Family's sanctuary disturbed

Sueann Musick
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Faye Visser stands with her daughter, Charity, at the foot of their driveway along Highway 4 near Sutherlands River. The Visser family wants the provincial government to purchase their home so they can move away from the busy construction site that is encroaching on their property.

SUTHERLANDS RIVER - Faye Visser says her little piece of heaven has gone to hell.

The longtime resident of Sutherlands River says she and her husband John have spent the last 42 years making their home into their sanctuary and it only took two years of highway construction to make it unbelievable.

"We just want some piece and quiet," she said. "We had a little piece of heaven and now I have a place like hell. We worked on making this property nice and now if we decided to sell, it would be worth nothing."

The Visser home is located at the end of Highway 4 and is surrounded on three sides by the current 104 Trans-Canada highway twinning that started two years ago in the area. Crews are currently working on constructing an overpass on the highway about a half-kilometre from their home while ground has been cleared to install a highway ramp about 10 metres from a gazebo on their backyard. Additional ramp work is also being done near the front of the home.

"The noise level from the highway and its construction all around us has gotten way out of hand," Faye said. "In our own backyard, we have two gazebos, a garden and a lovely pool, but due to the intense noise from the traffic going by and the construction, we can no longer use most of these once pleasurable things. If we are in the pool, for example, we have to literally yell just to hear each other."

Visser said she has concerns for her grandchildren coming to play this summer because she'll fear letting them out in the yard themselves could mean being drawn to the construction noise and "falling down a highway ramp."

She said the noise has not only made their lives unbearable, the four-legged members of the family are also feeling stressed from living next to the construction site.

"I raise Canadian Kennel Club Yorkshire Terrier dogs and they can't play outside any longer and we have a large dog that won't go outside by herself anymore because the noise from all the machinery scares her," she said.

Visser said construction work usually begins Sunday afternoon and, depending on the weather, goes 24 hours a day until the following Friday afternoon. This means she and her husband John get very little sleep at night because bright lights shine into their home and the dogs bark off and on at the noises outside.

Visser said the province had spoken about putting up a privacy wall for them along the highway to help reduce the noise coming into their property, but she said they've been told lately that it won't be possible.

She said there is no light at the end of the tunnel for her family because even when the construction is finished, they will still hear the constant roar of traffic up and down the highway.

"We bought this property because we liked the peace and quiet," she said, adding she was told by a friend in real estate it would be worth very little  now if they tried to sell it. "All we are asking is the (province) buy us out so we can buy a nice piece of land somewhere  and get the peace and quiet we are used to."

Visser said she put up with the noise for the past two years and supports the twinning work of the highway, but they had enough when crews started clearing land only a few feet from their property for the highway ramp.

"I can't live here," she said. "I can't raise my dogs here."

Pictou East MLA Clarrie MacKinnon said he has been in contact with senior engineering staff with the province's transportation department and he is awaiting on a recommendation from them.

"I am very concerned about the Vissers' property," he said. "I don't know what the results will be, but what has happened to their property has been a grave intrusion."

MacKinnon said the province is under tight financial restraints so he doesn't know what kind of money the province will be willing to spend to correct the problem, but he agrees something has to be done.

"The highway isn't intruding on their property but it is coming awfully close," he said. "It's a situation that has to be addressed."

When asked if he would like to live on such property, MacKinnon said he has a lot of sympathy for the Vissers.

"I like the property very much," he said. "If there was a sound barrier there it may be possible."

Cathy MacIsaac, communications director with the Department of Transportation, said transportation staff is aware of the Vissers' situation, but all of the construction currently taking place is on provincial land so the province is not under requirement to purchase the property.

She said highway work in this area is expected to finish at the end of this construction season and the transportation department will continue to monitor the situation and if there is a substantial increase in noise it will see what options are available to address that issue. She couldn't say what those options would be.

Organizations: Canadian Kennel Club Yorkshire Terrier, Department of Transportation

Geographic location: Sutherlands River

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Recent comments

  • Kathy
    June 26, 2011 - 10:11

    This is a travesty! The government should not get away with destroying their property value and making their home inhabitable. My parents live out in the country (and also have a pool so maybe this will sound 'entitled' as well), and the peace and quiet there is one of the main attractions. I have no doubt that the property has lost value. They should be given compensation for that. I don't know Canadian laws since I live in the U.S., but this seems very wrong and unfair. I sincerely hope the situation is addressed properly.

