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.