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Even Henry Kissinger couldn't help these feuding Saultites!

Property disputes in the Sault's back alleys? Ain't nobody got time for that!
An alley between Hughes St. and Dennis St. Jeff Klassen/SooToday

Saultites. We're usually pretty decent folk.

But if you want to see another side of us, a decidedly darker side, just close the laneways behind our houses and try divvying the land up among the neighbours.

Just try it!

Nuala Kenny, city solicitor, sees this dark, back-alley Sault underbelly all the time.

"There's a gross web of laneways within the city that already have an existing mandate to try and get them closed and conveyed. Unfortunately it does involve neighbourhood disputes, very often," Kenny says.

"If the legal department was staffed only by Henry Kissinger and his kin, we wouldn't be able to reach peace in many of those circumstances. That's all we'd be doing."

Last week, Kenny fought off an attempt by Ward 6 Councillor Ozzie Grandinetti to have the city look into closing local laneways and selling the land to neighbours.

Under existing city policy, anyone approaching the municipality about acquiring part of a laneway is asked to take a petition to all abutting neighbours.

If everyone agrees, the city proceeds to close the alley and dividing up the land.

The neighbours must pay for a survey, but otherwise are usually allowed to purchase the land for the nominal sum of $1.

The problem is that usually the neighbours can't come to an agreement.

"So as a result of that, we tell the neighbours: 'Get the consent of the abutting owners.' And if they cannot, we cannot recommend it to council," Kenny says,

"In the history of the legal department, this comes up so often that we stop it there. Otherwise, that would be all our legal reports: 'These neighbours are not getting along. Do you think we should close the lane?' In terms of efficiency, we've adopted this model," she said.

Grandinetti countered that many neighbours are reluctant to assume ownership of laneways because they're concerned their taxes will go up.

"If somebody wants a portion, why can't the city send a letter to the abutting neighbours, rather than having the purchaser go around?" the councillor asked.

"Certainly, we can do that, if that's the direction of council," Kenny responded.

"But that's going to be a huge volume of staff time, if that's how you'd like our salaries earned... but it is extremely onerous because the neighbours generally don't get along."

Councillors opted against throwing Kenny and her legal department staff into the Sault's back-alley wars.

They voted down Grandinetti's resolution.