Nova Scotia family abandoned home after neighbour blocked road access
Signs have been put up saying the road is privately owned, but provincial records say otherwise
A Colchester County, N.S., man says his family was forced to abandon their house because their neighbour has blocked access to the public road leading to their property.
Mark White says Arthur Pugsley restricted access to his property on the Little York Road in Lower Five Islands. The road runs north from Highway 2, near Five Islands Provincial Park.
White told CBC News he and his fiancée purchased the house in 2008, but never had a problem until the spring of 2013. That's when they noticed their road didn't get graded along with the rest of the community's roads.
White says Pugsley began placing his heavy equipment and logging trucks across the road at that time, blocking access to road graders, school buses and emergency vehicles.
"We were able to get our vehicle through because it was just large enough for a regular car or truck to get past, not leaving enough room for emergency vehicles to use the road," White said.
The Department of Transportation then awarded the maintenance contract for Little York Road to Pugsley for the winter of 2014-15. White says Pugsley only plowed a "dog path," making the road impassable for cars.
"The only way to get through was with a four-wheeler, which my fiancée took our child to the school bus with."
The family started parking their vehicles at the end of the road and using snowshoes to make the 2.2-kilometre trek each way to their home.
Locked steel gate
There is only one access point for the road, where it connects to Highway 2. Recent photos of Little York Road sent to CBC News show there's now a locked steel gate across the roadway and several signs stating access is restricted.
Another sign identifies the roadway as "Pugsley Logging Road."
Pugsley declined to speak with CBC News.
The RCMP confirmed that it has a file open on this matter.
The Department of Transportation says they've asked that the other land owners be provided with keys to the steel gate while they try to find an agreeable solution to the situation.
"There has been a long standing land-ownership dispute at the heart of this that we are working to resolve through a third-party review," spokesman Brian Taylor said in an e-mailed statement to CBC News.
"We hope to have this resolved as quickly as possible for everyone involved."
Records show it's a public road
White says he's certain Little York Road is a public roadway.
"It said on our deed that this road was a public road, and it's also listed as a public-designated road on the Department of Transportation's website," he said.
Nova Scotia's provincial land registry also indicates Little York Road is a public roadway, with Pugsley's property at 50 Little York Road.
White enlisted the help of Halifax lawyer John Shanks to try to resolve the road access issue.
"It seems to have been accepted as a public roadway by the province. They are continuing to expend money on its maintenance," said Shanks.
Abandoned the property
In spring of 2015, the Department of Transportation paid for an assessment of White's property. White says the province expressed interest in purchasing the property as a way of resolving the situation.
White also received a letter from Colchester North MLA Karen Casey saying she had met with department officials and that White's concerns had received "a favourable response".
However, no offer from the province to purchase White's property was forthcoming.
"After there was no resolution from that, we decided that our best course of action would be to abandon the property and declare bankruptcy," said White.
He and his family left the home in September 2015. White said it was their only option, with his fiancée about to give birth to their second child and they didn't know whether the province would renew Pugsley's road maintenance contract. They still live in the area.
Not first dispute with Pugsley
Shanks says this isn't the first time there have been issues involving Pugsley along the Little York Road.
He has previously represented another property owner who owns land on the opposite side of the road from Pugsley.
"A number of years ago Mr. Pugsley was suggesting that he actually owned both sides of the road in an attempt to suggest the roadway was wholly enclosed by his property," said Shanks.
Shanks says he secured a registered agreement from Pugsley that the roadway is the boundary between those properties. He says that Pugsley said in court that he wouldn't restrict the neighbour's access to the road.
He says that former client still owns that seasonal property along the road and that he only recently learned about the gate now blocking access. Shanks says that property owner is now considering his legal options.