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COMMENTARY: Wake up and smell the coffee

['Community Editorial Panel with Sheila Graham']
['Community Editorial Panel with Sheila Graham']

Community Editorial Panel with Sheila Graham

I swear Facebook (and Leslie Childs) have the capacity to listen into our conversations. The other day, I was telling hubby what the subject of my next article would be when I opened my iPad and there’s a post from Leslie. ‘You are free to choose but you are not free from the consequences of your actions.’ Hey! That’s my topic!
Sadly, I see this as applying to the recent demolition of so many Amherst homes and buildings. Derelict owners are not free from the consequences of their actions. Townspeople, unfortunately, pay the price. They pay the price of having to live around such properties and then they pay the price when such potential beauty is destroyed. That it has reached the point of having to demolish heritage type Victorian homes/buildings is nothing short of brutal. Amherst Area Heritage Trust is working to ensure we wake people up to the treasures that line all our streets. These buildings in such numbers are not found in every town in Canada. What we have here is unique.
I was raised in military rental housing where, if something went wrong like a burst pipe or a broken toilet it would be fixed by workers. Because of that though I didn’t have a clue - not a clue - how to fix a toilet or deal with a burst pipe until I bought my first home some 40 years ago and quickly learned about the responsibilities of home ownership. And because I was a proud new homeowner of a house (in a low-income area that to my daughter and I was a castle), I could hardly contain my pride at being an owner.

My first night there, I left my daughter at my sisters and I slept on the floor with a piece of carpeting as a blanket and my coat scrunched up under my neck as my pillow. I thought my heart would burst with pride and happiness. But as time went by it became obvious to me that not everyone feels the same way about the place they hang their hat. They are oblivious to so many who would give their eye teeth to have a roof over their head. To them, those four walls are not their future but just something to hold the ceiling up.
I have submitted Dangerous and Unsightly Premise complaints on various places in Amherst and I feel no guilt whatsoever on doing it. People who insist on living in a neighbourhood have an obligation to their neighbours to be, well - to be neighbourly. And part of my definition of that is there should be a respect for the people with whom you share your area. By the same token, I promise to keep my yard and home in good repair and will as quickly pick up blown around garbage off your yard or roadway as I will off mine. That’s what neighbours do.
These recently demolished, or slated for demolition, residences and buildings on the chopping block have been eyesores since we moved here 14 years ago. The owner(s) have been given more than enough time to adequately repair them. Statistics show that past behaviour is an indicator of future behaviour so a person who kept a garbage strewn shack 14 years ago will probably continue keeping it for the next 14. Time to ‘cut the crap, Sally Farmer’ to quote William Goldman from one of my favourite books as a teen. And to quote another, ‘frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’ what your reasons are. If you can’t afford the upkeep or are unable or prefer not to do the repairs, then sell your place and move somewhere deep in the woods where your disregard for others is of no bother to anyone but yourself.
Rundown buildings don’t just affect housing values. They affect our attitudes to ourselves, our family and our community. They affect tourism, the potential for growth in the area and how our children perceive their community. They affect our involvement in our surroundings, our willingness to get involved in activities, our ability to receive funding to help with community projects. They play a part in forming the impressions people make as they drive through our town. I love this town and we made a conscious decision to live here. Don’t make me tattle on you about the condition of your dwelling. Don’t make that be the consequence of your action.

Sheila Graham is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel

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