Look­ing out for po­ten­tial busi­ness

The Compass - - News - edi­tor@ cb­n­com­pass. ca

“ 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.

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