Markham residents who live along Highway 407 are crying foul after the corporation that runs the highway said homeowners are responsible for fixing a fence along the highway that's buckled into their backyards, and it will cost them $30,000 each to do the job.
The homeowners voiced their displeasure at a meeting held Thursday night, after city engineers brought them up-to-date about the state of the land between the stretch of highway and the fence near the Highway 407 exit onto Main Street.
"It's been a long battle," Markham Ward 4 Coun. Karen Rea told CBC Toronto before the meeting.
"The average resident just doesn't have $30,000 to cut a cheque to somebody," Rea said.
The barrier was installed section by section by each independent property owner 17 years ago when the highway began construction.
But now, after poor maintenance and drainage caused the earth behind it to swell, the fence is falling apart.
The high price tag for the repairs is due not only to the height of the barrier, which is five metres, but also because it must be made of solid wood to block out the sound from the highway.
Rea said the city has been working with the Ministry of Transportation, the 407 Express Toll Route (ETR) Concession Company and residents to come to a resolution for the last two years.
'Earth is crumbling into my property'
Patrick Ku, one of the residents at the meeting, says the responsibility should fall on the 407 corporation to fix the fence.
"I think it is their responsibility to redo the grading and to compensate for the damage," he said.
He has been living along the highway for 15 years and has had to install reinforcements to support parts of the fence abutting his property that are still standing.
He says he avoids using the edge of his backyard because he thinks it's a safety hazard.
"The earth is crumbling into my property," he said.
407 says fence is property owners' responsibility
Officials with The 407 corporation say they will assist with the drainage in the area, but at the end of the day, fences on residents' properties are "their responsibility to maintain."
"The responsibility for the fence was well articulated to home buyers at the time," said Kevin Slack, vice president of Marketing, Communications and Government Relations with the 407 corporation.
The 407 corporation said it has spoken with City of Markham officials about installing safety fencing in the interim and ensuring residents have access to the land they need to repair their fences.
City appealing to the province
Rea says the 407 corporation is leasing the land from the province so ultimately they should foot the bill for the fence.
"As the landlord I believe the province needs to step up to the plate," Rea said.
She is looking into who paid for the fences between Highway 401 and a portion of Yonge Street and hopes to find a similar solution.
"I'm hoping that somebody steps up to the plate and helps the residents," she said.