Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The sinkhole in the city

The unique old home that used to stand on the lot to the south of us.
Usually you visit here to read about our adventures at Turtle Falls. Today I will write about the adventure we're experiencing at our house in the city instead. As many of you know, we live in a very small house on a very small lot, just 35 feet wide, in the downtown heritage district. The houses on our street are a varied bunch, ranging from single storey clapboard bungalows to 2½ storey brick homes and a 3 storey apartment building thrown in for good measure. The lot next door, and directly south of us, is also only 35 feet wide. It had one of the most unique and oldest homes on the street until January of this year. Long story short, that house went up for sale last year and the buyers have since torn this house down despite the fact that it was on the inventory list of houses with significant heritage interest. It's a headshaker that the city planners and the heritage department let this happen. Needless to say, the neighbourhood was up in arms over the intentions of these new owners and the whole fight, led by Ras and myself, took us all to the city's Committee of Adjustment and then the Ontario Municipal Board. This is one year old news and something we're trying hard to forget about and will not explain any further. Suffice it to say the new owners of the lot next door are being allowed to build a monster home on a 35 foot lot. Bye-bye sunshine!

Footings of the hotel next door are done.
Fast forward to the present. The mosquito-ridden cesspool of a hole that has been our neighbour for almost 11 months now is finally under construction. We came home from several days away last week to find the hole, now much larger, and the concrete footings nearing completion. There was one lone fellow in the hole working away on smoothing the freshly poured concrete. He looked so tiny in the massive hole I couldn't help but ask him, "What are you building? A hotel?" He agreed the hole was too big for the lot and then continued to tell us the problems they will have trying to deal with setting up the forms for the foundation. He was a skinny little dude like me so that gives a little bit of a clue to how tightly this house is being squeezed onto a little lot. I look at the pictures and it certainly doesn't give the same perspective of huge as when you're standing on the edge of the abyss! Did you know that if you click on any photo in this blog it will show you a larger view of said photo? Go ahead, give it a try! Cool.

Really? You think plastic will work?
We're all excited now because finally, the building will get under way and somewhere down the road when it's all said and done maybe we can start adjusting to living in the shade of this ridiculous house and start forgetting about the bad feelings that have been stirred up because of it.

I tweeted this picture yesterday and wondered if the flimsy plastic sheets would be able to retain the walls of the dig with the several days of rain being forecast. This is actually a really cool picture and the more I looked at it the more I wished it would freeze so I could go skating on it! Just a little more rain is needed first to make it a super smooth surface. I really ought to be careful of the things I wish for.

And then the rain came!

This has got to be one of the most common Murphy's Law moments ever. This also happened to us when we did our renovation. As soon as the hole gets dug the rain won't stop. Why is that?

The weather elements sure are providing our new neighbours with a good dose of early Karmic grief. Ah...Karma...don't ya just love it when it's not actually working against you, but rather against those we feel so richly deserve it? We didn't have any mudslides in the dig during our renovation, even though it rained for days afterwards. Huh, guess we didn't overstep the ideals of the neighbourhood during our renovation. We tried to set these new people on the right track when they started in with their applecart upsetting attitude. They weren't interested, I guess. Oh well, c'est la vie!

It's like I have a crystal ball or something!
So, as I said earlier, I should be careful for what I wish. This morning was really rather interesting, after all of last night's rain. The remaining portion of the privacy hedge between our two lots is now in the hole! Apparently, the flimsy plastic sheeting was NOT enough to hold the walls of the monster house dig through all the rain. Mother Nature took care of the last bit of the hedge that was going to be torn down sooner or later anyway. I guess she thought it looked ridiculous too and offered a helping hand.

This photo just shows the side closest to us. The house on the other side is dealing with the same thing except with the added fear that the hole is within 2 feet of his fence and foundation. And being one of the original houses on the street, with an old stone basement, it's no wonder the builder is actually frightened about what could happen over there. It's predicted this fence will be in the hole before the rain stops. We at least have 10 feet between our house and the sinkhole...well, where the hedge fell from now is about only 7-8 feet from our foundation. It's questionable whether part of our gate will end up in the hole or not. I think we'll be good though. Dave, the very nice man from the construction company, has worked very hard draping more plastic sheeting to keep our cobblestone walkway from falling into the sinkhole.

Dave was also a little concerned that Ruth was going to end up in the hole. Ruth is our 6 foot, 1000 pound, concrete statue that has stood at the edge of our garden for 16 years now. Ras and I rescued her this morning as soon as we discovered the hedge was in the hole. All we could do was lay her down because she's so heavy and it was raining pretty hard at the time. At first, she was face down but then I was worried she'd snap her neck as all the weight was on her forehead, so we turned her over on her back. I feel bad for her laying out there in the rain, exposed to the elements. Almost makes me want to put a tent up for her...or throw a waterproof blanket over her. Way to treat a lady Tony! For those who don't know...Tony is the neighbour. We blame him for everything...it's a little game we play to help us keep from crying.

