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Resident fights to keep truck as art in front yard

Artistic display brings complaint, fine

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Nov 05, 2011 06:00 am

St. Albert resident and artist Myles MacDonald took a 1939 International pickup truck and buried half of it in his front yard as part of his aesthetic vision for his flowerbed. MacDonald is now going to court after being fined by the city's bylaw enforcement department for violating the city's community standards bylaw.
St. Albert resident and artist Myles MacDonald took a 1939 International pickup truck and buried half of it in his front yard as part of his aesthetic vision for his flowerbed. MacDonald is now going to court after being fined by the city's bylaw enforcement department for violating the city's community standards bylaw.
APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette

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Myles MacDonald readily admits that he’s got a passion for things on four wheels.

“I am a car buff. I have a ’48 Chev pickup – fully restored, it’s in mint condition – I’ve got a Humvee,” he said.

“I’ve got cars out of my butt. I love cars! I’ve always loved them.”

He is also a city-commissioned artist with an unusual visual sense. Two years ago, he installed as part of the city’s Art in Public Places Collection, the sizable 4.26-metre by 2.42-metre wood and steel artistic memorial to the late Stephen Barr, a prominent local businessman. Last year, MacDonald contemplated the best way to decorate his front yard. Being a self-admitted car guy, the answer didn’t take long to come to him.

One of MacDonald’s prized vehicles is a 1939 International, a truck that, if it were on the road, would turn many envious heads. When MacDonald bought the truck, he didn’t want to spend the money to fix it up — he just wanted to plant it.

“I just wanted something different for my flowerbed,” he explained. “I wanted something with a really old patina. I wanted an old truck, not a car.”

After he bought it for $500 from a local farmer, he modified it in order to install it in the ground of his front yard. He drained all the fluids, then cut off and removed the back of the truck. Using a backhoe, he partially buried the yellow front end to finish the aesthetic addition.

And that’s where his simple plan hit a dead end.

On the day he set the unusual art piece in its foundation, one of his neighbours took exception with his other truck that he parked on the grass near the property line in order to facilitate the work. That prompted a visit by some city employees who didn’t have art on their minds.

“Within two hours after having it in the ground, I was cleaning up the rest of the yard. That’s when bylaw showed up and wrote me a $1,000 fine,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said he doesn’t have any issue with the bylaw enforcement officer that he dealt with.

“He said that they got a complaint about a derelict vehicle on your yard. He saw the truck and said, ‘You have a couple of days to move it or we’re going to come back and give you a fine’. I said, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ It’s artwork,” he said.

Needless to say, when the fine was issued, he was none too pleased. He called up his lawyer and now the whole thing is before the courts.

He related how his lawyer summed up the situation:

“He said, ‘This one is outside the box. I’ll help you but this is a tough one. Your views and other people’s views are different things’.”

“As an artist I should be able to put it in the yard. It’s not like I’m some crazy lunatic that just bought a piece of crap and decided to leave it in my yard. I actually placed it. I put some love into it,” he said.

Since a trial date is set for the end of January, the city’s bylaw enforcement representative wouldn’t comment. Senior peace officer Garnet Melnyk could only confirm that the fine amount of $1,000 is set by the municipal bylaw for community standards.

“We don’t set the fines arbitrarily,” he explained. “Council comes up with the municipal bylaw and they set the fine amounts.”

The city’s community standards bylaw deals with property-based nuisances, including unsightly or derelict buildings or structures. Section 5 of this bylaw states that a nuisance can refer to “parking or storage of a vehicle (which includes a recreational vehicle or trailer) or boat that is located in the front yard of a property and wholly or partially on turf, lawn, dirt, gravel or other non-hard surfaced areas.”


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