  • Haligonian
    June 23, 2011 - 18:21

    Exactly Tammy, the proper was bought FORTY YEARS AGO. You need to expect change at some point. People in Halifax urban areas don't choose where they live by any means, they are POOR and have to live in crap apartments in bad areas.You obviously don't know what I'm talking about when I say "urban". They only wish they could live in a place like the Vissers, I'm sure they would gladly take the home. Enjoy your pool.

  • FormerRiverResident
    June 22, 2011 - 13:22

    While I feel badly for the Vissers living coniditons, my sympathy is extended to ALL the residents in Sutherland's River who have been suffering from the noise, etc. from the highway constuction - as I am sure they ALL do. None so more then the family living in the big old house at the intersection whose view out their windows is of nothing but concrete, asphalt, etc. and where daily construction is going on at basically the edge of their lawn. They have nothing along their property to buffer the noise/view. And another family was forced out of their home in their senior years (now THAT'S what you call stressful & heartbreaking) and now their property has been obliterated! All the residents on Church Road have to tolerate the noise and see the ugliness everyday as well. As for the Vissers, the physical appearance and size of their properly has not changed. They have always had the highway directly behind them and have "listened to the roar of the highway" everyday for 40 years. At least they have some trees, etc. to protect them from the view out behind their house. In the future, all the east bound traffic will actually be located further away from them - some consolation perhaps. In the meantime, the construction will not last forever, and the Vissers should realize they are not the only ones from that area who have had their piece of heaven and/or peace and quiet affected. Maybe they can take some comfort in the fact that they are not alone - and they are no worse off than some others in Sutherland's River.

    • Tammie
      June 23, 2011 - 12:30

      FormerRiverResident, I object to several of your claims. 1. The people in the house at the intersection are renting and have the option to move at any time. Their property and property value isn't being affected. 2. You mentioned that they "listened to the roar of the highway" everyday for 40 years. Let me make this very clear: as a kid we NEVER heard the noise from the highway. My parents planted trees and vegetation to create gardens along the line and act as a buffer. Which leads me to point 3. 3. In the construction, one of the first things that the DOT did was cut down most, except for a thin row of trees that stand directly on the property line. What they didn't cut down will die shortly because of the cutting and grading that has cut the roots or left the roots exposed. Those trees will not survive probably past the winter. 4. Yes, as community members we feel for all the others that are affected by this as well, however, others have been compensated or have the option to go elsewhere. My parents now have a ramp being built at the bottom of their driveway, they have a huge overpass on another side of the their property and another ramp will be built behind to house to accomodate cars getting onto the highway. That's 3 sides of their property that will have highway. How would you like to live there? I can confidently say that you wouldn't. Please get your facts straight before commenting.

  • Lisa Chippindale
    June 22, 2011 - 10:27

    Are there no noise bylaws there? If there are, they shouldn't be allowed to work 24 hrs a day. I'd also like to know why they can't put up a privacy wall? This would be the best solution to this issue for both sides. Once again the province doesn't care about anyone affected by their decisions. Typical.

  • Melanie Driscoll
    June 22, 2011 - 08:16

    Tammie: Well said. Haligonian, looks like you should also get your facts straight before you judge others. Also, what kind of person "chuckles" at someone's despair? Grow up.

  • Tammie
    June 21, 2011 - 15:16

    Oh and one more thing, Haligonian, if you describe entitlement as being proud of your property considering all of the blood, sweat, and time put into making a comfortable home for yourself and family to enjoy for years to come, then Yes, damn right! My parents are entitled to what they have and not to this injustice.

  • Tammie
    June 21, 2011 - 15:10

    Haligonian, I'm sorry but the people that live in tiny cramped apartments in Halifax and Dartmouth chose to make their homes in the city where construction and development is a fact of life. When my parents bought this land 40+ years ago, they bought it for the country, quiet, serene setting that it afforded. They didn't expect that in 40 years they would have this on 3 sides of them. I hear the distress in my parents voice when we talk on the phone and I can hear the construction in the background. I will be visiting in 3 weeks with my 2 young daughters. I'm looking forward to seeing my family and my childhood home but will not be allowing my 4 year old out to play and pray that she and my 3 month old will be able to sleep. It will be distressing to see the changes but I know as Vissers that we are strong and will make the most of our visit in spite of the hell around us. I just hope that my family doesn't have to deal with this hell for much longer, it is disgraceful that the province is doing this. I can only say that I am deeply disappointed in our government once again.

