The Garden and Neighbors

My stomach is tied in knots. Today has been a stressful day for me. Earlier in the week I spoke to our neighbors about our plans to take over our yard. Yes, we have a yard which is twice as big as the one we now enjoy, we pay our taxes for that yard, yet we are unable to use it. Why? Because 20 years ago a shed was illegally constructed on the border of our land, and because of the way the houses have been separated and land issues evolved, we are required to give a 3 meter thoroughfare to our neighbors. As is the neighbor on our left, which she has done by creating a driveway. We give our three meters, but at this moment it is through the very center of our land, and I am hoping to change that to create it on the back side of our land, and give us use of our land to build a larger garden area for us to use.

So, this morning, after speaking with the neighbors who have the illegal shed earlier in the week about the circumstances, I went to discuss this issue with the local policeman. He is a policeman assigned to our village for all village issues, and I have come to know him through my crossguard duties. So, I went to him asking for advice. After showing him our land boundaries, he agreed that we had the right to recreate our yard, and went to discuss the issue with the neighbors. When he came back to my house to tell me what was said, he told me "I'm taking off my police hat and speaking to you person to person. The best way to solve the issue is to talk about it. The neighbors understand that their shed is illegal and needs to be torn down, but their oil tanks (used for heating) are housed in the shed. If you could all work out a solution so they don't have to move the oil tanks, it would be best." He then put his hat back on and told me the steps I would have to take to legally have the shed removed. It is a huge ordeal and can cost a lot of money, but I am hoping we can resolve it just between the parites involved, and I am willing to give a bit extra of my space in order to let their oil tanks stand.

So, after the poilce officer left, I was feeling quite pleased that it could all work out satisfactory for all of us. Fast forward a few hours...the neighbors (both the man and wife, earlier only the wife was home) greet me in the yard where I am working and ask to discuss the situation with me. They are Turkish and the husband doesn't speak perfect Dutch, but seems to understand it, while the wife speaks fluently. He is less willing to tear down the illegal shed. He thinks that if we take over the land on our left and leave the back as it is, everyone should be happy. He tells me how he also gives to allow our other neighbor space to drive through his land, as well as walk to his back door via his land. He keeps walking along my land borders showing me how I can rebuild my land to create room to get through without him having to remove his shed.

He is correct in that there is room, but my question is: Why should I pay taxes for my land and allow everyone else to use it, but have no use of it myself? I want to have a larger yard. I want more space to create a larger area to grow veggies. I want more room for my boys to place a swimming pool in the summer. I want to look out while I sit on my patio and not have to look into the clothes on the clothesline. It is, afterall, my land. Why shouldn't I have use of it?

So, I told the neighbors after much discussion that I may be willing to give a bit of space, but that the shed needs to come down. I told them that we could do it the easy way and come to an agreement, or we could make it difficult and let a judge decide. They want to erect a new garden shed, plus have the space for their oil tanks. But they want a large garden shed. Not just a small one which I could be willing to allow. They also kept speaking back and forth in Turkish, which I wasn't pleased about. I think they should keep it in Dutch so I know what is being said as well. She didn't translate all that he said as she agreed with him. He also claimed that if we make problems for them in placing a shed, they will make issues for our immediate neighbor and not give him thoroughway on their land. Why is this an issue? His recently renovated garage sits on their property line. In order to reach his garage, he must have throughway through our and their land.

So, I told them that we should all think about our options and we'd all sit together to come to an agreement in the coming weeks. On a Friday afternoon when we are all available. Legally the shed needs to be removed. If I don't demand that now, it won't happen (there is a law saying that once a building stand for 30 years, it is considered legal) as the years pass quickly by and it's already been there for 20. So, how much land am I actually willing to give in order to keep peace with my neighbors? Or, should I quit caring about others and just place my new fence and give my three lawful meters and say so be it, this is how it is?

It's a bit dependant on what agreement the neighbors bring back to me. If they are realistic and don't try to tell me I should be happy with what I have and just keep paying taxes for them to use my land, which is basically what they told me today, I may be willing to work with them. However, it is my land and my personal space, and I will have use of it in the manner in which I decide. Nobody is going to tell me what to do with my land. But if they are reasonable, I may be able to keep it out of court...becuase though I won't tell them, I'm just a tad bit nervous about it coming down to that. I don't like the idea of court, and my stomach is already turning just from the various discussions I had to undergo today. I'd hate to have to feel the stomach pain I'd have sitting in a courtroom. But, I will....if I have to.


Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

I feel for you. I hate confrontations of any kind, and this one sounds nerve-wracking. I hope it works out as easily as possible for you!

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

This is a tough issue, made more complicated by the cultural differences. I don't envy your situation at all.