Road issue resurfaces
The controversial nameless road, which runs parallel to Columbus Drive and connects the top of English Hill with Bunker Hill, is back on the Carbonear town council’s radar.
Council ratified a motion at its Oct. 18 regular meeting to write the provincial minister of transportation, asking his department to investigate a solution to the existing problem with respect to emergency access to Bunker Hill. A copy of the letter will also be forwarded to local MHA Jerome Kennedy. The motion had already been passed at an Oct. 4 privileged meeting.
This marked the first time the road has come up for public discussion since August when it fueled a heated debate between Coun. Gladys Mercer and Mayor Sam Slade.
At the time, Mercer accused Slade of breaching conflict of interest rules when he voted at a July 20 council meeting to have the lane graded. And Slade accused Mercer of making personal attacks against him.
The controversial motion to grade the road was passed by a slim majority of 4-3, with Slade casting the deciding vote.
During the many discussions and debates the nameless road has sparked over the last two years, Slade, who resides at the top of Bunker Hill near the west end of the road, has sometimes left the council chambers because of a perceived conflict of interest, and sometimes remained.
For example, during the many debates over an application from a couple to construct a dwelling house on the road, Slade would vacate the chair. But during the debate over snow clearing on the road to provide emregency access to Bunker Hill, he remained, backed by council, which maintained that snow clearing was not an enhancement, but only a service provided to all citizens, including the mayor.
At the August meeting he defended his decision to remain and debate the issue during the July meeting, arguing he had been advised there was no conflict. “I was told that if it was just regular maintenance, I had a right to represent the people of Bunker Hill. If we were talking about new pavement, yes, I would be in a conflict because it would enhance the value...”
Mercer countered at the time that, “when you declare yourself in conflict once, you’re always in conflict. You can’t change that.”
During the most recent debate Oct. 18, Slade opted to vacate the chair and chambers, leaving Deputy Mayor Ches Ash to preside over the meeting.
When council decided late last year to discontinue clearing snow from the nameless road, Bunker Hill residents lobbied hard to have the road maintained, including circulating a petition.
The town finally rescinded its decision in January, clearly stating at the time it was still not recognizing it as a public road, and maintaining, “use by the general public is not permitted.”
Earlier this year council erected a sign at the east end of the gravel road advising motorists it was not for public use, but for emergency use only.
Change of address
Council passed a motion to reimburse seven households on Blueberry Crescent for expenses they incurred when the town changed the name of their street from Southwell Place to Blueberry Crescent.
Each household will receive a cheque for $75 from council to cover the $ 30 Canada Post charges for change-of-address, plus whatever costs the householders may have incurred in having to change the numbers on their homes.
In response to a question, town administrator Cynthia Davis said policy stipulates that at least 25 per cent of a building in the downtown (Water Street) area should be used for commercial purposes.
Mercer reminded council the policy was put in place in an effort to maintain as much of the downtown core as possible for commercial development, so the area wouldn’t all become residential apartments.
Before any further discussion on the issue could proceed, Ash said the issue was scheduled for discussion during the privileged meeting, and “that’s where it should be discussed.”
Mercer asked the town administrator for some clarification on council’s policy regarding unlicensed vehicles on private properties.
“Would you see a vehicle being used as a storage shed as a permissible use,” Mercer inquired?
Davis said some people may have two or three vehicles on their property, which are not scrapped, but not licensed. Council policy only permits one vehicle.
“But it’s not the intent of the policy to have a van used as a storage shed?” Mercer continued.
Before she could offer any clarification, Davis felt the issue obviously needs more discussion.