Ri­d­ley Of­fices owner ques­tions town’s mo­tives

Har­bour Grace con­sid­er­ing ex­pro­pri­a­tion, seek­ing prov­ince’s ap­proval

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

The owner of a his­toric prop­erty in Har­bour Grace now the sub­ject of a po­ten­tial mu­nic­i­pal ex­pro­pri­a­tion is ques­tion­ing the town’s mo­tives.

Rhonda Par­sons, a wo­man from On­tario with fam­ily roots in the town, pur­chased Ri­d­ley Of­fices in 2005. The stone struc­ture on Beach Hill was built in 1838, mak­ing it one of the old­est build­ings in town.

The town has of­fered to pur­chase the prop­erty in the past, but Par­sons has de­clined to sell it. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity has dis­puted her use of Ri­d­ley Of­fices as a res­i­den­tial dwelling and sus­pended her garbage col­lec­tion, claim­ing the area is zoned for in­dus­trial use. Par­sons notes the Mu­nic­i­pal As­sess­ment Agency rec­og­nizes her prop­erty as res­i­den­tial.

Last month, coun­cil ap­proved a mo­tion to seek ap­proval from the min­is­ter of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs and En­vi­ron­ment to ex­pro­pri­ate the prop­erty. Dis­cus­sions in coun­cil cham­bers of ex­pro­pri­at­ing the prop­erty date back to the fall of 2015.

Speak­ing with The Com­pass last week, Par­sons said she was sur­prised by coun­cil’s de­ci­sion, learn­ing of it through an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the news­pa­per.

“I have a prob­lem with it, be­cause the idea that I wasn’t a part of the con­ver­sa­tion … it is my prop­erty, and I think that as a courtesy I should have been no­ti­fied,” she said.

Par­sons met with the town man­ager ear­lier this month upon learn­ing of the lat­est mo­tion con­cern­ing her prop­erty. Par­sons said she was told the town is in­ter­ested in hav­ing the local his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety look af­ter the prop­erty. This would likely re­fer to Har­bour Grace’s Her­itage and Re­de­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee, which the town is look­ing to have in­cor­po­rated.

Par­sons does not be­lieve the town is mak­ing a strong enough case to ex­pro­pri­ate Ri­d­ley Of­fices.

“You have to have a clear rea­son as to why you’re go­ing to ex­pro­pri­ate some­one’s prop­erty — it’s ei­ther for the pub­lic good or you’re go­ing to put a road through there,” she said. “There’s rea­sons why you would do that, and I wasn’t given a rea­son.”

Par­sons con­tends there’s a hid­den agenda at play linked to the town’s pro­posed Ma­rine In­dus­trial Park. Her prop­erty is also sit­u­ated next to Har­bour Grace Ocean En­ter­prises, and Par­sons has been crit­i­cal of that busi­ness’ op­er­a­tions, claim­ing ship­break­ing ac­tiv­ity has neg­a­tively im­pacted Ri­d­ley Of­fices. She also claims HGOE has of­fered to buy the build­ing.

“It’s not about the busi­ness per se, it’s about the prac­tices,” she said. “I know it (stim­u­lates) this economy and pro­vides jobs, which is great.”

In pre­vi­ous con­ver­sa­tions with The Com­pass, HGOE of­fi­cials have pointed out that ship­build­ing and ship re­pair work has taken place on Beach Hill for decades, dat­ing back to the 19th cen­tury. In her own pre­vi­ous in­ter­view, Par­sons said ac­tiv­ity in the area decades ago doesn’t com­pare to the work that’s hap­pen­ing today.

“I have a prob­lem with it, be­cause the idea that I wasn’t a part of the con­ver­sa­tion … it is my prop­erty, and I think that as a courtesy I should have been no­ti­fied.”

Rhonda Par­sons

Re­gard­ing the po­ten­tial ex­pro­pri­a­tion of her prop­erty, Par­sons sug­gests the town’s ac­tions amount to an­other form of reprisal. Ac­cord­ing to Par­sons, she lost her garbage col­lec­tion ser­vice fol­low­ing an in­ter­view with CBC about the town’s al­leged un­will­ing­ness to ad­dress a busi­ness per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion. Later, she claims a ‘no en­try’ sign was placed at the top of Beach Hill, pre­vent­ing her from ac­cess­ing Ri­d­ley Of­fices. A call to pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment man­aged to get the sign re­moved, she said.

“The idea of putting up a sign like that on a road that’s been pub­lic for 150 years just doesn’t make sense — none of this makes sense to me.”

In an in­ter­view with The Com­pass two years ago, Par­sons ex­pressed con­cerns about the po­ten­tial demise of her prop­erty if it were sold. Mayor Terry Barnes and Coun. Hay­ward Blake have since in­di­cated the town has no in­ter­est in los­ing the build­ing and wants to en­sure it’s pro­tected. It was Blake who in­tro­duced the mo­tion last month to seek min­is­te­rial ap­proval.

When Par­sons pur­chased the build­ing in 2005, she said it was done for the pur­pose of sav­ing it from de­mo­li­tion by ne­glect. She’s since then in­vested a con­sid­er­able amount of money into the prop­erty.

“It’s quite an un­der­tak­ing,” Par­sons said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever fin­ish it in my life­time … But who are they to come along and say that their his­toric so­ci­ety wants it?”

Since learn­ing of coun­cil’s de­ci­sion, Par­sons has sent a let­ter to Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ed­die Joyce.

“It’s quite an un­der­tak­ing …I don’t know if I’ll ever fin­ish it in my life­time … But who are they to come along and say that their his­toric so­ci­ety wants it?”

Rhonda Par­sons

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Ri­d­ley Of­fices in Har­bour Grace may get a new owner. The Town of Har­bour Grace is ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­pro­pri­at­ing the prop­erty.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Rhonda Par­sons, the owner of the his­toric Ri­d­ley Of­fices prop­erty since 2005, isn’t buy­ing the town’s ex­pla­na­tion for the po­ten­tial ex­pro­pri­a­tion of her build­ing.

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