Edmonton

Mill Woods man angry as LRT construction forges ahead on his property line

Kilometres of Edmonton roadway have turned into a construction zone as the city launches the first phase of the Valley Line LRT.

'You become angry, you become frustrated and then you realize you really don't have any options'

Valley Line LRT construction crews drill holes near a backyard fence along 75th Street in Millwoods. (CBC)

Rick Needham has been watching with dread as construction crews chop down trees and prepare to build a massive sound barrier behind his property.

Several kilometres of Edmonton roadway have turned into a construction zone as the city launches the first phase of the Valley Line LRT.

Needham bought a house in Mill Woods two decades ago. An LRT stop is now under construction within view of his home.

"We're disappointed, obviously, in how it's going to impact our house and our yard," he said. 

Rick Needham says he feels ignored in the LRT consultation process. (Rick Needham)
When he first found out about the new LRT line, Needham went to several public information sessions. There, he said city staff assured him he would have a say in decisions that affected his property.

After months of emails and phone calls, Needham said he found out those decisions had already been made without him.

"It really takes away from feeling like you're actually part of the stakeholder group and you're having any impact or any real, legitimate conversations with people about what's going to affect your home," he said.

On Wednesday, construction crews sawed off dozens of branches from trees Needham planted in his backyard when he moved in.

Foliage used to block the view of 75th Street, which runs behind Needham's property. A concrete sound barrier will replace the formerly leafy screen. 

Trees in Rick Needham's backyard used to block the view of 75th Street (left) until construction crews sawed off dozens of branches to accommodate the new Valley Line LRT (right). (Rick Needham)

The new sound barrier will block access to a detached garage in Needham's backyard, where he stores a boat in the winter and a snowmobile in the summer.

Twice a year, Needham uses a sidewalk behind his house to switch the vehicles.

Even though the sound barrier ends behind Needham's house, he said the city was unable to accommodate his request not to install the final panels that will block his garage.

Instead Needham said he will have to pay for storage somewhere else, which he estimates will cost $1,000 per year.

The garage, which Needham built for $20,000, will stand empty.

"It's been a little stressful, to say the least, and it's going to be somewhat of a hardship and financial burden for us," he said.
Rick Needham invested $20,000 into a detached garage in his backyard, which he says will be useless if the city moves ahead with its plan to build a sound barrier behind his house. (CBC)

Needham said he's not against the LRT line, but added the city's process has left him feeling ignored as a stakeholder.

"You become angry, you become frustrated and then you realize you really don't have any options and it quickly wraps up, that nobody wants to listen to you," he said.

If construction stays on track, the Valley Line LRT will open in December of 2020.

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