City prepared to expropriate land along Wharncliffe, but staff hope they won't have to
London’s Corporate Service Committee reaffirmed its commitment a project that would see the widening of Wharncliffe Road South, near Horton Street, by clearing the way for an expropriation with a vote on Tuesday night.
But that doesn’t mean expropriation is the only way forward. In fact, city staff members say they remain committed to a negotiated settlement, admitting the expropriation process could mean project delays.
The city is targeting 12 properties along Wharncliffe. There are five full buyouts, six partial acquisitions, and one easement.
The city says they are needed in order to widen the road to four lanes under the CN Rail line. That would mean replacing the rail bridge and re-engineering the intersection of Wharncliffe and Horton.
One of those properties belongs to 75-year-old Nan Finlayson, who has made it clear she wants to keep her house and her gardens. And she has drawn sympathy from many in the community.
During the committee meeting, Ward 11 Councillor Stephen Turner admitted he’s not a fan of the expropriation route.
"I still have challenges every time this comes forward, but I recognize that balance between the individual interest and the public. And that's a tough one, always, to reconcile."
Garfield Dales is division manager in the city’s Transportation Planning and Design Department and says acquiring property isn't taken lightly.
“Our hope is to carry on with an amicable type agreement and reach that type of agreement through the process. Regardless of what's going on with the more formal expropriation process we are committed to continue the discussions with the owners."
Dales says while the city is clearing the way for expropriation, it doesn't mean that's the path they'll take. The city is anxious to get the project moving and expropriation can take up to a year, and sometimes two years.
"We're hopeful to carry on and reach amicable agreements with the property owners that would allow us to proceed with an earlier schedule."
Of the properties in question, half are north of Horton and half are south of Horton. One property, a commercial property that also has apartments on the upper level, has already been purchased by the city for just over $750,000. That property sits at the corner of Stanley Street and Wharncliffe, directly across from Nan’s house.
In the properties can acquired without expropriation the city could start preliminary work on the project this fall, including some utility re-location.
And the goal remains to have the project fully underway at this time next year.