Mayor ques­tions land pur­chase

Clarke’s Beach to spend $40,000 on water­front lot

The Compass - - OPINION - BY TERRY ROBERTS THE COM­PASS

In a move that has raised eye­brows in some cir­cles, the Clarke’s Beach town coun­cil voted re­cently to ap­prove the spend­ing of $40,000 for the pur­chase of a high-pro­file piece of land on the water­front, ad­ja­cent to the ceno­taph and across the street from the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing.

The vote took place dur­ing a hastily called meet­ing on Mon­day, Aug. 6 — the town’s civic hol­i­day.

The town’s long­time clerk, Joan Wil­cox, was not in at­ten­dance to record the min­utes. Mayor Betty Moore and Coun. David Moore were also ab­sent, since they were at­tend­ing civic hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions or­ga­nized by the town’s re­cre­ation com­mis­sion. Both say they re­ceived email no­ti­fi­ca­tion of the meet­ing, but didn’t at­tend be­cause of the short notice, and the fact it was a civic hol­i­day.

“They didn’t want me there be­cause they knew I didn’t sup­port it,” Coun. Moore later told The Com­pass.

The de­ci­sion was sup­ported at the 40-minute spe­cial meet­ing by Deputy Mayor Kevin Hussey and coun­cil­lors Roland An­drews, Garry Ben­dell, El­don Snow and Win­ston Vokey, though it came in for some criticism dur­ing coun­cil’s reg­u­lar pub­lic meet­ing on Aug. 13.

Mayor Moore ques­tioned the price be­ing paid for the land, say­ing she was “sur­prised and shocked” by the amount.

“$40,000 is not a small piece of change for this town,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the town’s as­sess­ment role, the land is be­ing taxed based on an as­sessed value of $5,700.

Mayor Moore was also crit­i­cal of the tim­ing and ur­gency of the meet­ing, and won­dered why it was so im­por­tant to hold the meet­ing on a civic hol­i­day.

Ac­cepted first of­fer

It’s also been learned that coun­cil did not en­gage a real es­tate pro­fes­sional to carry out an ap­praisal of the prop­erty, which would have cost ap­prox­i­mately $ 400, and that it ac­cepted the first of­fer made by the seller.

Mayor Moore also raised con­cerns about the town’s plans for the prop­erty. Ac­cord­ing to the min­utes of the spe­cial meet­ing, some mem­bers of coun­cil see the land — lo­cated at 164-168 Con­cep­tion Bay High­way with some 150 feet of frontage — be­ing used for “tourism and pos­si­ble re­cre­ation pur­poses.”

One of the pos­si­bil­i­ties in­clude re­lo­cat­ing the for­mer train sta­tion to the site and con­vert­ing it into a mu­seum. The sta­tion is cur­rently lo­cated at the in­ter­sec­tion of Main Street and Sta­tion Road, and has fallen into dis­re­pair over the years. There’s been plenty of de­bate about what should be­come of the struc­ture.

Sup­port­ers of the pur­chase say there were two rea­sons for the ex­pen­di­ture: to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of re­lo­cat­ing the sta­tion to the site, and to have full con­trol over how the land is de­vel­oped, since it is next to the ceno­taph.

But Mayor Moore and Coun. Moore — no re­la­tion — both ques­tioned how much such a de­vel­op­ment would cost, where the money would come from, and whether pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties would even sanc­tion such a project be­cuase of the prop­erty’s prox­im­ity to Con­cep­tion Bay High­way, which is a pro­vin­cial road.

Coun. Moore de­scribed the pur­chase as a “bad de­ci­sion.”

Good value

Coun. An­drews is a lead­ing ad­vo­cate for the land ac­qui­si­tion. He de­fended the price, say­ing it was “good value,” since it also in­cludes a large con­crete floor left over from the build­ing — known to many as the Gold Gallery — that was de­stroyed by fire sev­eral years ago.

An­drews said the town will ex­plore var­i­ous fund­ing op­tions to help cover the cost of re­lo­cat­ing and ren­o­vat­ing the train sta­tion.

When asked if such a de­vel­op­ment might be nixed by the prov­ince be­cause of the lo­ca­tion, An­drews noted, “that’s a prob­a­bil­ity,” though he said there are no re­stric­tions that he’s aware of.

And why was it nec­es­sary to hold a spe­cial meet­ing? “The owner wanted a re­ply,” An­drews stated.

An­drews said he was not aware that it was a civic hol­i­day on Aug. 6, and apol­o­gized to Mayor Moore at the Aug. 13 meet­ing for the late no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

“There was noth­ing un­der­handed. No pre­con­ceived no­tions,” said An­drews.

He said the town is ac­quir­ing the prop­erty for an “ex­cel­lent price,” and noted it was listed for $25,000 “a cou­ple of years ago.”

An­drews em­pha­sized sev­eral times the land pur­chase is “good news” and said many res­i­dents are keen to have the town’s his­tory and her­itage dis­played in a more or­ga­nized, prom­i­nent way.

Mayor Moore sug­gested later that the money might be bet­ter spent up­grad­ing the town’s fam­ily park, which has fallen into dis­re­pair in re­cent years.

Mean­while, a real es­tate agent c ont a c t e d b y T h e Compa s s ex­pressed sur­prise the town did not have the land ap­praised, but is fa­mil­iar with land val­ues in the area and de­scribed $40,000 as a “de­cent value for the prop­erty.”

The agent, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, said the as­sessed value of the prop­erty can be mis­lead­ing, since the as­sess­ment was likely at least four years old, and prop­erty val­ues have in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly in that time.

ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Pho­tos by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

The for­mer train sta­tion in Clarke’s Beach has fallen into dis­re­pair in re­cent years. There’s a move afoot to re­lo­cate to the build­ing to a piece of prop­erty on the Con­cep­tion Bay High­way.

The piece of prop­erty lo­cated along the main road through Clarke’s Beach is be­ing pur­chased by the town for $40,000.

Clarke’s Beach Mayor Betty Moores ex­pressed con­cern last week about a land pur­chase by the town.

Shown here are, from left, Clarke’s Beach coun­cil­lors Roland An­drews and Win­ston Vokey.

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