Issue of freedom hits home for West Van MP

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Four days after two pressure cooker bombs sent Boston into chaos, MP John Weston stood up in the House of Commons to demand MPs have the right to speak on any topic important to their constituents.

“There was a direct attack on freedom,” said Weston, who is MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, referring to the Boston Marathon bombing that had recently killed three people and injured hundreds more.

“Here we were standing in our parliament and I felt I had to weigh-in on the importance of freedom for our constituents and for our members who represent them, not just now but in the future.”

Following demands made by Weston and nine other MPs, Members of Parliament are no longer constrained by prepared caucus lists, which name who will speak in the chamber. The decision means MPs can speak on any topic, regardless of the Whip’s or Party’s stance.

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Trees, a North Shore problem

Cutting down trees causes controversy on the North Shore every year.
Cutting down trees causes controversy on the North Shore every year.

There’s little recourse for North Shore homeowners who’ve had views blocked by their neighbours’ trees

Whether coniferous or deciduous, trees are considered one of the North Shore’s greatest assets.

We would quickly lose our way of life without them.

The outdoor activities that define us — snowboarding, hiking and mountain biking to name a few — all involve thousands of trees.

Our tourist destinations revolve around them and, in fact, they’re the very reason many people live here.

Urban trees, the ones lining the streets and growing in yards, are individually cherished for bringing North Shorites closer to nature.

But adamantly protected, they can be just as strongly detested.

Trees can be a nuisance — even a threat — to some North and West Van residents.

Lining the mountains? Great.

A few houses away? Perfect.

Shading the garden? No way.

Blocking the view? Intolerable.

Obscured horizons from tall trees have caused countless feuds between neighbours, leading to the occasional criminal act.

In September, for example, a letter circulated ordering homeowners to top their trees no more than two metres above their houses — or face a $30,000 fine.

But the letter was a convincing hoax printed on official-looking West Vancouver letterhead. The police got involved, calling it a “very creative fraud” and threatening stiff penalties.

No one has been charged, yet, so the mystery still lingers.

Another case, dubbed the “Tree Massacre,” saw 35 trees hacked down at a park in North Vancouver last January.

Using hand- and chainsaws, the rogue lumberjacks cut down the mature cedars and firs, many of which were more than five decades old.

The culprits, who left some $40,000 in damage, haven’t been caught yet.

It doesn’t have to be this way

It’s undoubtedly clear, North Shore residents can do little (legally) if their neighbours’ trees grow to block their precious view.

They could, of course, civilly discuss the problem.

But if this doesn’t work — tough! — they own the house and yard, not the skyline. Yes, to be clear, this even applies to homes overlooking the ocean.

Like City of North Vancouver guidelines put it, the objective is to ensure “long-term sustainability of… urban forests.”

But not every municipality puts trees first.

Bylaws in San Francisco, for example, emphasize the “right to light and sight.”

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West Van’s “shantytown”?

A building on the north side of the 1300-block of Marine Drive in Ambleside has remained vacant since a fire last year.
A building on the north side of the 1300-block of Marine Drive in Ambleside has remained vacant since a fire last year.

West Vancouver is one of Canada’s wealthiest communities but boarded-up stores and empty lots have the mayor and others calling a certain section of the Ambleside-area a “shantytown.”

While this characterization is a stretch, the point they’re trying to make is that Ambleside desperately needs improvement.

And the nicknames don’t stop there.

“Our real estate agents refer to the 1300-block… as the Gaza Strip. A great comment on Canada’s most desirable residential community,” Mayor Michael Smith noted during a March council meeting. “It’s a disgrace. We’ve sat here as citizens and allowed it to go on.”

In the heart of Ambleside on the 1300-block, a building with boarded-up doors that has sat vacant since a fire in October is an example of how these unflattering nicknames began. Beside it an empty lot is fenced off until a gas station moves in.

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Should West Van get a new waterfront restaurant? These people say no way

WORLD-CLASS VIEW - Last January, North Vancouver resident Linda O’Day stood near the possible location of a new waterfront restaurant. Whether one could be built depends on council’s decision.
WORLD-CLASS VIEW – Last January, North Vancouver resident Linda O’Day stood near the possible location of a new waterfront restaurant. Whether one could be built depends on council’s decision.

A restaurant on Ambleside’s waterfront is a bad idea, according to many people who spoke up at a public hearing Monday evening.Along with food carts, sidewalk dining and festivals, it’s a possibility being considered for Ambleside revitalization.

A house currently sits at the prospective seaside lot on the 1400-block of Argyle Avenue, which the district now owns, but would be torn down if the restaurant is a go. The property would remain in the municipality’s possession while the full-service restaurant is run by a private owner.

But this restaurant shouldn’t be built, said some West Van residents at the public hearing.

“Why do we need the restaurant on the waterfront? We don’t,” said Ambleside resident Paul Hundal. “There’s no reason why people can’t walk across the street to Bellevue (Avenue).”

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