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By: Laura Keil
What does it take to be a good neighbour?

Is it keeping our property in prime condition? Is it labouring to build a beautiful development? Is it keeping quiet or being friendly? Is it doing the best we can or keeping a village-set standard?
To build a good neighbour into a bylaw is a tricky thing. The Village of Valemount Good Neighbour bylaw outlines some of the reasons a person can be a poor neighbour – but it’s still humans that define what unsightly or cluttered mean.

Not everyone has lots of money to paint their house or do landscaping. Who is the village to say what that person should do?

In a tourism town, it makes sense that some people are angered by properties that are left to rot or overgrow with wild grasses and shrubs. It’s an identity crisis. How can we be the world’s butler if we haven’t combed our hair?

Not everyone agrees that combing our hair matters. After all, it’s authentic.

Luckily or unluckily, we have a village that can handle complaints for us. We don’t have to even speak to the property owner we have a problem with. No direct confrontation means no direct blow-out. Crisis averted.
But beyond unsightliness there is a feeling a building a community together, instead of individually. It’s not one man on a mission, hell bent to get there, no matter the cost – it’s all of us working together. After all, we all pay and work hard to live here.

Can the Good Neighbour Bylaw help us? Perhaps. But if we are still on opposite sides of the fence, without any understanding of the other side, are we really improving the town?

It’s easy to blame and get angry about things. I do it too. It’s human. What I aspire to do, is seek out what it is that’s making things the way they are.

As a journalist it’s my job to seek out the various sides of an issue. It’s hard to do that without compassion for each side. As a resident seeking change, it’s much the same. Understanding the forces at play makes sure heads stay cool and emotion doesn’t clobber an otherwise straightforward problem.

After all, where is the bylaw that defends those people who are making huge investments in our community?

Unfortunately there isn’t one. And so if the property they own is unsightly to neighbours, they get smacked with a letter asking them to mow it or clean it up.
It’s hard to be a good neighbour all the time. What one person’s cup of tea is not another’s. Scrap engine parts and vehicles laying around like pop cans may appear like flowers to one person but not to another. As an ironic sidenote, there is some beautiful fragrant baby’s breath growing in the Saas Fee field. I’m hoping the Good Neighbour Bylaw doesn’t have to be just form letters, but conversations, laughter and thanks.

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