English Hill Extension, known by locals as Gadden’s Mash, or, by the more affection moniker, ‘the Mash’, is well loved by many in Carbonear, with it’s rustic pastures of grazing sheep and cattle, crops of wild blueberries, and picturesque, rolling hills and valleys, but it’s causing quite a headache for Carbonear Town Council.
The problem is that the Mash exists within the Carbonear Municipal Planning Area but not in the actual municipal boundary.
Although the ongoing issue dates back over thirty years, the discussion at council table during the October 27 meeting began with a letter from provincial government that the Town had just received.
Town Chief Administration Officer Cynthia Davis noted that the town had received an inquiry about the home from provincial government.
“They had sent an inquiry because they had received a phone call about it,” said Davis.
Councillor Danielle Doyle explained the motion that was before council in regards to a home currently being built in the Mash.
“English Hill extension is in our planning area and it is [zoned] rural, therefore, according to municipal law, we are not permitted to give building permits for that area. And we have had discussion with the provincial government to take over that part of the planning area of our community, but those talks haven’t gone anyway, so we have a motion to resolve to send a stop-work order to a property owner on English Hill extension for the construction of a new dwelling since the dwelling is not a permitted use in a rural zone in the Town fo Carbonear development plan regulations,” said Councillor Danielle Doyle.
When asked how many homes were built without the proper documentation, Davis said it’s likely that many homes have been built illegally.
“I wouldnt be able to say, but that area has been zoned ‘rural’ since I came here. The municipal plan came affect in 1989, so I would think if there was anything constructed after that date they would not be legal,” said Davis.
That would be a reference to the Town’s Municipal Plan and Development Regulations, which came into effect in 1989.
Councillor Ray Noel noted that that, as there are indeed a number of houses built on the extension, he wanted to see more research doe before making a vote.
Councillor David Kennedy explained further the quandary the town was in.
“There have been conversations, but something has got to happen… either government takes it out of or zone and municipal planning area, or they let us control it. Because you can’t have it in your zone and not control it. We’ve tried to initiate many different discussions with government on this over the last ten or twelve years, and there really has been no headway. There was even a meeting one time with the residents themselves, to let them know what we’re trying to do. So, the government really needs to have some serious conversations,” said Kennedy.
Councillor Doyle carried on the conversation.
“Unfortunately, I see us backed into a corner by the provincial government in this situation because, according to the law, they’re not allowed to build there, all the houses up there are illegal, if they go to sell their houses, they can’t get compliance letter from the Town or anything. So, we need to start making some progress on this situation,” said Doyle.
Councillor Noel again iterated that he would like further discussion and more information before voting on the matter.
The motion was made to defer voting on the stop work order, but councillor Vic Jenkins then asked if they ought to issue a stop-work order at least to halt construction until council makes a final decision.
“There are two questions. One, the house is almost completed, how did it get overlooked until it’s almost ready to be occupied, and they might already be inside, and , what is our purpose of having stop work order issued. What do we say to the people who have probably invest $200,000 into a piece of property that they can’t build no further? There would have to be some legal ramifications,” said Jenkins.
Councillor David Kennedy then argued that “there are no legal ramifications because unfortunately, for anybody to do any type of construction, as we know many a times in every meeting, you need a permit. They need a permit. Now I do feel for anybody specially if there’s anybody getting ready now to get into the holiday season, it’s a tough time to give a stop-work order,” said Kennedy.
“I’m not going to move to give a stop work order saying that got to tear down what they got, but I am going to move that the government makes their decision,” said Kennedy. He further noted that the land is all privately owned.
Mayor Frank Butt then asked if he ought to declare a conflict of interest in the matter as he owned property in the Mash, and he was found not in conflict on the particular matter.
Councillor Doyle brought the conversation back to the strange situation at hand.
“The difficult thing is if we send them a letter saying that they don’t have a permit, and they come back to use and apply for a permit, we can’t give them a permit. It’s an endless cycle. And I’ve been on council for three years, and we’ve discussed this area numerous times, and we had a meeting with our MHA, and I think it’s time that it’s resolved in one way or another.
Kennedy further noted that Gadden’s Mash, while in the planning area, it is not in the taxation area, so the Town doesn’t receive any tax revenue from residents who live there.
“Like most times, governments don’t act unless they’re forced to act,” concluded Kennedy.
The motion was made to defer the notice.
“Nothing is going to be resolved on this for a long time,” said Deputy Mayor Chris O’ Grady.
Kennedy noted that, with an election looming, provincial government would want to avoid any bad press, so that now would be a time to get the issue resolved.
As to the motion, Kennedy said the stop work order was a “hard sell,” but, councillor Ray Noel pointed out that it would be better to issue to the stop work order now then to let construction continue and have to issue it further down the road.
Furthermore, Doyle noted that, it put council in an uncomfortable position, as the Town could not provide homeowners with proper legal documentation because the builders have never acquired a the proper permits— permits that the Town aren’t able to province in the first place.
“That puts us in a very nasty situation, as far as I’m concerned. That’s very unfair, to put that on us, when we can’t get the provincial government to come to any kind of agreement on that parcel of land,” said Doyle.
Kennedy noted that provincial government had said in times past that it would be at the Town’s expense to bring the Mash within Town’s boundaries, and he felt that it should not cost the Town anything to remove the Mash from the Town’s planning zone. Doyle asked if the Town could approach the province with a request to have the area removed totally from the Town’s planning, but CAO Davis argued that if they gave up their zoning right, they would lose not only control of development in the area but also any potential for further expansion into the area.
Furthermore, Davis pointed out that those living in the Mash are not taxed by the Carbonear, but basically live in Carbonear.
“You have a Town here now of taxpayers that contribute to your roads, your recreational services, like the pools and things like that, so its unfair to have others utilizing those services and facilities but contributing nothing to it,” said Davis.
The Town does provide fire protection services to residents in the area, but for a fee.
Council motioned that in the meanwhile, signage be erected in the Mash to help prevent unlawful construction.
Furthermore, council noted that years ago, the Town had considered a municipal boundary expansion, but that it was conditional on road upgrades, which the Town was not willing to pay for at the time.
Davis noted that the cost to provincial government to main the road was minimal; Kennedy offered that he believed the cost to be about $27,000 annually.
Furthermore, the Town had made a request to the province to expand town boundaries to incorporate the area some years back. The feasibility study would have cost the town $20,000, along with costs associated amendments, maps, and advertising.
Should the Town expand their boundary, they of course could re-zone the area as residential.
At the time, council had also requested the province pave and upgrade the road before extending the boundary.
Doyle then recommended that council let this homeowner finish construction, as council understood the home was almost complete anyway, but erect the signage ASAP so that on a “go-forward basis there is a large visual there so that everyone is aware that we cannot approve permits for up there.”
Council argued back and forth for a few minutes more on the pros and cons of allowing construction versus issuing a stop work order, and eventually voted to make a notice of motion that the motion on the stop work order be issued at the next meeting, essentially delaying the vote until the next meeting of council, which will be November 10.
Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News