By Mark Squibb/December 23, 2021
Two homeowners off Shearstown Road may be one step closer to having council take over snow clearing on an unofficial town road.
The item came forward when councilor Silas Badcock put forward a motion during the November 23 public meeting, a motion on which council’s opinion was split.
“Their garbage is already being picked up and collected, and they’re taxpayers and they deserve the services that we provide,” said Badcock. “So, for my peace of mind, you’ve got to consider fire services, ambulance services, and clear directions. I’d like to see that in the future we actually possibly even take over the road there.”
The address is a backlot development, meaning it doesn’t front onto an existing, town-owned street. The residents have garbage collection and water and sewer, but not snow clearing. Badcock moved that council provide snow clearing to the property owners of 194A Shearstown Road. Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour seconded it.
Mayor Walter Yetman asked if council needed a recommendation from public works before voting. CAO Nigel Black said the motion had to be dealt with regardless.
“But I guess, from my point of view, council needs to use a bit of caution in considering this type of motion,” said Black. “You’re certainly going to set a precedent by plowing a private driveway. There’s countless other examples around town where we’ve not done this. There’s two different things you can look at here. Number one is the approval of these two houses. They were approved as backlots, and we have very specific regulations on what a backlot does and where we provide services and where we don’t, and the second part of that is if you are considering taking it over as a road, as a non-conforming road or as a town road, then you need to look at our non-conforming roads policy and see if it meets those (regulations). We’ve done that already, and it doesn’t. So, if you’re going to take over this as a road and plow it, I would suspect that you’re going to get many other instances of non-conforming roads that we’ve previously turned down that are also going to want the same services.”
Seymour argued council wasn’t being asked to take over the road, just clear snow from it.
“They were very accommodating, and provided (town vehicles) a space to turn around,” said Seymour. “They are paying a full load in terms of taxes, they deserve the services. We are plowing roads that are smaller than that one in this town.”
Mayor Yetman noted he himself lives on a backlot that was approved 20 years ago. “My driveway is 400 feet long and I had the agreement that I was there as a backlot development. I plow my own road, unfortunately, and it costs me. My garbage goes out to the main road. I don’t expect in there, because that was my agreement back in the day, so in regards to plowing and garbage pick up, I don’t have that service.”
Yetman allowed that if council approved the motion, it would have to change its policy regarding road sizes and services. “I don’t want to see anyone do without services, I really don’t, but I look ahead, because sometimes we sit here, in different meetings, and we say, ‘Well, that decision made 10 years ago never worked, and it’s affecting us now,’ so we have to be very wary of that. I would provide service to every resident in town if we could, but our regulations just don’t allow it sometimes. If we approve a backlot development, we have to sit by those things and I certainly don’t want to hold back on anything for these residents, I understand and like myself I pay full taxes, but I think it might set a bad precedent.”
Yetman said collecting garbage and clearing snow is different than taking over a road, which would involve maintenance.
Councilor Dean Franey noted that back in August, the public works committee recommended that the Town write the residents that the road was not wide enough for snow clearing vehicles and the homeowners would have to offer up some of their own land for vehicles to use.
Members of council haggled over whether the residents were asking the town to take over the road or simply provide services. Black said both options were one and the same.
“Either we take over a road and provide services, or we don’t, there’s no halfway where we provide services but someone else owns the road,” said Black.
Seymour said that regardless, something needed to be done.
“You’re going to have to make changes to something because if you’re going to tax people, you’ve got to provide services,” he said.
Badcock said the town was shooting itself in the foot for providing garbage collection but not snow clearing.
Bowering asked how town staff get in to pick up garbage if the road hasn’t been cleared. Badcock agreed that was a good point.
Franey then jumped back into the conversation, pointing back to this past summer when the residents asked that the roadway be made a municipal road.
“Which was a formality to get the services,” injected Seymour.
“But that’s what they’re asking, formality or not, that’s still what they’re asking, for us to take over the road,” said Franey. “And if we’re snow clearing, we’re taking over the road.”
Seymour said he’s seen the building approval letter, and there is nothing to indicate it is a backlot development. CAO Black said he would look into that.
“It was clear, when these people applied, that it was a backlot development,” said Black.
“After this discussion here, I think we should have a serious look at backlot development,” observed the mayor, before calling the vote.
Mayor Yetman, and councilors Ross Petten, Franey, and Frank Deering opposed providing snow clearing services. Deputy Mayor Seymour, and councilors Badcock and Bowering voted in favour, and thus the motion was defeated 4-3.
The issue came forward again at the December 7 meeting, when council was in receipt of a letter from the homeowners requesting a 10 per cent variance be given to allow the Town to consider takeover of the road.
“They’ve essentially measured the distances on the road that they would like council to consider taking over,” said Black. “For most of it, they are able to get 30 feet, which is the requirement of our non-conforming road policy. Some of it requires them to give up a portion of the front of their property, and there are several spots where it’s just slightly less than the 30 feet required. You’ll see in one spot it’s 28, and in one spot it’s 27. What I told them is that in my time here we’ve never done a 10 percent variance on a non-conforming road, but it seems like a reasonable thing to do. Certainly, council has it in their authority that they could do that if they wanted to.”
Black recommended that council post the variance application in the local newspaper allowing 10 days for comment, as is required by the Municipalities Act, after which council will reconvene and make a decision.
“There’s no room necessarily for a turnaround so both residents are willing to sign a waiver that says that Town of Bay Roberts vehicles can turn around on their properties,” said Black.
Franey asked whether the turnaround will be included on a survey map or whether it will be an understanding between the town and the residents.
“It’s not something we’ve done before, so that’s something that’ll have to be a part of the recommendation that comes back,” said Black.
The planning committee will present council with a recommendation at the next meeting, which won’t be until the new year.
“So, if anything happens now with snow until then, we can’t help them out,” clarified councilor Bowering, to which Black agreed that that was the case.
Yetman said he was pleased with the request and was looking forward to getting work started.
“But again, I’ve still got to ask the question I asked a while back,” said Bowering. “If we get snow between now and garbage day, how do we get into it?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure the public works guys will figure a way to get into it at the end of the day,” said Black.
Franey allowed they would probably collect garbage “the same way as we got to it last year.”