Botched land deal still top-of-mind
Newly elected mayor discusses issue at first meeting of new council
Leading up to the Sept. 24 municipal election in Bay Roberts, the hot button topic was the town’s supposed double-purchase of a parcel of land off L.T. Stick Drive.
A week prior to the election, during a question-and-answer forum with candidates, residents learned the had town paid a resident a quarter-of-a-million dollars for the land in 2005, only to learn nearly four years later the man may not have had clear title to the property. To avoid a lengthy legal battle with Crown lands, a division of the provincial Department of Environment and Conservation, the town decided in 2012 to again purchase the land as part of a larger parcel.
The news sent shockwaves through the Trinity Conception region. When the story appeared on the website of The Compass, it generated thousands of views and dozens of reader comments.
Readers were divided into two camps, with some saying council had attempted to cover up the botched land deal, while others suggested that blame should not be shouldered by the current council. There was also a view that the town’s legal representatives were at fault.
The issue cast a dark cloud over the remaining days of the campaign, with many demanding answers and accountability.
Following the swearing in of the newly elected town council on Oct. 8, Mayor Philip Wood, who easily held onto his post on Sept. 24, deliberately broached the controversial subject.
“I made a commitment at the candidates’ forum to address it at the next meeting,” said Wood, who was not a member of council when the original 2005 land deal was signed.
In an obvious attempt at restoring public confidence in the town’s leadership, Wood laid out the timeline for the events behind the purchase of the nearly 50 acres of land.
“It was important for full disclosure at the first available meeting,” he said.
After Wood was finished, the mayor opened the floor for questions, but cautioned that the matter is still a very delicate legal issue.
Coun. Charlene Dawe-Roach, one of three new councillors, asked whether the town had legal advice to proceed with the purchase based on a series of affidavits that tied the individual to the land.
“Yes, we did,” replied chief administrative officer Nigel Black.
“It was ultimately the town’s decision,” he added.
Coun. Bill Seymour then asked if the town was going to make an attempt to recoup the roughly $250,000 paid out in the original purchase.
Wood said the town has an open claim against the individual.