Amalgamation with no consent
Harbour Grace wants Bristol’s Hope to join municipality
The potential amalgamation of Bristol’s Hope to Harbour Grace is now a hot button issue after the latter community’s town council voted in favour of a motion last Wednesday to merge the two areas.
Coun. Tony McCarthy, the chair of the housing and zoning committee, made the motion at the meeting. Only four council members were in attendance.
“I want to make a motion that we direct the town manager to approach municipal affairs in expressing out interest in including Bristol’s Hope in the Town of Harbour Grace,” he said. “We’ve looked at this in the past and we backed away from it temporarily.”
Coun. Hayward Blake was quick to second the motion, which ended in a unanimous vote.
“It’s long overdue,” added Mayor Terry Barnes.
Bristol’s Hope rejects idea
But a representative of Bristol’s Hope told The Compass residents will never support amalgamation.
Richard Johnson, the chair of the Bristol’s Hope Development Association, is very disappointed in what he calls a “tax grab” by the Town of Harbour Grace.
“First of all, this community dates back to the 1600s, we have our own identity,” Johnson told The Compass. “It’s on its own. We have our own development association put it place.
“They’ve been trying since the early 1980s to annex Bristol’s Hope. And two years ago it got turned down by Municipal Affairs.”
In 2013, a letter was supplied to Harbour Grace and Johnson from former Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs Steve Kent rejecting the idea for amalgamation under circumstances where both parties didn’t agree to it.
“It said there will be no forced amalgamation,” Johnson read.
There are many issues, he said, adding to the frustration. Johnson said no one on the development committee of Bristol’s Hope was consulted by the town to discuss the idea of amalgamation.
“Residents … do not want to even entertain the idea,” he added.
The community has its own water and sewer, mailboxes and its own postal code, and committee members took it upon themselves to create road names and civic numbering.
The only service Harbour Grace provides to Bristol’s Hope at the present time, Johnson said, is fire protection services, which they pay for.
Residents in the area went door-to-door collecting whatever they could afford to ensure they received fire protection in early November 2013. It was the equivalent of about $50 per household, Johnson said.
Less than a month later, only two months into the term of the new town council, a motion was made to have reisdents of Bristol’s Hope pay $100 per household for fire protection services.
“They have the audacity to turn around and charge us $100,” he said. “All because they can’t get us as a tax base? It’s unfortunate they are acting this way.”
In the past
In the early 1990s, Harbour Grace South and The Thicket were amalgamated into the municipality of Harbour Grace.
A feasibility study was done by a group of commissioners in 1990, one of which was Harbour Grace Coun. Gord Stone.
Stone helped create a list of five recommendations in the report, which included an endorsement for the amalgamation of Harbour Grace with Harbour Grace South, The Thicket and Bristol’s Hope.
Johnson moved to Bristol’s Hope in 1991, around the same time the reports were completed. He said in all his years there, he has never heard anyone from the area say they want to join the municipality.
For years Bristol’s Hope has been applying for Local Service District (LSD) status, but so far, with no success. But they have al- ways considered themselves selfsufficient. But Johnson hopes the application from Harbour Grace gets shut down, and the community can get approved as an LSD.
A spokesperson for the Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs confirmed to The Compass that in order for a municipality to begin the process of amalgamating with another area they must send a letter of request to the department.
“A letter of request should be made to the Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs indicating approval of the communities involved has been obtained and the parties are willing to further explore potential amalgamation/ annexation,” communications director Kevin Guest said.
There also has to be a feasibility study done, like the one Stone was a part of in the 1990s.
In order for a town to take in another community, there must be a mutual agreement reached. He confirmed the government will not force amalgamation.
“As for Bristol’s Hope, this is an unincorporated area and as with any communities (municipalities, local service districts, unincorporated areas) involved in exploring amalgamation/annexation, in this instance, both parties must be supportive,” Guest explained.
As for Johnson, he confirmed he will spend every last cent he has fighting the amalgamation if it gets to that point.
“I will even take it to the Supreme Court of Canada if I have to,” he said.