more “addressable” than traffic through the four-way stop I believe!

Enforcement alone is not the answer. Bylaws alone are not the answer. A councillor, a council, the town, alone will not find the solution. However, Town councillors have a responsibity, and council has the authority, to take the leadership to address this perennial issue in a manner that will ultimately save our finite resources to be directed to all the other important issues and responsibilities we have in this town.

As I reread this post I recognize it sounds like a stump speach. It is not. It is a heartfelt call to my fellow councillors, Town staff and Town partners, to do what we must to ensure that soon no resident ever feels that their only option is to leave a neighbourhood in which they want to live.

 

4 comments

  1. As a former Acadia student and grad that has lived as a non student for the past 4 years in the core of wolfville. I urge the community to have events that attract all parties involved to get to know each other. Street events for example to start a dialogue, host an open house event in your home etc. Starting with increased regulation and enfor cement is not the most effective way to handle this type of issue. For example, if one invites two angry parties that don’t know each other to an event, the risk of increased anger and violence is high. Build relationships first. Think about what would motivate all parties to come to an event. The first event of the year should be a “get to know your neighbour kind of thing,” not a noise by-law event. In addition, tools should be provided of what to do if there is a loud party or another altercation besides calling the police.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good Points Duncan. There are some things we can do before things get too out of hand, like notifying neighbours of a party in advance with a sense of when it will end and the numbers anticipated. When a neighbour knows who the landlord is, that (and I have this on personal experience) can go a long way to addressing and curtailing the type of situations we dealt with the past weekend. The Town is not at liberty to give out this information due to privacy reasons so it is often up to the landlord to make the first overture with contact information. The good ones – and we have several of those in town – take this initiative. Where the landlord is unknown e.g., out of town, usually out of province or even country, or if they don’t care, then there are usually problems. Even with a conscientious landlord sometimes parties get out of hand with an unexpected number of guests. My husband went to a neighbouring house a few years ago – a few hundred guests spilling onto the lawn and street- and was asked “if he wanted a pitchfork in the …”. So things do get out of hand and the softer compliance initiatives are not enough. As with every situation of co-living we will do better when we know each other.

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  2. Get some RCMP walking presence on the streets and prosecute to the fulllest extent of the law and kick these jackasses out of university, like crows these simpletons will learn once a few of their number are hung as rationalism does not seem to work and this is more than “kids having some harmless fun”

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  3. Wendy – I have been seeing many social media posts in the past few weeks about vehicles being stomped on and heavily damaged, atm’s being vomited on, someones child picking up a used condom in their yard and the same children growing up year after year in an environment where they recognize the signs of drunken people from the way the are walking (er. . .stumbling) around the front lawn next door at 11:00am. (This couple, moved. . . this year. Enough was enough for them. A wonderful, professional couple, with a lovely young family).

    This behaviour is not tolerated in other University Towns. There needs to be a lot of discussion happening outside of social media posts – there needs to be consistent and appropriate consequences to those who fail to abide by the laws, destroy and vandalize property, are indecent, or disorderly in public due to intoxication.

    It is high time someone took a stronger stance on this. I am not even a resident of Wolfville, but I sure do LOVE to spend time (and money) there. I applaud your post, and your position on ALL of this. You have a lot of heart. . . and would have my support ALWAYS.

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