Bay Roberts en­joy­ing un­prece­dented devel­op­ment

But growth does not come with­out grow­ing pains


“One time I could go up Wa­ter Street and tell you who lived in ev­ery house,” says the mayor of Bay Roberts.

“I can’t do that now,” Glenn Lit­tle­john told The Com­pass last week.

The mayor made the re­mark to il­lus­trate the in­flux of new peo­ple into the town in re­cent years. And as far as he is concerned, the new­com­ers are as wel­come as the flow­ers in May be­cause they are all help­ing the Con­cep­tion Bay North town be­come one of the prov­ince’s fastest grow­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

He says the new cit­i­zens are made up of re­tirees, young peo­ple with young fam­i­lies, pro­fes­sion­als and peo­ple re­turn­ing home from Al­berta. You name it, there is a great cross sec­tion of peo­ple from all ages and all walks of life.

“ They may be work­ing at the Car­bon­ear Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal or in St. John’s, but they are choos­ing to live in Bay Roberts,” he says.

Ad­mit­ting his town doesn’t have the same se­lec­tion and va­ri­ety of ser­vices that can be found in larger cen­tres like St. John’s, Mayor Lit­tle­john says, “ but peo­ple can get ba­si­cally what they want here. And most peo­ple like the ru­ral way of life and the ameni­ties, fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices we do have to of­fer.”

Record growth

The six new res­i­den­tial build­ing ap­pli­ca­tions ap­proved at the town’s last reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing Aug. 17 brings to 61 the to­tal num­ber of res­i­den­tial build­ing per­mits ap­proved to date this year. That’s the same num­ber that were ap­proved for the whole of 2009.

Point­ing out last year was a record year for hous­ing starts in the town, Lit­tle­john notes we’ve al­ready reached that fig­ure, and we still have four months to go in the year.

Build­ing boom

While the build­ing boom con­tin­ues un­abated, he says his town con­tin­ues to com­pete with other larger towns.

Less than an hour’s drive from the cap­i­tal city, Lit­tle­john notes, “ we are prac­ti­cally next door to St. John’s,” and the ur­ban sprawl that has ex­ploded from Kil­bride and the Goulds through Mount Pearl, Par­adise and Con­cep­tion Bay South.

The mayor re­calls one year a few years back when CBS had 240 hous­ing starts. “ We had 50 hous­ing starts that same year, but on a per capita ba­sis, we were build­ing as many new homes as they were - that’s pretty amaz­ing!”

Point­ing out peo­ple are not build­ing small homes any­more, he es­ti­mates the av­er­age new home go­ing up in Bay Roberts to­day is run­ning any­where from $150,000 to $175,000. Mul­ti­ply that by 60 (new houses) and you have be­tween nine and 10 mil­lion dol­lars worth of new res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion. “ The build­ing sup­ply com­pa­nies are go­ing flat out,” the mayor says.

To il­lus­trate how the price of build­ing lots “ has gone through the roof,” the mayor re­calls, “ten years ago you could pick up a (100 X 100) build­ing lot for $10,000. Now you’d be hard pressed to get that same sized lot for $30,000. Ev­ery­body is try­ing to get in on the land bo­nanza,” he says.

He says the hous­ing de­vel­op­ments vary from three and six-lot de­vel­op­ments up to 30-35 lots, as can be found in Phase 3 of Val­leyview Sub­di­vi­sion.

He says he knows of peo­ple who have built two and three new homes, all worth into the six fig­ure range, kept them for a cou­ple of years and have ac­tu­ally made money each time they resold them. He knows of one home that is go­ing for half a mil­lion dol­lars.

“ The mar­ket is still boom­ing. It’s a great thing to see, and it’s cre­at­ing some pretty ex­cit­ing times.”

Grow­ing pains

While devel­op­ment may be great for towns like Bay Roberts, Lit­tle­john is the first to ad­mit it does not come with­out chal­lenges for coun­cil - like. for ex­am­ple try­ing to keep up with the ever-in­creas­ing de­mands to pro­vide in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port such un­prece­dented growth.

And as im­por­tant as they are for a mu­nic­i­pal­ity, a town can­not be solely made up of res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial devel­op­ment. “ You’ve got to have bal­ance. It’s im­por­tant that you have recre­ation fa­cil­i­ties, her­itage ar­eas, and green spa­ces com­ple­ment­ing the res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial. You need all of it to­gether. And that’s the great chal­lenge we face,” Mayor Lit­tle­john ac­knowl­edged.

To achieve that del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act re­quires proper zon­ing. “ You have to draw the line some­where, and not ev­ery­one is go­ing to be happy. It hasn’t been easy, but we (coun­cil) try to do it as best we can and we work at it hard ev­ery day.”

He says the town has de­vel­oped a new mu­nic­i­pal plan, which is now in the hands of the Depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs for ap­proval. Ex­pan­sion of land is part of that plan. “ We’re try­ing to open up new prop­erty in places like the New Found Lane area,” he points out.

Com­mer­cial growth

On the busi­ness side, Lit­tle­john says they’ve ap­proved 10-12 new com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions this year. That num­ber in­cludes new ven­tures start­ing up in ex­ist­ing build­ings and new com­mer­cial struc­tures un­der con­struc­tion.

Re­fer­ring to the town’s “golden mile,” the strip of com­mer­cial devel­op­ment be­tween the west end of Wa­ter Street and Birch Hills, Lit­tle­john says, “there’s not a whole lot of land left there for po­ten­tial com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ers to ac­cess.” That’s why we want to de­velop what he calls “a busi­ness park” off Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial High­way.

Ad­mit­ting the pro­posed park has been slow in get­ting off the ground, the mayor says they hope to fi­nal­ize the pur­chase of land in the area within the next 60 days.

While some in­for­mal talks have al­ready taken place, he be­lieves they will be­come more se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions, lead­ing to more con­crete ne­go­ti­a­tions in the near fu­ture.

With less than 25 acres to work with there now, the mayor hopes even­tu­ally they will be able to ac­cess up to 60 acres of land for devel­op­ment in that area.

Ideal ra­tio

Lit­tle­john says he read the ideal sit­u­a­tion for a mu­nic­i­pal­ity would be to have 60 per cent of its tax base com­mer­cial and 40 per cent res­i­den­tial.

“Right now Bay Roberts is about 70 per cent res­i­den­tial and 30 per cent com­mer­cial.” He would like to see it closer to an even 50-50 ra­tio. That’s the goal we have to reach and that’s why it’s so im­por­tant to at­tract new com­mer­cial devel­op­ment that will help cre­ate a solid foun­da­tion for our com­mu­nity.”

With Bay Roberts strate­gi­cally po­si­tioned be­tween Long Har­bour on one side and St. John’s on the other, Lit­tle­john sees no end in sight for devel­op­ment and growth, not only for his town but the en­tire Con­cep­tion Bay North area.

Photo by Bur­ton Janes/The Com­pass

HOUS­ING BOOM - This home un­der con­struc­tion in Val­leyview Sub­di­vi­sion is one of the more than 60 new homes go­ing up in Bay Roberts this year.

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