It’s long been said that good fences make good neighbours.
But the well-known adage is not easily followed in the high-rise condos of today’s world, where sometimes not even good walls can ensure good neighbours.
And so it was that the brassy, sybaritic lifestyle of a Yaletown penthouse owner clashed with the sensitivities of his irritated neighbours in their equally swank, rarefied confines, forcing a B.C. Supreme Court judge to decide just how much living it up was too much living it up.
At issue: one hot tub, one outdoor speaker system and big screen TV and too many loud parties with too many pals, lasting into the wee hours.
The owner of the lavish penthouse trappings and holder of the noisy bashes that rankled his neighbours is Steven Newell, president of the ambitious produce enterprise Windset Farms, which advises on its website that “a pepper isn’t just a pepper” and “a cucumber is more than it appears.”
The matter was taken to court by the Strata Corporation of the Aquarius Mews condominium complex in Yaletown. Pointing to numerous complaints from the penthouse occupant beside Mr. Newell and the resident below him, they asked for an injunction to curb Mr. Newell’s noisy, late-night hot-tub partying.
The Strata Corporation also asked Madam Justice Elaine Adair to order Mr. Newell to remove his hot tub from the roof deck above his penthouse, arguing that it contravened Strata bylaws.
Outlining the facts of the case, Judge Adair noted that Mr. Newell did not seriously dispute that his boisterous social gatherings sometimes stretched into the condo complex’s so-called “quiet hours” from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. He willingly paid several $200 fines imposed by the Strata Corporation, and the parties continued, albeit far from every night, according to the judge.
Mr. Newell, 39, argued his neighbours, one of whom last lived in placid West Vancouver, just didn’t get the Yaletown lifestyle. They had a hard time accepting that the trendy, bustling area is not a place where peace and quiet reigns, he said, referring to a New York Times description that called Yaletown a place where ambient noise level is high.
Judge Adair was not impressed. “Mr. Newell’s attitude seems to be that his closest neighbours are killjoys and do not belong in Yaletown,” she wrote. “But Yaletown living does not give Mr. Newell an excuse for ignoring the bylaws of his strata corporation.
“Mr. Newell has displayed a poor grasp of one of the basic principles of condominium living – even in Yaletown,” Judge Adair declared. “Proximity dictates that some forbearance and discretion is required … in order to avoid the infliction of misery upon fellow occupants.”
She ordered him to cool it. Mr. Newell was banned from using his outdoor speaker system and hot tub between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.
“This is not imposing a level of ‘monastic silence’ on Mr. Newell and his friends,” Judge Adair said. Besides, she added, the hot tub can stay.
In an interview, Mr. Newell said he thought the noise and partying restrictions imposed by the judge were reasonable, and he would abide by them.