Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dunvegan Gardens - Yet Another Perspective

It seems this is the issue that will not die, and I'm rather beginning to wish I'd never tackled it at all. Why? Because it's very complicated (and frankly I like things simple), and because I'm seeing both sides of the issue. Today I had the opportunity to speak to Brad Friesen, owner of Dunvegan Gardens, who kindly gave up his time to share his side of this issue. When I spoke to Andrew Thorne last week I wrote about seeing the issue from the side of Mr. Thorne and the Draper Road residents he represents. Today I write about Mr. Friesen's side.

Mr. Friesen disputes a lot of the facts that Mr. Thorne had given me, including the numbers of trucks using Garden Lane (the road into Dunvegan and shared by the Thorne family as well - incidentally Dunvegan Gardens maintains this shared road). He disputes that his business is in contravention of the bylaw. Mr. Friesen kindly gave me copies of many documents to support his position, and I've read them over with interest. I could go all-journalistic and start quoting numbers, but that's not really my thing, so I won't. I will just say that I don't think Mr. Friesen and Mr. Thorne agree on much about anything, really.

Beside the basic facts being in contention so is the real root of this issue. I think there is a sense that this has become a personal dispute as opposed to one over true issues, and I suspect this might be true. Disputes between neighbours often start as being "about" something real, like a fence, and quickly degenerate into arguments that become more about personalities. Positions become entrenched, compromise is rejected, and eventually it ends up being fought in the court of public opinion, and, in this case, city hall.

I'm going to be very honest here. I like Brad Friesen. He strikes me as a stand-up guy, honest and hardworking. He just wants to continue running a successful business. I also happen to like Andrew Thorne. I think he's a stand-up guy, too, and he just wants to enjoy a peaceful rural existence. The sad part is that it seems these two goals are diametrically opposed. Dunvegan's operations appear to infringe on the other residents' peaceful life. That wish for a peaceful life is negatively impacting Dunvegan's operations of a much-loved greenhouse and landscaping business. And round and round it goes. I told Mr. Friesen that I think it's unfortunate that it has come to this, essentially a neighbourhood in turmoil and dissension. A once peaceful neighbourhood that is now causing great stress to all the residents. It's now also a neighbourhood that will have it's fate decided by the municipal government (and frankly better them than me, because at the end of this someone is walking away unhappy). It's a lovely area out there on Draper Road - a beautiful place for a home, like Mr. Thorne's, and for a greenhouse, like Mr. Friesen's.

Do you know what I think about all this (aside from wishing to god I'd had the good sense to not start writing about it at all)? I'm not sure what I think, to be honest. I have tremendous sympathy for Mr. Thorne and the other residents, and I completely see their side of things, as I wrote previously. I also have tremendous sympathy for Brad Friesen and Dunvegan Gardens, as I think he is truly just a guy trying to run a business, and I see that side, too (and as I've made clear before, I love Dunvegan Gardens in general). I also think my inability to pick a side won't be very popular and I imagine neither Mr. Friesen nor Mr. Thorne is going to be very fond of me after these posts, but in my defense I've listened to both sides, seen both sides and walked away pretty much where I began - with loyalties and sympathies to both sides.

I'm not a trained journalist, people, and bloggers "take sides" all the time because a blog, after all, is really just about opinions. On this issue, though, I will not and cannot do so. All I can say is that the entire situation troubles me because I hate to see these disputes descend into a place where there is no solution that will please everyone, and where someone loses. I understand that Dunvegan Gardens will be taking this issue to city council, and eventually council will need to make a decision about the future of Dunvegan and Draper Road in general. I will follow that decision-making process with great interest. I might blog about that decision when it is made, but for now I'm going to blog about other topics for awhile, because frankly the whole thing gives me a headache. I'm pretty sure it's not doing much for Brad Friesen, Andrew Thorne, and all the others affected, either. I have the good fortune of being on the outside and able to just walk away. Sadly they are mired in the middle of it all, and I feel for them. I feel for all of them, people, all of them.

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