Gated Communities

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Mariner's HavenI’m not a big fan of gated communities, but even if I don’t personally want to live in one myself, I understand the reason for them, and sympathize with homeowners in those zones.

Apartments are basically gated towers that restrict access to residents or keyholders and no one complains that they isolate the residents. Few people who live in one would welcome strangers walking up and down their halls.

If a home owner in other parts of town has the right to fence in his or her property and keep people out or otherwise restrict access, then why shouldn’t a part of community have that same right – especially if that part is entirely on private land, with no public roads, trails or other access?

Such is the case with many condo corps. Condo corporation developments are often built on private roads, and pay for internal services like road and sidewalk maintenance, snowplowing, greenspace management and garbage pickup privately. However, they also pay a portion of their municipal taxes for the public services, even if they don’t benefit from that cost.

Should they allow just anyone to drive on their roads, to leave their litter behind, to use their sidewalks and greenspaces when they are not publicly funded? It hardly seems fair.

So why has town staff recommended against Mariner’s Haven erecting a gate to keep strangers out of their space? The public doesn’t own or pay for any of that space or road.

It’s private land – a condo corp – and stuck way off the main thoroughfares on a private road, with no immediate plans to increase that access. You won’t think anyone would trespass on it. But since it was built, a hotel has sprung up next door and tourists are entering the property and wandering around. The folks who own homes there don’t want strangers coming onto their properties and I don’t blame them.

Now I don’t think the tourists and visitors to the hotel are doing anything wrong – the police reports show no damage or vandalism, merely annoyance or nuisance calls. They’re just doing what any normal visitor to a different community will do: explore it. However, they are exploring private property, although likely they are unaware of that. Would having big ‘no trespassing’ signs posted all along the boundary be more welcoming than a gate?

I encourage visitors to explore our public spaces; our parks, downtown and trails instead, and it should be up to the hotel to offer them guidance to more appropriate places to visit during their stay. But the hotel can’t control their guests. People may just wander onto the property, since it is so close and ungated.

A gate isn’t really very onerous for visitors: I’ve been to many places in my travels where there are gated or off-limits areas. Good tourists respect local custom and practice, but may not always know the rules. And for locals – we already have access to the many other roads, trails, water and parks without needing to go into Mariner’s Haven.

Until such time as a public walkway or other public access is provided into Mariner’s Haven, then I say allow them their gate. As for when a public access walkway will be built – it was first proposed in the 1986 Official Plan and to date, almost 30 years later, it’s still not even in the planning stage. Personally I doubt one will ever be built, and question both the need and expense.

The staff reports suggests a gate will not “foster a positive sense of community” but neither will having trespassers. If a gate makes the homeowners feel more secure, less anxious and happier, then they will be more positive about this community. Let them have it.

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