Holy crap...hang on...there was just a big crashing sound...be right back!

Good grief...things are sliding into the hole faster than you can shake a stick. Look at the blue wire fencing at the foreground of the photo. That's been standing stalwart for 11 months and now it's falling into the abyss! See the wooden fence in the background of the photo...?

Now you see the wooden fence...

Now you don't. It's taken a dive too. Somebody...call the Coast Guard! Call Noah! Call somebody!!

Now you don't!

Ok, things have calmed for the moment. There's been no crashing for all of 10 minutes. Now I can focus on the rest of the story again.

Nice builder-guy, Dave, can't believe the city allowed this infill project to happen. Our neighbouring city to the southwest would never have allowed such a fiasco to happen in its heritage district, so he says. And he would know, he's the guy building new places all over this region.

At this point, all we can do is laugh. We've done our bit to fight the good fight and this city seems to care less about its heritage district than our new neighbours care about us, so there's nothing left to do but laugh. There are no tears left to shed. We have no more energy left for this situation. It has taken too much from us already.

Thank the good Lord we have Turtle Falls to move forward with. And once it is built, we may just say bye-bye to the city we have loved for over 20 years.

Thankful I know how to swim,

All joking aside now. Here's what's happened since I got the main part of the story close to completion. Our side is now starting to slide into the hole, right up to the edge of the cobblestones. There was 2 feet of earth there just a few minutes before I snapped this first photo. Our neighbour on the other side of the hole is scrambling to try and save his foundation. And the rain just keeps on falling! What a mess.

Hey Tony...Cha-ching!!

Mudslide reaches right to the edge of our walkway and takes out
our underground irrigation and lighting systems

Neighbour's foundation is close to being exposed

How long until our gate slides into the hole?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hydro sends me off on a Rant

Not having owned more than one property at a time prior to acquiring Turtle Falls, Ras & I are just now experiencing what those of you with seasonal properties have been experiencing for years...the picking of your pocket by the utility companies! This rant is directed specifically at Hydro but it could apply to all of them, since they all treat their customers equally appallingly. Don't we, Ras & I, live in a Pollyanna world, thinking that using no electricity for the next 6 months would result in no hydro bills for the next 6 months? There needs to be an "Occupy Utilities" movement, or something. It's astounding that we let these companies charge us for services not rendered. But that's what good Canadians do...we just take it, politely...all while bending over!

I'm in utter disbelief of the Hydro One bill that arrived in my mailbox this past week for Turtle Falls and my subsequent phone call to customer service.

Before turning off the breaker panel for the season, and thanks to Priscilla's hydro-hogging fridge, we used a total of $12.78 worth of electricity, but got charged 9.2% more for the electricity that got lost during transmission, for a grand total of $13.94. Add the delivery charge, regulatory charge, the ridiculous debt retirement charge, account set-up charge and, of course, HST and the bill came to $107.21. Now, I know this won't put us into bankruptcy any time soon but it's the principal of it.

I really don't know which one of these charges I dislike the most, but today I'll focus my rant on the delivery charge. It cost $55.10 to deliver that $13.94 worth of electricity. It only cost $50.11 to deliver $51.16 worth of electricity to our house in the city. I was told by Hydro One customer service that the delivery charge is based on the amount of electricity delivered. Am I the only one seeing an imbalance here? That's $3.95 to deliver every dollar of electricity to Turtle Falls vs. 98¢ to deliver each dollar of electricity to our city house. Then I'm told by the customer service agent to expect a monthly charge for the ability to have hydro at the ready if I need it. I told her I wouldn't be needing any until May and that's when I thought I heard her ask me to bend over. I could be mistaken about that though. I really want to Occupy...something! This short video pretty much covers how I feel about Hydro right now.

My only saving grace is that once our passive solar, off-the-grid house is built we can kiss Hydro One goodbye. We will become our own electricity producer, and because we will be producing the electricity right where it will be used there will be no transmission loss adjustment factor, no delivery charges, no regulatory charges, no debt retirement charges, no HST, and best of all, no power outages. No, wait...the best part will be no invoices from Hydro One in my mail box. Or...is the best part the family gatherings at our house when the power goes out at theirs? That should be about one family reunion per month based on our experiences at Turtle Falls so far. Who knew the dependable part-time power service of Hydro One would be such a big player in bringing families together?

Ok...I'm done now,