Land griev­ance

N.S. widow claims Town of Norris Point gave her a use­less piece of land

The Western Star - - FRONT PAGE - BY DIANE CROCKER THE WESTERN STAR

A Nova Sco­tia widow is hop­ing the town coun­cil in Norris Point will make right on a land deal that has left her with a use­less piece of prop­erty.

Shirley Barnes, 77, says the town was “dis­hon­est and crooked” when it took her piece of beach­front prop­erty in 2001 and gave her land that can’t be built on.

Her hus­band, Clarence Barnes, was orig­i­nally from Norris Point and in 1969 the cou­ple bought his grand­mother’s house on Clarke’s Road.

They used it as a sum­mer home for a few years and then rented it.

It was dur­ing one of the rental pe­ri­ods that the home burnt down. But the cou­ple kept the land, with the in­ten­tion of do­ing some­thing with it.

In 1986 they were to re­turn to New­found­land and Corner Brook, where Barnes grew up, as her hus­band was be­ing trans­ferred from the Cape Bre­ton Post to The Western Star. But Clarence got sick and they couldn’t make the move. He died in Jan­uary 1989, and Shirley de­cided to stay in Syd­ney.

She kept the land in Norris Point, think­ing that her chil­dren might make use of it or that it would be an in­vest­ment for her in the fu­ture.

In 2000 the town coun­cil of the time asked her to sell it, but she wasn’t in­ter­ested un­til she learned that Me­mo­rial Univer­sity was putting up a ma­rine sta­tion and needed her land in or­der to pro­ceed.

“That project was a major con­cern for the town. It was ben­e­fi­cial for them to have this project there and I didn’t want to stop that,” she said.

Rather than just sell it, Barnes made a deal with the town to swap her prop­erty for an­other “good piece” of prop­erty on Cir­cu­lar Drive. In the end Barnes re­ceived two blocks of land.

“Lit­tle did I know that nei­ther one of the lots of land was use­ful.”

The town then sold her land to Me­mo­rial Univer­sity.

About three years ago, she listed the prop­erty with a real es­tate agent, with­out re­ceiv­ing any in­ter­est. Last spring, she ad­ver­tised it in a mag­a­zine and al­most im­me­di­ately was con­tacted by some­one in­ter­ested in buy­ing it.

It was when this per­son had some­one make some in­quiries about the land that Barnes learned her land was use­less. There’s a stream run­ning in the back and, with re­stric­tions on frontage, only about 15 feet of it is con­sid­ered us­able.

“And you couldn’t put a home on 15 feet of land.”

She also found out that the town knew this, as a pre­vi­ous owner had been turned down for a per­mit to build there.

“They knew it was rot­ten land, but they still pro­ceeded to swap with me.”

She ap­proached a lawyer about the sit­u­a­tion, and last Septem­ber let­ters were sent to the town and to Me­mo­rial Univer­sity. Noth­ing was re­solved and she didn’t pursue a law­suit be­cause of the po­ten­tial cost in­volved.

She has, how­ever, filed ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion re­quests to find out what Me­mo­rial Univer­sity paid for her beach land and the other prop­er­ties it ac­quired for the project. Barnes claims the town made more than the $1,600 it of­fered her on the sale to the univer­sity.

She has also stopped pay­ing taxes on the land she was given, say­ing the in­creas­ing value doesn’t re­flect the use­ful­ness of the prop­erty.

Be­cause this is a le­gal is­sue, town clerk/man­ager Jen­nifer Samms told The Western Star in an email that the town has been ad­vised to not com­ment on Barnes’ al­le­ga­tions.

Me­mo­rial Univer­sity does not see where it would be at fault in the mat­ter.

“We did ac­quire land to con­struct the Bonne Bay Ma­rine Sta­tion in Norris Point. We have no rea­son to be­lieve any­one from Me­mo­rial Univer­sity acted in bad faith dur­ing the trans­ac­tions at that time,” says an emailed state­ment from the univer­sity.

Barnes is speak­ing out to ex­pose the dis­hon­esty she claims has taken place.

She hopes do­ing so might war­rant the town to de­cide to give her a de­cent piece of prop­erty.

WESTERN STAR FILE PHOTO

The land Shirley Barnes swapped with the Town of Norris Point in 2001 was used in the con­struc­tion of the Bonne Bay Ma­rine Sta­tion.

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