You wouldn’t think that ordinary good behaviour would have to be spelled out, but sometimes, putting something down in black and white has a way of making it clear to everyone where things stand.
Being a good neighbour probably can’t ever be effectively legislated; nor should it be. It’s a kind of give and take. Maybe you have guests in who stay out on the deck later than expected, and maybe you then make allowances when the same thing happens next door a week or two later.
You try to make sure you don’t keep the neighbours or their kids awake, and if dogs or gulls get into your garbage, you clean it up instead of leaving it strewn across the sidewalk or neigbouring yards.
In other words, pretty broadly, it’s a matter of treating people the way you’d like them to treat you.
In the letters section of today’s Weekend Telegram, there’s a letter from St. John’s resident Sally Rowsell talking about the way some neighbours simply don’t understand that they might be a nuisance or, in fact, that they might represent a danger to their neighbours.
In it, Rowsell refers to the city of Calgary’s Good Neighbour Guide: it’s a document the city posts online to help walk neighbours through the ins and outs of living in the close confines of a major city. (The document is currently under revision, but you can view a copy of the old version here: http://www.stopcanineprofiling.com/
Municipalities in this province may well have similar documents, but what’s remarkable about Calgary’s Good Neighbour Guide is how thorough it is — everything from how and when you have to clear snow and ice from your sidewalk (yes, that’s the homeowner’s responsibility in Calgary) to how trees have to be trimmed and the size of sheds that need permits, and of those that don’t. That your cats have to be licensed and have a licensing tag; that swearing and spitting in public isn’t allowed. What side of a path you should walk your dog on — how long a leash should be, and whether you can have a leashed pet with you when you bicycle. What you can burn in an outside fire pit and when.
The guide spells out what a resident’s responsibilities are, but it also spells out what kind of rights residents have, right down to when they can expect to sleep peacefully without the sound of a lawnmower intruding into their slumbers.
It’s not something that every municipality needs. But it would be a helpful, thorough booklet that could be sent out to a household every time the tax rolls changed and a new owner was registering with a municipality as the new taxpayer for the property.
It’s a shame to think that we don’t still live in a world where we can expect the people around us to automatically recognize that our personal behaviour impacts others.
But then again, a little clarity is not a bad thing.