  • Haligonian
    June 21, 2011 - 14:18

    Steve Cole, they aren't aking their land, they are doing work outside of the property and it's disturbing them. Let's keep our facts straight. While I can understand that this is irritating for the family, the Dept. of Transportation is within their rights to build. i had to chuckle a couple of times because you talk about what a great peice of land you own which has a pool and whatnot, but have failed to consider that people, especially in urban areas in Halifax in Dartmouth, who live in cramped, tiny apartments with this type of construction going on around them all the time. "We can't even hear each other in the pool"- I'm sure that makes people feel really bad for you. This article reeks of entitlement. Also, this "advisor" in real estate who said your property is worth nothing I'm sure is willing to agree with you for the simple fact that they are your friend. I'd like to know what an outside real estate agent has to say. This all seems quite subjective and I'll be interested in whether or not the government changes the rules on highway development on the basis of someone having a "nice" peice of property or not.

  • Katie Whalen
    June 21, 2011 - 11:42

    I feel for this poor family. I just moved to the country from the city for peace and quite. The government does have a job to do, but should certainly try to assist the owners of surrounding properties.

  • Melanie Driscoll
    June 21, 2011 - 09:19

    This is unacceptable! I say the people of the Transportation Dept. should spend few days over at The Visser's and see get a taste of what it's like to be in their shoes. This is an amazing family who have been nothing but generous to the families and communities around them. When I visited last Christmas, I saw how wonderful and wholehearted this family really is. Faye decorated a few of the churches to celebrate the birth of our Lord, as well as donated many gorgeous gift boxes around the neighborhood. Charity and Faye both sing in the choir and take part in numerous town events: They are proud of their community. It hurts to see them depressed and frustrated over this situation. I am praying that people reach out and help them sell their home.

  • Dianne Driscoll
    June 21, 2011 - 05:33

    This is unconcionable! I cannot even fathom what the Vissers must be feeling right now. To have to live with all that they have suffered through is tantamount to torture! They have the right to live peacefully on the property that they bought long ago from the sweat of their brow. That they have survived thus far is a testament to their character! I would be having a nervous breakdown if this had happened to me. The Vissers are fine, upstanding and courageous citizens that have a right to live in peace. Shame, shame, on the transportation dept!!!

  • LMAM
    June 20, 2011 - 18:53

    Oh my word.....Visser family you have sincerely sympathies. That has gone too far, a person should not be required to purchase additional land just to ensure the province doesn't sudden decide to build a highway next to it. I hope you get all the news coverage you deserve for this and top assessed dollar before they started construction of the highways for your property. Best of Luck.

    • Riverresident
      June 21, 2011 - 18:08

      Purchase additional property?The piece they have was small to start with,and when they bought it the highway was already there.They haven't taken any of their land,the new work they are doing is all on existing crown lands adjacent to the Visser property.When the original road was built the government of the time had the forethought to purchase additional land on the opposite side of the highway for future expansion,the last homes to go were the Burns and MacLellan across from the former high school.And as for the inconvience and noise,not that much worse than living beside a main highway has been for 40 years,that's not going to change anytime soon.

  • steve cole
    June 20, 2011 - 13:08

    feel bad for you .but do u think they care if they take your land .i dont think so .it is a wonder that they did not come right in to your living room .trying to get cars of the road .but building more highway;s..the road work the way it;s going will never be finished.

    • Pam
      June 21, 2011 - 08:59

      this was one of my chldhood playgrounds. as kids my sister melissa , charity and I ran through the woods from and played in the yards from our home (property already taken by dpt of transportation) , the Vissers home as well as another neighbour. it still shocks me when i drive by and see the road work where my house used to sit, and to think of my long ago nieghbours leaving the home they love so much is very disteressing. I sorry to read this you diserve to stay in the home that you have loved and made your own for so many years. i just hope you find a light at this end of this disasterous tunnel

  • BMan
    June 20, 2011 - 11:49

    So according to the government, 42 years ago when this family bought the property, they should have realized that sometime in the 2000's, the province will be rumbling their machines next door. Nice of the government to passively put the blame on them.