McGoran Street, behind and to the east of the arena, runs north off of Merritt Avenue until it intersects with McGoran Place. Up until a year ago, it used to continue another 20 meters into an open field, but now there’s a chain running across, blocking access. The problem for Darel Redman and Angela Papou is that their driveway is between that chain and the field.
Redman and Papou bought their house, which was built at the intersection of McGoran Place and McGoran Street, about nine years ago. They say it was sold to them as a house on a dead-end street.
They had been using that dead-end road for years, as had their neighbours. They rode their bikes on it, neighbourhood kids played street hockey and basketball on it. Most importantly for them, they used it to access their driveway.
One day several years ago they received a visit from the owner of the farmland, Paul Simon, a local doctor. He informed them the 20 metres of McGoran Street, from the field to where it intersected with McGoran Place, was in fact an extension of his land to the north, where his house is located.
“Honestly, it was a shock. Not just to us,” said Papou of her reaction to the news. Their neighbours and even city officials were also surprised to find out the road was not public.
In spite of this new information, they still continued to use the road, since it was the only way they were able to access their driveway.
Previous to Simon purchasing it, the Bouchard family had owned the farmland.
Built in 1978, the Papau’s house is part of that McGoran Place subdivision, put in by the Bouchards. The plan was for it to continue farther north, developing the open farmland that still sits there today. But instead of continuing, the subdivision stopped, at what most of the neighbourhood thought was the end of that dead-end road.
“The Bouchards who owned the property were in the process of having it made an access road, but didn’t quite get finalized before he died. It was that close,” said Linda Clarke. Clarke and her husband live next door to Papou and Redman, across the road in question. The Clarkes, however, still have access to their driveway, since it enters onto McGoran Place rather than McGoran Street.
Papou agreed. “When this happened and we first found out . . . [we contacted her],” she said. “She thought [the transfer] was done.”
Just knowing that the road was private rather than public was stressful for Papou and Redman, but their lives were not disrupted until last summer, when the barricade was put up separating the public road from the private. It also cut off Papou’s driveway access, forcing them to park on the street through last winter.
It is a situation that the city is also familiar with. Allan Chabot, the city’s chief administrative officer, has a large file in his office full of documentation on this issue.
He said he’s had multiple conversations with city staff, Papou, Redmond and Simon to try and broker a resolution, to no avail.
“The city feels some moral responsibility to try and resolve this matter,” he told the Herald. “Some confusedly think that it was wrong of the city to have issued a building permit. I don’t think they could have refused one — being on the basis of the house facing that way — if they’d wanted to.”
Chabot said the city has done their best to find a solution.
“It frustrates all of us, I think, that we’ve been unable to resolve it.”
The situation becomes even more complicated. Simon currently accesses his home via a road farther east. Part of that road crosses city land, which Simon is allowed to legally cross through an access egress agreement that expires in 2019.
After that, the road running in front of Papau’s driveway will become the only legal access to Simon’s home.
The city has explored some other options. They’ve looked into the possibility of claiming the road has been maintained by the city, which would make it a public road.
“There’s a regulation associated with Section 54 with the Transportation Act that says that if public money is spent on a road, other than for snow or ice control, then it becomes — for all intents and purposes — a public road.” Explained Chabot. “[However], Our records do not allow us to make that argument, legally.”
A more dramatic approach, brought to city council by the late councillor Harry Kroeker, was expropriation.
In fall of last year, council voted to approve his motion instructing staff to look into the possibility of seizing the road from Simon. Chabot said that legal counsel was obtained in accordance with that directive, but those conversations are confidential.
Papou said it’s frustrating that the house they bought was not in fact the corner lot they thought they were getting. “This is our biggest investment. In fact, this is all we have,” she said.
“At this point it’s not only inconvenient, it’s also a little embarrassing, and the winter time was awful,” said Papou.
She said they did what they could to make it safe, but she fell and injured herself at one point and had to miss work in order to recover. “As much as I’d like to have this road back, at this point we just need safe access to our home,” she said.
That, again, is easier said than done. Underneath Papou’s front yard, where a new driveway could presumably be installed, there is “every line you can imagine” — hydro, cable, water, sewer, etc. — running, she said.
“It really depends on their depth,” said Chabot. “What’s often shallow is your hydro, your gas, your cable . . . I wouldn’t be at all surprised that water and sewer were at a sufficient depth there that they could level that area.”
He said that although it is unusual for the city to provide services on private land, and city staff had not had not discussed that solution with the landowners, he believes council would consider offering the family assistance.
“I do see the situation as regrettable for all parties,” said John Isaac, the real estate agent who originally sold them the home. “I understand the city and the landowners are trying to work something out, and I hope cool heads prevail and they do find a solution.”