Coun­cil misses an op­por­tu­nity

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION -

It's been said that ev­ery prob­lem has a gift for you in its hands.

Some might say that was the case at a town coun­cil meet­ing in Clarke's Beach on Sept. 19.

The Clarke's Beach town coun­cil has been at the cen­tre of a di­vi­sive and ran­corous dis­pute over the op­er­a­tion of an RV park in­side the com­mu­nity. It's es­ca­lated to a point where it's im­pact­ing the day-to-day op­er­a­tions of the coun­cil, and has even caught the at­ten­tion of the RCMP and se­nior of­fi­cials with the Depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs.

In a nut­shell, many res­i­dents of Park Av­enue have had their fill of the park, which ex­panded this year and now bor­ders one side of the street. They say the park has eroded their qual­ity of life, low­ered their prop­erty val­ues and raised some safety con­cerns along the nar­row street with a dis­tinc­tive sharp turn.

On two oc­ca­sions this past sum­mer, res­i­dents used their ve­hi­cles to block the exit of con­struc­tion ve­hi­cles and RVs from an "emer­gency only" exit on the street (the main en­trance is on nearby Brook Av­enue).

Po­lice were called to the area on two oc­ca­sions dur­ing the Labour Day week­end, with re­ports of an­gry con­fronta­tions and bot­tles be­ing thrown onto some­one's pri­vate prop­erty.

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween park owner Ernie Mug­ford and sev­eral Park Av­enue res­i­dents has de­gen­er­ated to a very nasty level, with Mug­ford claim­ing re­cently that he is be­ing " ha­rassed to death" and would be tak­ing le­gal ac­tion.

Mean­while, Park Av­enue res­i­dent Mil­dred Snow stormed out of the most re­cent coun­cil meet­ing, stat­ing "I don't de­serve to live in a gravel pit" as she left the cham­ber.

Through it all, many cit­i­zens have con­tended that the town coun­cil has ig­nored their con­cerns and sided with Mug­ford and the mostly non-res­i­dent users of Moun­tain­View Park.

In ap­prov­ing the most re­cent 50-site ex­pan­sion, coun­cil fol­lowed pro­to­col and or­dered that the pro­posal be pub­licly ad­ver­tised in this pub­li­ca­tion be­fore giv­ing its ap­proval. But there were no pub­lic meet­ings or di­rect con­tact with those who would be most im­pacted by the ex­pan­sion — res­i­dents of Park Av­enue. That's de­spite the fact there has been re­sis­tance to the park dat­ing back sev­eral years. Now back to that "gift in the hand" ref­er­ence. More than 30 peo­ple at­tended the Sept. 19 pub­lic meet­ing, nearly all drawn by the knowl­edge that Mug­ford had made a writ­ten re­quest to have the "emer­gency only" exit on Park Av­enue re­clas­si­fied as an "al­ter­nate exit" for the pri­vate ve­hi­cles of a hand­ful of park users.

Mug­ford said he was seek­ing to have the same rights and priv­i­leges as res­i­dents of Clarke's Beach, "no more or no less."

Af­ter some de­bate, in­clud­ing an ar­gu­ment over whether park users should be treated as "res­i­dents" of the town, coun­cil voted 4-3 in favour of Mug­ford's re­quest, prompt­ing one mem­ber of the pub­lic gallery to de­scribe coun­cil as a "kan­ga­roo court."

In mak­ing its de­ci­sion, coun­cil missed an op­por­tu­nity to of­fer up a sym­bolic ges­ture that it was act­ing in the best in­ter­est of its cit­i­zens. There was no dire need for the exit to be re­clas­si­fied as an al­ter­nate exit.

And Mug­ford ear­lier signed an agree­ment stat­ing that Park Av­enue would be for emer­gency egress. Why didn't he lobby for "al­ter­nate exit" sta­tus at that time?

And why would a park owner want a sec­ondary en­trance/exit? Wouldn't it make more sense to have a sin­gle point of en­try in or­der to con­trol and mon­i­tor who is in the park?

It could be ar­gued that coun­cil has added fuel to the fire in­stead of try­ing to calm the sit­u­a­tion. That's in no­body's best in­ter­est.

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