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Dear Urban Diplomat: My neighbour’s hideous garden suite is blocking my lake view

Dear Urban Diplomat: My neighbour's hideous garden suite is blocking my lake view
Illustration by Salini Perera

Dear Urban Diplomat, My husband and I bought our house in 2007, in large part because of the gorgeous view of Lake Ontario from the back deck. When our neighbour to the south told us he wanted to build a garden suite, we were nervous, but he assured us that the structure wouldn’t affect our sight line. Well, construction is only about halfway there, and our precious panorama is vanishing. I complained to the contractor and left a note for the owner, but he’s gone AWOL. What should we do? —Bitter Suite, Scarborough

Garden suites can be a maximum of four to six metres tall, depending on their distance from the main house. If your neighbour’s structure exceeds the limit, notify someone at the city building-and-construction department immediately. You could also file a civil suit, citing an impact on the value of your property, but it would be a costly and long-term undertaking. A cheaper (and less litigious) option might be building a higher deck.


Dear Urban Diplomat, Recently, I stumbled upon some people playing chess on the tables at Nathan Phillips Square. For fun, I decided to challenge one of the players to a few $5 games, and I won them all. Then, just as I was about to leave, the guy slapped $100 down and insisted we play again. You can guess what happened next—he whooped me. Since then, I’ve been tempted to go back and complain. Any advice? —Sore Loser, Corso Italia

I’d put this down to a teachable moment. You gladly pocketed the money when you won, and even if your opponent lured you into a false sense of superiority, you bit—and that’s on you. Just be glad you didn’t part with more money. If you really want to get revenge, play the long con: take some chess lessons, up your skill level, then go back and hustle the hustler.


Dear Urban Diplomat, I live in a downtown condo, and all the storage lockers look clean and organized except the one beside mine. It contains fist-size dust bunnies, ratty rolled-up carpeting and a bunch of other junk. I don’t want to complain to the condo board because the locker’s owner would probably know it was me and I’m wary of starting a war. But I can only imagine what sort of insects are festering in the filth. Thoughts? —Storage Wars, Entertainment District

My first step would be to leave a friendly handwritten note on their locker, asking if they would be willing to tidy up a bit, but be prepared for your message to go unheeded. If those oversized dust balls are any indication, your neighbour doesn’t visit their locker very often. The next step is the one you’re trying to avoid. As the owner of the neighbouring locker, you’ve got every right to alert the condo board. Do you run the risk of inciting a squabble? Maybe, but it sure beats calling an exterminator to clear creepy-crawlies from your Christmas decorations.


Dear Urban Diplomat, Last weekend, my partner and I left the kids with a sitter and treated ourselves to a nice dinner at an upscale restaurant. Seated beside us was a young couple with a rambunctious four-year-old. The kid was yelling and running around the room and even snatched a piece of bread from another table. I wanted to complain to the parents, but my wife didn’t want me to make a fuss. Who was right? —Food Fight, North York

I sympathize. Parents with tantrum-prone toddlers should either dine early in the evening or leave the kids at home. And staff at fine-dining establishments should be trained to handle such situations by moving the family to a far corner or bringing the hangry hellion a distraction (breadsticks can work wonders). As for who was right: if the staff aren’t proactive, tell a manager that the other table is being disruptive. If that fails and the youngster invades your personal space, then you’re entitled to take it up with the parents.

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Send your questions to the Urban Diplomat at urbandiplomat@torontolife.com.

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