Pat Gray, a retired realtor on Hurricane Road, doesn’t appreciate the harassment.
He was one of a number of residents who commented in a Voice article two weeks ago, complaining of the noise emanating from an automated car wash on Highway 20, across from the Meridian Community Centre.
Matters boiled over last week, when a car wash supporter pulled in to Gray’s driveway early in the morning and deliberately laid on the horn. In fact, it happened a couple of times.
Niagara Regional Police confirmed to the Voice that just after 7 AM on May 27, and also on May 28, a resident of Hurricane Road in Fonthill reported that a black pickup truck, driven by a white female, deliberately entered the resident’s driveway, and blew her horn.
“He alleges that this is in retaliation for his and his neighbours complaining about noise from a nearby car wash,” said an NRP spokesperson.
The Voice has obtained home security video purportedly showing the May 28 incident, as well as still images taken by neighbours when they confronted the driver regarding the harassment.
NRP Constable Jesse Vujasic said that a complaint was filed on May 28. The alleged offender was identified, and police spoke to both parties. No charges were laid.
“I actually got her name from a neighbour, who recognized her from the photograph that we took,” said Gray, who acknowledges giving chase around the corner and forcing the woman’s vehicle to the side of the road in order to confront her.
It’s partly a misunderstanding, said Gray, who thinks that the rage being vented against him is because the car wash supporters believe that he, and others on Hurricane, want the service shut down.
“We’ve never said that we wanted to close down their business,” stressed Gray. “We’ve always wanted simply to get them to fix their dryers and cut the noise.”
Gray said that a few days after reporting her to the police, the woman (whom he calls “Ms Hornblower”) emailed him to say, “I am so tired of you people coming into my neighbourhood and causing trouble. I grew up in this neighbourhood. Go home. We don’t want you here.”
“I’ve lived here over 20 years. Where’s home?” asked Gray.
I’ve lived here over 20 years. Where’s home?
Gray blames the “inaction” and “inflammatory statements” of some Town officials for the confrontation. He said that the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, David Cribbs, and Fire Chief Bob Lymburner, “suggest in their hyperbolic statements that they don’t wish to close down a business and deprive someone of their livelihood, insinuating that the mean old residents are the bad guys here.”
Eliminating or repairing the air dryers which are violating the noise bylaw will not drive the car wash out of business, said Gray.
“This car wash operated without air dryers for over 20 years, during which time there were virtually no complaints from nearby residents,” he said.
The current car wash—the machinery for which its operators acknowledge was years old when installed—has been in operation only since last November, and immediately drew complaints from Gray and other residents.
“Is it so unreasonable that we residents are asking them to not disturb our community as the law requires? We are not the offenders here, we are the victims.”
Gray asserted that the fact that the property was zoned for a commercial car wash before the Hurricane Road subdivision was built “is not a license for them to now make as much noise as they wish.”
The Voice tracked down “Ms Hornblower” (hereafter referred to as “Ms H”) and agreed not to identify her by name in return for her speaking candidly about her motivations to harass Gray.
Asked for her recollection of the driveway incident, Ms H responded, “What he did exactly was run me off the road in his car.”
She admitted that she honked her horn in one sustained burst in Gray’s driveway for “maybe five seconds.” She said she doesn’t remember what Gray said to her when he pulled her over around Stonegate Place.
“I just remember I grabbed the Voice off the front seat of my truck, and said to him, “Was this you? That started all of this?”
The Voice asked if she had referred to Gray as an “asshole,” as he claimed.
“Oh, probably. I can see myself saying that,” she replied. “And I said to him, ‘You people come here, you moved into my neighbourhood where I’ve lived for most of my 56 years, and start making trouble.” (Ms H has lived on Hurricane for the past 20 years—the same amount of time as Gray—in a house close to the car wash, and said she grew up on a nearby street.)
You people come here, you moved into my neighbourhood where I’ve lived for most of my 56 years, and start making trouble
She counts car wash owner Gail Levay as a friend, regularly fuels up at her station, and uses the automated car wash.
“[Levay] already changed the car wash entrance and exit around—she’s tried to appease these people, right?”
The Voice made repeated attempts last week to contact Levay for comment without success, nor did she respond to voicemail left for her.
Ms H also made a point of accusing the Voice of lacking objectivity on the issue. When asked if she felt the Voice was biased, she responded, “Yeah, I do. And I’m not the only one.”
She said that a Facebook group comprised of people who grew up in Fonthill had been discussing the coverage, and that “more people are backing up Gail.”
Ms H confirmed that the NRP contacted her, and, “just said, you know, this is a situation that can be avoided, and suggested to me that perhaps maybe I should not continue to do what I was doing.”
She said she has no intention of further harassment.
“I made my point, and I don’t really feel the need to continue,” adding, “a good number of people are going to be making regular visits to that car wash, let me just say that.”
For his part, Gray has no intention of backing down either.
“The gloves are off—I’m not concerned about calling her and her friends out,” said Gray.
COMMENTARY: The poisonous tribalism of “I was here first”