HAR­BOUR GRACE COUN­CIL DE­CIDES NOT TO EXPROPRIATE RI­D­LEY OF­FICES

Owner still con­cerned town may take an­other look at op­tion down the road

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

The owner of a 180-year-old her­itage struc­ture in Har­bour Grace is re­lieved the town coun­cil has de­cided against ex­pro­pri­at­ing her prop­erty.

How­ever, Rhonda Par­sons still wor­ries the Town of Har­bour Grace could one day de­cide to take an­other crack at ob­tain­ing own­er­ship of Ri­d­ley Of­fices, a two-storey stone struc­ture lo­cated on Beach Hill, built by mer­chant Thomas Ri­d­ley in 1838.

“This is only good un­til some­thing crops up in the fu­ture — like for ex­am­ple if the (pro­posed Marine In­dus­trial Park) went through,” Par­sons told The Com­pass.

The move to expropriate Ri­d­ley Of­fices was an act of the pre­vi­ous coun­cil. An ini­tial mo­tion to ex­plore the op­tion was passed in 2015, and it was this time last year the town for­mally sought ap­proval from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to expropriate the build­ing. It had pre­vi­ously made mul­ti­ple of­fers to pur­chase Ri­d­ley Of­fices, which Par­sons re­jected.

The mo­tion to not pro­ceed with ex­pro­pri­a­tion was in­tro­duced and ap­proved at the Jan. 15, 2018 coun­cil meet­ing. Har­bour Grace Mayor Don Coombs told The Com­pass coun­cil de­ter­mined it had no use for the prop­erty.

“We saw no need for the town to have the prop­erty,” said Coombs, who noted the town owned Ri­d­ley Of­fices at one time and kept its Sports Hall of Fame there be­fore sell­ing it to the owner that im­me­di­ately pre­ceded Par­sons. She pur­chased Ri­d­ley Of­fices in 2007.

Coombs, who was mayor of the day when the town owned the build­ing, re­calls it was an ex­pen­sive prop­erty to main­tain.

“The thing is, the town had it, and we just couldn’t af­ford to main­tain it,” he said.

The pre­vi­ous coun­cil had ex­pressed an in­ter­est in tak­ing own­er­ship of the build­ing to in­cor­po­rate it into the Marine In­dus­trial Park, a project spear­headed by the town as a means to in­crease eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and cre­ate a new rev­enue stream for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. The coun­cil of that time said it would pre­serve the prop­erty.

Coombs said the town has had some meet­ings with the At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency since the new coun­cil was voted in last fall. ACOA would be an es­sen­tial fund­ing part­ner if the Marine In­dus­trial Park were to ever come to fruition.

Par­sons is skep­ti­cal about the prospect of the in­dus­trial park at­tract­ing the mil­lions of dol­lars nec­es­sary to make it a re­al­ity in light of the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s fis­cal sit­u­a­tion. As for her own prop­erty, she wants as­sur­ances from the town it will not face the fu­ture threat of ex­pro­pri­a­tion.

“I don’t want it where this coun­cil is in power and they say, ‘We’re not go­ing to expropriate,’ and then sud­denly if some­thing were to change and things were to start pick­ing up down here, then I still want to have the se­cu­rity of know­ing they’re still not go­ing to touch Ri­d­ley or try to at­tempt to tear it down,” Par­sons said. “And I’m look­ing for not just four years — I’m look­ing for­ever.”

Last year, the Mu­nic­i­pal As­sess­ment Agency changed the sta­tus of her prop­erty from res­i­den­tial to com­mer­cial. The town for years had said her prop­erty should be con­sid­ered the lat­ter, and Par­sons said it was the mu­nic­i­pal­ity that ini­ti­ated the agency’s visit to Ri­d­ley Of­fices.

Coombs, who has met with the Ri­d­ley Of­fices owner in re­cent months, said he will meet with Par­sons and her lawyer this week to dis­cuss that is­sue. He noted the area where Ri­d­ley Of­fices is lo­cated is zoned as ru­ral in­dus­trial.

The thing is, the town had it, and we just couldn’t af­ford to main­tain it.

— Mayor Don Coombs

COM­PASS FILE PHO­TOS

The Town of Har­bour Grace has de­cided not to expropriate the his­toric Ri­d­ley Of­fices prop­erty on Beach Hill.

Rhonda Par­sons, the owner of Ri­d­ley Of­fices, still wor­ries the Town of Har­bour Grace may one day de­cide to take an­other look at ex­pro­pri­at­ing her prop­erty.

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