So You Think You Love Where You Live?

Why did you choose the property you bought? Was it location? Was it design? We bought our property 7 years ago for a few different reasons. The main one was the land itself – space to grow our little farm, barns for the animals, land to make hay, pastures, and gardens. Our second reason for choosing this place was also the land – a variety of trees including old growth white pine,huge oaks and maples, rivers running through, hills and vales, neighbours close enough to see but far enough to afford privacy. And really good neighbours, at that – we thought. It seemed like the perfect place to find mental clarity and to work with respect for the nature that came with it. We started reclaiming the neglected property and making long-term plans to build a couple of rustic cabins as a way to grow the business through agri-tourism and let others enjoy what we have.

This summer our dreams came crashing down when our neighbours decided to turn their property into a sandpit, and this is a tale of warning. This could happen to you too.

How would you react if bulldozers started running up and down your property line, within just a few feet, from the break of dawn until after dark. How would you react if that continued 7 days a week, if you could hear it in your house and from any spot on your property? I’m willing to bet you would go to your municipality’s by-laws and search for the one that addressed noise.

If you live in Kings County, Nova Scotia, you’d soon find that was a fool’s errand. There ARE no by-laws addressing noise unless you live in New Minas, and most of us do not. Want to keep your neighbours up all night? Go for it!

I do understand the reasons for this. Kings County is largely an agricultural region, so obviously a noise by-law would have the potential to hamper such operations – unless, of course, the people putting the by-law together were creative enough to think outside the box. The solution seems obvious to me: agricultural commodities are time sensitive, operations such as aggregate mining and forestry, not so much. How difficult would it be to implement a by-law that takes this into consideration? Farmers might run their tractors late into the night a few days a year to get the hay in or to get planting done in time, but harvesting, planting and crop maintenance are sporadic activities. They do not go on in perpetuity.

How about the fact that those same bulldozers are pushing dirt and trees and debris literally right to the edge of the property line? You would probably go back to the by-laws looking for some sort of setback that had to be adhered to. You will find setbacks for the building of fences and structures. But if someone wants to pile debris at the very edge of your property line you have no recourse, there are no regulations. Even if large rocks roll down onto your property and dirt washes into your fields and streams. Nobody cares. If the operation is a pit that occupies less than 2 hectares, the Dept. of Environment won’t regulate it. They also won’t allow the counties to regulate it. If you live next door to it, you’re pretty much screwed.

So now you’ve invested in a property where the squirrels and hawks are drowned out by back-up-beepers and the rumble of heavy machinery all day, every day. You have to watch bulldozers and dump trucks ferry dirt directly along your property line all day, every day. There is no spot on your property, including inside your house, where you can seek refuge from the noise. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it except watch your property value drop and learn to hate where you live.

So many people have said, “call the county”, “call your MLA”, “call your councilor”, “call the Department of Environment”, and so many people have truly believed that those politicians and regulatory bodies would help. We’ve called them all and so many people were wrong. There are no regulations, and there is seemingly no appetite to institute some.

We aren’t the first people in this province to go through this. In 2017 the CBC ran a story about a family just a few kilometers from here who also live at the edge of a sandpit. They had sand blowing onto their kitchen counters. We are hearing stories from as far as Cape Breton of people dealing with the ramifications of unregulated sandpits next door.

So do your homework. Before you buy your property, don’t just consider what is in front of your eyes. Consider what COULD be in front of your eyes, and in your ears, and in your head, and in every waking (and sleeping) hour of your day. Check and see what your municipality’s bylaws don’t cover, and find out why. Kings County has some of the strictest bylaws in the province – I can’t move a sink inside my house without a permit. But somehow it’s OK to drive a neighbourhood to distraction with heavy machinery and noise – no permits required for that.

I’m all for doing what you want with your own property as long as it’s not causing harm to others or the environment, and hey, we have tractors and we use them. I’m not against development and I understand that sometimes noise is necessary, but there comes a point where my tax dollars should be working to ensure that I can enjoy the investment I made.

The Kings County website claims that this is “an excellent place to live and work”. Obviously the person who wrote that doesn’t live and work next to a sandpit. I

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