Man charged after trying (but failing) to move Outer Battery lights

Several bright lights in the Outer Battery illuminate the houses directly across from them at all hours. Residents have been complaining for months. (Dan Arsenault/CBC - image credit)
Several bright lights in the Outer Battery illuminate the houses directly across from them at all hours. Residents have been complaining for months. (Dan Arsenault/CBC - image credit)

A St. John's man took matters into his own hands in the early hours of Friday, and tried to reposition the lights that have been bothering the residents of the historic Outer Battery neighbourhood for months.

Police confirmed Friday a 32-year-old man, James Drover, was arrested for trespassing and property damage. He was released with a promise to appear in court at a later date.

In a Facebook post, Drover said the police officer shook his hand and called him "Batman" while arresting him. He said his intent was to move the lights away from people's houses, but they didn't budge.

While people have been quick to celebrate his actions on social media, Outer Battery resident Judith Adler said vigilantism is not the answer to their problems.

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

Adler said the city's inability or unwillingness to take action led directly to Friday morning's incident.

"When city officials don't do their job of protecting the public, and they evade it, and they evade it because they don't have the guts or the courage to take the slightest risk to do their jobs, then people take unwarranted risks. Dangerous risks," Adler said. "You get vigilantism."

Adler said she's watched as the rhetoric has grown more intense online, with people saying they wouldn't allow this to happen in their neighbourhood. She said that kind of talk hasn't been helpful.

"Resorting to vandalism plays into their hands. We don't want anybody to do that for two reasons. One, because it plays into the hands of the bullies, and two, because we don't want good people, innocent people, and we sure don't want young people to get hurt."

Humour has been helpful, resident says

Outer Battery resident Colin Way placed high-powered floodlights on a pair of his properties. Neighbours have complained for months that the lights are pointed directly into their windows at all hours, affecting their sleep. Way was charged with mischief by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary in October but has not taken the lights down.

Tensions were ratcheted up again this week when Way added another light to a shed he owns on Outer Battery Road, directly outside the home of Christina Smith, a vocal critic of his actions. The light has yet to be turned on.

While some residents have talked about moving away, Adler said she's staying put. Way owns land on both sides of her home, which she's been in since the 1970s, but she has no intention of leaving.

Katie Breen/CBC
Katie Breen/CBC

Adler said the sense of humour around the dispute has been helpful. She referenced Sean Panting's song on The St. John's Morning Showand the Newfoundland Rogues' playful promotion of their home opener, encouraging people to "be a good neighbour" and help them "turn the lights out" on their opponents.

"What has been heartening about calling this place home has been the playfulness and the solidarity and the humour of certain aspects of Newfoundland culture," she said. "I love this place. This place is not like others."

Despite the light-hearted moments, Adler said residents don't know where to turn. The city has said it cannot enforce any bylaws and has voted against implementing a new nuisance lighting bylaw, insisting the answer is revamping the entire City of St. John's Act.

"What is your next step?" she was asked by a reporter.

"I don't know," she said.

"Is that troubling for you?"

"Very."

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