Council misses an opportunity
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.