Central Newfoundland man seeing roadblocks in efforts to gain sawmill licence

·4 min read

Barry Martin had hoped to spend his golden years messing around with some wood.

When the 65-year-old, originally from Lewisporte, and his wife moved back to Newfoundland in 2020, he had his sights set on using retirement as a way to progress his woodworking hobby.

To that end, Martin purchased a home just off the Bay d’Espoir Highway — about 15 kilometres from the Trans-Canada Highway — that would help him accomplish those goals.

The home needed some work and to help with that, he bought a portable Frontier sawmill to help.

That mill was going to help with some smaller wood-working projects as well.

“I purchased a home that was not quite finished, there were lots of trees on my property so I decided to purchase a small portable sawmill to finish my home and to be able to afford to pursue my recreation of woodworking,” Martin wrote in an email to SaltWire Network.

That was fine until he ran into a problem. He applied for a licence to operate the mill at the back of his property, but it was denied.

Martin thought this was peculiar because one of his neighbours has a similar mill on their property, as do many others in his area. The mill he bought is 12 feet long and four feet wide.

“(The department) rejected my application here because they said I was living on a recreational property, so I couldn’t have one,” he told SaltWire during a follow-up interview. “Who is to determine what my recreation is?”

Martin asked if it’d be possible to have a licence for as long as it took for him to finish his home. That was also denied.

Martin said he was advised by a representative with the forestry department that he could purchase a piece of Crown Land at the back of his property and he would be granted a licence.

However, that application was turned down as well. He was told that he could not have his mill within 300 metres, almost 1,000 feet, of any property in his region.

“It seems like they can make rules whenever they want and however, they want,” said Martin. “My neighbour can have one, he is only 100 feet from me, but I can’t have one.”

One of his neighbours recently had their licence renewed.

He was also told the dust and noise created by his mill would be too much in the area. Martin lives adjacent to the Newfoundland Trailway and doesn’t believe his sawmill creates as much dust and noise as the recreational vehicles that use the railbed.

“When I set up the sawmill, I just tried it out and my neighbour said he couldn’t hear it,” said Martin. “It is silliness what (the provincial government) is saying because of the noise and dust.”

Martin has reached out to Elvis Loveless, the minister of fisheries, forestry and agriculture, the Office of the Premier and others in government hoping to find a resolution to his problem.

The provincial government declined to comment on a specific application but did detail information regarding the application process.

“Sawmill licences are issued under Section 79 of the Forestry Act. Any applicant wishing to operate a sawmill on Crown Land must first secure the appropriate title,” a spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture wrote in an email. “The operation of a sawmill within a Cottage Development Area is considered to be in conflict with the intent of a recreation cottage area.

“In such a circumstance, the Crown Lands Division would consider an application for an alternate location outside the cottage area.”

Moving the mill and setting it up on another parcel of land away from his property doesn’t appeal to Martin. He fears having it vandalized or stolen.

Not being able to finish his home is causing problems for his family. Condensation builds up in his home and there is water dropping down from a light fixture.

“I was denied the opportunity to do that when other people can do that,” said Martin. “Why am I being treated so differently?”

Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice