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One man's treasure in Nanoose Bay is his neighbour's junk
Don’t tell Wayne Barber that the big crane parked outside his backdoor is only fit for the scrap heap.
He needs that crane, as well as most of the machinery that is dotted around his home on Morello Road. Not only that, he has sunk an awful lot of money into it, far, far more than the $150 per ton he would get at the scrapyard.
The Nanoose Bay resident may have no choice but to scrap it however, after the Regional District of Nanaimo ordered the property he lives on with his partner Ann cleaned up within 30 days under the RDN’s unsightly premesis bylaw.
The order was given at the RDN’s committee of the whole meeting on June 11, despite a last-minute plea from wife Ann.
The RDN resolution to order the cleanup cites derelict and unlicensed vehicles, derelict industrial machinery, discarded automotive parts, tools, machinery, wood, metal, building materials and other debris.
At the meeting, Barber said her husband is an active hobbyist who has been collecting and restoring antique machinery, a hobby that he estimates has cost him about $200,000 over the years.
“These are not derelict vehicles,” she said. “We have never received complaints or negative comments. I was shocked someone would complain to the RDN and say nothing to us.”
Part of the problem, she explained had to do with an arched metal workshop that was hit by a falling tree over the winter, causing damage to the arches that had to be fixed prior to other work being completed. As well, she said one of the inspections of the property took place just after the couple had cleaned up a big mess in a rental property elsewhere that was left by the previous tenants. The debris from that cleanup ended up temporarily on the couple’s Nanoose Bay property but has since been cleaned up.
A tour of the property Friday showed the crane, while visible from the top of the driveway is not overly intrusive, at least in the summer months, as the property is surrounded by a heavy wall of vegetation.
There is no shortage of machinery however, but rather than junk, Wayne said it’s more like historical treasure.
“When I was a kid we lived on Cortes Island and we didn’t have much money,” the retired Coast Guard mechanic said. “My dad had all these engines sitting around that didn’t work anymore so he would let me play with them. I always had my own tools and in 1975 I started painting cars for people. That was fun and I started getting older cars. I got a 1967 Thunderbird and I restored it with a new, high performance engine. It cost $10,000 to do it.”
That was his first major project, but it only wetted his appetite. He began working on old machines, such as welders and tractors. He bought the 1952 Priestman crane for $500 and paid another $500 to get it to the property. He admits its not beautiful to look at, but he has a lot more work to do on what he said was an important piece of machinery — and there’s no point painting it pretty prior to completing that often messy work.
“I just didn’t want to see it made into a Toyota,” he said.
He said he needs the crane in order to pull the pump out of his deep well, as well as to provide a safety line while he works on the damaged roof of the workshop.
“We have the machines, so we thought we should do it ourselves,” he said.
Touring around the property, he showed obvious pride in some of the machines he has collected and at least partially restored, including a 1935 sawmill and his oldest piece, a 1929 welder.
“All the stuff is old, but I use it,” he said. “The crane has 120 hours on it since I got it and I’ve done 200 hours of work on it. It cost me $3,000.”
Ann noted the first complaint came right after they obtained the crane, because the starter went on it, leaving it stranded in the driveway. A lot of work and $1,500 for a new starter later, they snugged the crane up against their house — if not entirely out of sight from the road, then nearly.
She said photographs shown at the RDN meeting were out of date, with rubbish piles long since removed.
Wayne said he is aware of the concerns about his machinery, noting that while he would ideally like to keep the machines he restores, he’s willing to let it go if there’s a collector or museum somewhere who would give them a good home.
Barber’s plea to the RDN board didn’t go unnoticed, with director Julian Fell saying the issue was highly subjective.
“These are clearly museum artifacts,” he said at the meeting. “They are not junk. They might be unsightly in somebody’s eyes, but beautiful in someone else’s eyes. They might be valuable one day.”
Director George Holme was also sympathetic, noting the full board meeting wasn’t for another two weeks, so the 30-day timeline wouldn’t start until then.
Board manager Paul Thorkelson said staff is more than happy to work with the owners to come to a satisfactory conclusion, vowing not to take any drastic action prior to consulting with the board.