St. John's families forced to vacate million-dollar dream homes
Twin brothers who built dream homes in dispute with city, land owner
A secluded, picturesque lane called Scout's Place in the Goulds area of St. John's has become the centre of a complex and heated dispute between home-building twin brothers, another land owner in the area and the City of St. John's.
The controversy revolves around disputed ownership of a right-of-way that brothers Ian and Jed Kieley say is forcing them and their young families to vacate their unfinished million-dollar homes — possibly as early as Friday — even though they have been occupying without a permit for months.
The Kieleys face a court date in June for violating the city's occupancy bylaws.
In another twist, the dispute will head to court on May 28, with the Kieleys applying for a peace bond against the land owner, Kerry Malone, and his son.
Malone denies being the aggressor, however, and feels the brothers are trying to intimidate him.
It seems the only thing the Kieleys and Malone can agree on is who to pin the blame on — the City of St. John's.
"They're really hanging us out to dry," Ian Kieley said in an interview.
The city is being very careful about its response because of the ongoing legal matter, but contends the entirety of Scout's Lane is a public road, and that the Kieleys have no legal right to occupy their homes.
Blaming the city
It has all the elements of an old-fashioned property dispute, though this one involves two lavish homes, the kind you might see on the cover of a home-and-garden magazine.
The area is located near Second Pond, a popular boating and swimming area, not far from Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove.
The Kieley brothers are under 40 and have made a good living from the region's robust real estate market over the past decade. They purchased adjoining lots in the area, with plans to erect executive style homes in which to raise their young families.
They allege that city officials gave them the green light to build their homes without one important element: public access to their properties.
The portion of Scout's Place, known formerly as Donovan's Lane, in front of their homes is owned by Malone, they say, and has been the source of a great deal of friction for the past two years.
They have approached another lending institution, and are awaiting a response.
The banks are not releasing any funds until these homes have the proper access, public access, like what was promised to us by the City of St. John's.- Ian Kieley
They say the city gave them assurances early on that the lane was publicly owned, and provided emails to CBC News to back up this claim.
But the Kieleys say the city has since backed off on that position, and has refused to provide any documentation that proves the lane is a public right-of-way.
"We need to get financing to finish these homes. The banks are not releasing any funds until these homes have the proper access, public access, like what was promised to us by the City of St. John's," said Ian Kieley.
"Now the City of St. John's is cutting us loose. They're saying, 'boys, it's a private issue. You handle it with the original owner. We've got nothing to do with it.'"
City not commenting
Susan Bonnell, the manager of marketing and communications with the City of St. John's, told CBC News that no one from the city will be commenting publicly.
But in a written statement, the city said Scout's Place is a public road "up to and including the bulb at the end of Scout's Place," which would include the section of road in front of the Kieley homes.
Meanwhile, the Kieley brothers admit they moved into their homes without the proper permit, but say they had no choice.
They were each maintaining two homes at the time, Ian said, and could not afford to do so.
They also say they spent thousands on lawyers fees to settle a related dispute over a land survey.
A statement from the city says the owners "have failed or refused to vacate the premises" and have not requested inspections to ensure the homes meet building codes.
Ian said they received a phone call from Coun. Wally Collins on Tuesday, telling them they have to move out as soon as possible.
They plan to move into temporary lodgings in Mount Pearl on Friday or over the weekend.
"I've got a painter over there renovating that home for the two of us, and our families, and my newborn, and my wife, and my two-and-a-half-year-old, and his pregnant wife, and his two-and-a-half-year-old, to move into the one house in a two-apartment home, over on Commonwealth Avenue," Ian said.
Jed said each dream home has turned into a house of horrors. He said the city needs to step up and either expropriate the privately owned section of the lane, or mediate some kind of access agreement with the owner.
"I don't know what they're going to do, but continually sweeping it under the mat is not working," Jed stated.
Blocking driveway with vehicle
The brothers have invested all their savings into their homes, which are about 95 per cent complete.
They say they followed all the necessary protocols in acquiring the land and building their homes, but in the fall of 2013, they say Malone began parking his vehicle and utility trailer in front of their shared driveway.
The Kieleys say there have been confrontations with Malone, and police have been involved "numerous times."
Ian said the city needs to accept its role in creating the dispute.
"They're letting us straighten out their mess, basically. They approved these two homes on a private road, and the private owner is blocking our access. That's the issue that's going on here now."
Malone has 'no quarrel' with Kieley brothers
Malone, meanwhile, said he has no quarrel with the brothers, but is frustrated at the city's handling of the road issue.
He disagrees with the city's position, and says he has documentation to prove that the roadway in front of the brothers' homes is his land.
I've parked my vehicle there a couple of times and told them, 'go and ask the city to ticket me and then I'll go to traffic court and I'll say to traffic court, 'here's a deed. It's a private property.- Kerry Malone
"The city suggests there is not an issue with the road. I suggest there is," said Malone.
"I've parked my vehicle there a couple of times and told them, 'Go and ask the city to ticket me' and then I'll go to traffic court and I'll say to traffic court, 'Here's a deed. It's a private property.'
"So where does the city get authority to take it over and call it their road? I don't think it is."
He has been ticketed by the city several times for parking in the area, but every time he goes to court to contest the ticket, Malone said the city never shows up.
He doesn't understand why they have applied to take out a peace bond against him and his son.
"I have no issue with them," he said.