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Sudbury couple feels 'driven out of town' by land dispute with Laurentian University

A couple in Sudbury, Ont. is trying to resolve a property boundary issue with Laurentian University after learning the school owns almost half of their backyard.

2 offers to buy and exchange land with Laurentian University have been rejected

A couple in Sudbury, Ont., feels as if they are being pushed out of their home because of a property boundary issue with Laurentian University. 0:36

A couple in Sudbury, Ont. is trying to resolve a property boundary issue with Laurentian University after learning the school owns almost half of their backyard. 

"We're actually stuck," homeowner Dominique Ansell said.

"We're not trying to cause any trouble ... but we actually can't resolve this unless we have that land that we're encroaching on."

Ansell and her husband James Crispo purchased a home on South Bay Road in 2016 believing that their septic system and pool shed belonged on their land.
James Crispo and Dominique Ansell want to buy or exchange land with Laurentian University after learning the school owns part of their backyard. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Shortly after they moved in, their neighbour contacted them to settle an encroachment issue.

The couple then ordered a land survey, which revealed all accessories located past their pool line were not built on their property. 

'Encroachments were a little bit of a surprise'

They also found a trail across their premises, which people frequently use to access the Lake Laurentian area and the Trans Canada Trail.

"We couldn't believe it given that there are numerous checks and balances in place or supposed to be in place to prevent this from occurring," Crispo said.
Aerial view of Dominique Ansell and James Crispo's property. The land located left, past their pool, belongs to Laurentian University. (Laurentian.org)

Their surveyor, Terry Del Bosco, was also puzzled by the scope of the problem. 

"It isn't unusual in this area, in a rural area to have some encroachments," Del Bosco said.

"The encroachments were a little bit of a surprise to us to see that they were that much into two directions into two abutting pieces of property."

Crispo and Ansell said they need the land in question to build a bigger septic field because they do not have room on their land.

Offers to buy and exchange property denied

They asked Laurentian University in November 2016 if they could buy the property where their pool shed and septic system are located for $12,268, and offered to cover all costs to sever and transfer the land.

When they were refused, the couple asked the university to partake in an equal exchange of 2,891 square metres. They were prepared to cover all fees associated with the proposed boundary readjustments, including consent, rezoning, planning and surveying costs — excluding the university's legal costs.

They also offered to make a donation of $5,000 to the university following the deal, but their offer was rejected again.
James Crispo and Dominique Ansell's pool shed and septic bed sit on Laurentian University's property. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

"We're dumbfounded as to why this proposal would not be accepted," Crispo said.

"We recognize that it is their property. They do not have to engage in negotiations with regard to the sale or exchange of property.

"However, if you take the context into consideration that we are equal victims as much as the university in this matter ... The morally and ethically correct thing to do would be to sit around a table as adults, and resolve this."

Importance of land survey 

The couple said they have title insurance and had the sellers provide a declaration indicating that all structures in relation to their property were within boundaries, but they only got a land survey after they purchased their home. 

Del Bosco recommends getting both title insurance and a land survey done before closing. 

"That way if there's any encroachment issues, they can be cleaned up or at least attempt to be cleaned up before you take ownership," Del Bosco said.

Ansell and Crispo acknowledge they could have ordered a land survey earlier, but maintain they are being treated in an "inequitable fashion."
James Crispo and Dominique Ansell's offers to buy or exchange land with Laurentian University have been rejected so far.

They point to the fact that the university was actively involved in conveying land to the Ildylwylde Golf & Country Club while they were making offers to the school to resolve their property boundary issue. 

'Strongly considered selling the home, packing our bags'

"We have strongly considered selling the home, packing our bags and leaving Sudbury," Crispo said.

"We are two health professionals who have been recruited to the area, and in a way we feel like we're somewhat being driven out of town." 

Letters from the university to the couple can be found on a website they created to document their dispute. They have also launched an online petition.

No one from Laurentian was available for an interview.

But in an email statement sent to CBC News, the university noted that Crispo and Ansell made a presentation to its board of governors on June 23. The matter will be brought back for consideration at the board's next meeting in October.

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a national reporter for CBC Saskatchewan on secondment from CBC Sudbury. She covers news from across the province for radio, TV and online. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.