Comment: With Rights Come Responsibilities

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There are two serious subjects in discussions in the area these days, and they both touch on the issue of property rights. Property owners are defending their rights to enjoy the properties that they own or where they reside, and so they should. But what happens when their rights clash with the interests of their neighbours? Whose rights trump whose?

Work has begun to prepare Needler's Mill for its next move scheduled for next week.

Work has begun to prepare Needler’s Mill for its next move.

Landowners may be tempted to sign agreements with wind turbine developers to earn a return on a property to improve their financial future, but neighbouring landowners will suffer. We may share the view that the establishment of renewable energy sources is important, and may even support the use of subsidies to jump-start alternative energy industries whose main competitor is the government itself (Ontario Hydro). The real problem with this policy is found in the fine print. These “wind farms” encompassing at least five turbines reaching over 500’ in height have a “set back” requirement from occupied homes of only 550 meters. These industrial machines are being built in our neighbours’ backyards. This erodes the market value of the most significant asset most people own- their home; whether these turbines represent real health risks or not.

Last night I attended the Council meeting to hear community input regarding the proposed Firearms By-law. One by one, speakers filed to the microphone to voice their opposition to the by-law, many referring to their property rights to explain why the legislation was off side. A reference was made to the “squeaky wheel”, the source of the complaints, as if any complaint could not possibly be justified. Therein lies the real problem.

In the end it’s all about respect. Our neighbours also have property rights, and they might see theirs differently than you see yours. When opposing views are dismissed, a bigger barrier grows and things get worse.

For some residents, guns are scary. Period. Gun owners may attribute that view to a lack of education, but if that’s the case, then education is the answer, not scorn or dismissiveness. Make them believe that gun owners have safety as their top priority. While gun owners may have a right to reasonable target practice on their properties, their neighbours also have right to the peaceful enjoyment of their property.

We do not have a noise by-law because to date, we have not needed one. We would not need a firearms by-law if we all showed respect for the rights of our neighbours. We should find a way to reasonably enjoy our rights while allowing others to do the same. When we can’t work out our problems with each other, we invite authorities to work them out on our behalf. The results of these interventions are rarely to our liking. KG

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