Looking out for potential business
“ We’ve realized there is a need to open more commercial space so we can attract new business,” said Littlejohn.
But the decision comes at a time when a proposed commercial development is also in the early stages in Spaniard’s Bay-Tilton, about five kilometres away.
Developer Brad Roberts announced this summer plans to develop a “power centre” on some 240 acres of Crown land located just east of Veterans Memorial Highway, near the intersection with Route 73. In recent weeks, workers have been clearing trees and posts have been erected for a sign.
When contacted last week about the news from Bay Roberts, Roberts expressed surprise and disappointment, and accused the town of “throwing good money out the window.”
He suggested that the region buy into his development instead of trying to compete with it.
“ The idea of a power centre in a central location like this is that it regionalizes C.B.N.,” Roberts said.
He suggested a commercial development in Bay Roberts will have the opposite effect.
“ They’re not thinking regionally,” Roberts said.
Roberts added that his development is being supported with private money, at no risk to taxpayers.
But Littlejohn said Bay Roberts had no choice but to make a move.
He said the demand for commercial land in Bay Roberts is greater than the town can accommodate. The so-called Golden Mile — the commercial strip along the Conception Bay Highway from the Morrow-Morrow Building to Powell’s Grocery — has little to offer, and there’s word that negotiations between various companies and private landowners for the sale of available land have not gone well.
That’s why the town decided to take a gamble to ensure there is affordable commercial land available for development, Littlejohn explained.
Town officials have been in continuous contact with potential developers, and the message has been constant: provide the land and investment will follow.
“ Over the last three years I’ve had people look at me and say, ‘Glenn, when you guys get straightened away, I want to come talk to you.’ Well, we’re just about ready, so we’ll see if some of that comes to fruition,” he said. “ Hopefully, in 2011, those things are going to happen and we’ll be able to make some solid, concrete announcements.”
Ron Delaney, the town’s director of development, expressed confidence that the town’s gamble will pay off.
“ I’d say by 2011 you’re not going to have to worry about the money we’re spending. I think it will be money well spent,” Delaney said. “ We’re just making sure that there is an alternative for potential businesses that are looking at this area.”
As for competing with a neighbouring business park in another municipality, Littlejohn said his council has been working on this project for four years. He said the town has to strengthen its commercial tax base because it depends very heavily — about 70 per cent — on residential taxation to bolster its $6 million annual operating budget.
He said the region will benefit from both projects in terms of job creation and enhanced services and amenities, but noted that Bay Roberts will only get a tax benefit from businesses located within its boundaries.
“ That development in Spaniard’s Bay will proceed, and it has no impact on us,” said Littlejohn. “ The timing appears that it’s in reaction to that development, but we’ve been at this for four years.”
Meanwhile, Roberts said he will move forward as planned.
“ Things are rolling a lot faster than we expected,” Roberts noted. “ But it’s disappointing (Bay Roberts) would take that stance rather than joining us in a regional approach to economic development.”
Photo by Terry Roberts/The Compass Bay Roberts Mayor Glenn Littlejohn says the town has no choice but to strengthen its commercial tax base.