Nova Scotia

Halifax home with decades-long driveway dispute up for sale

A property along Halifax's Northwest Arm that was at the centre of a decades-old right-of-way fight is up for sale.

A Halifax family couldn't drive on its driveway for decades because of the dispute

Susan Sutherland had to walk through a public trail to get to her home because of a dispute between a neighbour and the federal government. Her house is now up for sale.

A property along Halifax's Northwest Arm that was at the centre of a decades-old right-of-way fight is up for sale.

The property is currently owned by Susan Sutherland, but its access problems began in 1966 when it belonged to her father.

For much of the time, the family was unable to drive up to the house because of a dispute with a neighbour and the federal government over who owned the surrounding land.

The city ultimately granted Sutherland legal access, but Halifax regional council decided this spring that Sutherland should foot the $230,000 bill through a payment plan and lien on the property.

Now, Sutherland has put it up for sale. She declined an interview request from CBC News, but said in an email, "it is painful enough to deal with."

This map shows the right-of-way at the centre of a decades-old dispute. (CBC)

The home at 9 Milton Drive is listed for $799,000. It's a four bedroom, two-storey house with 1,700 square feet of space and one bathroom.

The listing says the home has a view of the water and is on a public road. That road hasn't always been public.

Susan Sutherland's father, Harold Sutherland, ended up being virtually landlocked in 1966 as a result of a court ruling.

The family could get to the house by walking along a public path. Vehicular access would mean crossing a neighbour's property, owned by Dr. Charles and Marie Cron.

So, the Sutherlands would leave their car in the municipal parking lot of the Dingle Tower and lug groceries and other items along the public path, regardless of the time of year.

The family didn't try to get a legal right of way through the Private Ways Act until the late 1990s when Harold Sutherland was dying of cancer and the Crons refused to allow an ambulance to drive over their property.

Harold Sutherland died before his application could be dealt with.

Susan Sutherland ended up using the Private Ways Act twice.

The first time was in 1998 and the commissioner appointed to rule on the dispute discovered the land was actually owned by the Halifax Port Authority. The federal agency gave Susan Sutherland a 10-year lease for a three-metre wide right-of-way.

Before the lease came up for renewal, the federal transportation minister transferred title of the land back to the Crons, who then covered over Sutherland's gravel road with dirt and planted rose bushes.

The Crons then went to court to have the Private Ways Act squashed, but lost in 2010.

$230K bill

The second attempt in 2011 by Susan Sutherland to get vehicular access to her home through the Private Ways Act ended up taking four years and cost her about $230,000.

The compensation award to the Crons for the easement came to $168,477.15 and the bill for a three-member arbitration panel totalled $61,583.52. Construction of a new gravel access road was over and above the $230,060.67 bill.

Halifax Regional Municipality paid the Crons, put a lien on Sutherland's property and set up a payment plan with interest for her to settle the bill over a 30-year period.

When the final decision was made last spring, Sutherland said she was concerned about losing the house that she had lived in all her life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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