Not so neighbourly
Dispute over parking of bus drives wedge between property owners; town says nothing it can do
A dispute between two neighbours in Carbonear that has simmered beneath the surface for months has bubbled over, with both sides now openly trading insults and accusations over the parking of a full-sized school bus in a private driveway, on a residential street.
Caught in the middle is the Town of Carbonear, with officials saying there’s very little they can do to fix the situation under the current bylaws.
After many months of lobbying members of council, writing politicians at all levels and quietly trying to find a resolution, the owners of No. 12 Park Avenue, Randy and Daphne Pike, contacted The Compass last week in what they assert was a last-ditch effort to bring attention to their complaint.
They say the noise and exhaust from a bus that parks less than 10 feet from their home is making their lives unbearable, and they dread the start of a new school year because the situation will only get worse.
They say the noise of the diesel engine idling in the morning prevents them from sleeping, and they have to turn off their air exchanger nightly because exhaust from the vehicle circulates through their house.
“I did not want to go public with this, but if the council is not willing to do anything, this is my only option,” Randy said last week.
They are so frustrated that they are beginning to regret moving to the neighbourhood.
“If someone offered me a good chunk of change for this house, I’d be gone,” Randy added.
But their neighbour and the man who drives the bus, Rex Vaters, makes no apologies, and has little sympathy. He contends the Pikes agreed to let him park the bus in his driveway, and charges that the Pikes are complainers. If they don’t like it, they should move, Vaters stated.
He said the bus is “no louder than a pickup” and desribed Pike as “just one of those guys.”
Town officials say Vaters is not breaking any municipal bylaws. Council passed a new parking of commercial vehicles bylaw in 2009, but it does not pertain to buses, said town administrator Cynthia Davis.
“ Those regulations only refer to vehicles carrying hazardous materials, such as an oil truck,” said Davis.
Davis noted that staff and members of council have done a “ fair amount of review and investigation” into the matter, but have to consider the best interest of the entire community.
“ There’s other neighbourhoods in town where you do have a number of people ... That’s their job. They do park the bus in their driveway, and those neighbours don’t have a concern with it.
“So we have to look at the whole situation, because once a regulation is brought in, it can’t be brought in for one particular individual. It would have to apply to the town as a whole.”
Vaters has been parking the bus in his driveway for several years, and the Pikes say their patience with the situation has slowly eroded.
Randy said discussions with his neighbour have been “ heated” at times, and he suggested Vaters was being unreasonable. He said the company that owns the bus is located less than a kilometre away, and Vaters could simply park his bus there.
Randy is a former member of the Canadian Forces who spent 25 years in the service. He was medically discharged five years ago, and decided to move back to his hometown and build a house on family land.
Randy and his wife both have health issues, and fear the exhaust spewing from the bus may be harmful.
And he’s less than happy with the treatment he’s received from the town.
Randy charged that if a member of the council were in his situation, or if this same scenario was playing out in a more affluent neighbourhood, something would have been done.
“ We have no impact on the community. We’re just retired people who moved here,” Randy stated.
They were advised by officials with Municipal Affairs that their only option may be legal action. But they’ve ruled that out, saying they are on a fixed income and do not believe it should be necessary.
Randy said that during the school year, Vaters starts the bus at about 7:15 each morning, and lets it idle for “15 or 20 minutes.” Vaters agreed recently to pull the bus ahead after starting it, but it’s not a solution, Randy said.
“ It’s like a truck coming through your house,” said Randy.
Asked why he needs to park the bus in his driveway, Vaters replied: “It’s convenient.”
He explained that his wife uses their only vehicle for work, and “I’m not going to walk back and forth up there and get soaking wet just to satisfy this guy.”
Vaters said his previous bus was very loud, but explained he now drives a new one that is quieter and cleaner.
Vaters said Pike has also complained about other issues, and he has tried his best to be courteous and accommodating.
“ This is the mentality I have to deal with,” Vaters said.
Pike, meanwhile, said there’s a clause in the home-based business bylaw that council could use to solve the dispute. It states that activities that inconvenience or cause nuisance to the neighbouring property owners are not permitted. The bylaw also states that commercial vehicles with a payload capacity of no greater than two tonnes will be permitted on a lot.
“ They’re being purposely evasive. They do not want to address this issue because there are so many more similar examples of this in the town,” Randy said.
Mayor Sam Slade could not be reached for comment Friday.
Randy and Daphne Pike of Carbonear say they are fed up with their neighbour, who continues to park a full-sized school bus in his driveway.
Randy and Daphne Pike.