'It’s a white elephant,' homeowner says of property being snatched by ministry for 401 widening

Dealing with exhaust fumes, intolerable decibels of constant sound, and debris hazards, Port Hope retirees say they are being harassed to give up more of their property.

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An elderly couple is set to have their property acquired for the second time in less than 20 years by the Ontario government’s $25 billion highway improvement initiative.

The initiative will see several bridges along the easterly 401 corridor in Port Hope, Ontario reinvigorated while widening the existing six lanes of the highway into 10 by the year 2050.

Gary and Diane Sheppard already live dangerously close to the fast-moving roadway and those lanes are set to move a mere 14 meters from their backdoor for the foreseeable future.

The land required will force the seizure of approximately 3.5 to 7.2 meters of the Sheppards' property, per a survey provided to them by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO).

“The government has the freedom to do what they want to us,” homeowner Gary Sheppard says of the 401 encroachment. “They’ll take your property,” furthers his wife Diane, who notes that they have not been offered any form of compensation to date.

“It’s senior abuse. This house was built in 1843. They knew this house was here. They should have done something about this [a long time ago]. We shouldn’t have to go through this. This is abuse,” Gary says.

Plus, their property is a hazard. There is rubble, exhaust fumes and endlessly high decibels of sound that pepper their property, from transport truck lug bolts to rubber debris on their roof.

The Sheppards are unable to get liability insurance due to what they suspect is this close proximity to the 401; a distance that will be even further infringed upon when the widening initiative begins.

The elderly couple is supposed to be kicking back and relaxing to enjoy their retirement years but instead they are looking to move to Mexico. Gary says that they may board up their home and move to Mexico. “We can’t get insurance. We can’t sell it. It won’t be worth anything. There’s people that want to come to Canada… we’re trying to get out of here. We’re old.”

We reached out to MTO liaison and real estate officer assigned to the file, Tyler Andress, asking when construction was set to begin, what options homeowners have who do not want to have their land acquired and details around compensation allocations and timelines. He was unable to provide answers but assured that the questions had been forwarded to “higher-ups” and would be answered at a future date.

In 2003, the Sheppards' property was also acquired by a 401 lane-widening initiative that saw the then four lanes converted to six. They were not compensated for that land grab, either.

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