News / Vancouver

Judge orders Port Coquitlam man to 'cease and desist' using fireplace that bugs neighbours

Two next-door neighbours of a Port Coquitlam man have won a "cease and desist" order after a judge heard how the neighbour's fireplace produced a thick, noxious smoke that prevented them from enjoying life in their own homes and backyards.

Patricia Churcher and Feror Mittelberg took the unusual step of going to court to stop their neighbour, Gary Richards, from burning materials in his residential fireplace that they claimed caused an excessive and unreasonable amount of smoke, which became a nuisance.

The neighbours also applied for an order to stop Richards from using commercial-style power tools, except in accordance with the city bylaw that sets the hours of the day and days of the week that such power tools can be operated.

The court was told that Richards had a collection of used wood, including plywood and painted wood, stored in his carport and often used power tools at night to cut up the wood, which he burned in his fireplace, causing excessive smoke to billow out his chimney and into neighbouring yards.

The court heard from another neighbour, who had lived in the area for 23 years, who said the "horrible" smoke got worse in the summer of 2013 and has continued, which has irritated his eyes and nose.

"I had allergies and use an inhaler," explained the neighbour, who added that the smoke had permeated his home, carpets, drapes, and furniture.

"I cannot open the windows or doors of my home when the smoke happens and feel like a prisoner in my own home."

When the neighbour complained to Richards about the smoke, Richards said he wasn't concerned about the adverse effects, the court was told.

The same neighbour's wife told the court that she cannot enjoy gardening when the smoke billows out of Richards' chimney.

Richards did not show up the hearing, which heard the evidence of five neighbours and included photos of the smoke.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Greyell ordered Richards to stop using his wood-burning fireplace, and to only use power tools when allowed by the city bylaw.

"The residents of the neighbourhood are entitled to be able to enjoy the use of their properties without being unlawfully annoyed, prejudiced or disturbed as is occurring in the present case," the judge concluded.

"Whatever it is the respondent is burning, be it driftwood, plywood, household garbage, or unseasoned firewood, is causing, in my view, a significant nuisance to his neighbours and must be restrained."

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