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Bay Roberts Mayor excited to begin work on new town plan

By Mark Squibb/March 17, 2022

It was another year of differences, and no one would argue that.

But one of the big differences for Walter Yetman in 2021 came not about due to COVID-19, but due to the municipal election.

Yetman, now in his seventeenth year sitting at the council table, was acclaimed as mayor, following the retirement of former mayor Philip Wood.

“It’s a different role altogether, and I didn’t expect that,” said Yetman, in an interview earlier this year. “I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and I absolutely love it… As a councilor you can sit back and make a comment. But in the mayor’s position, you’re trying to take in everybody thoughts and trying to run a meeting the best way you can, and the most efficient way you can. It’s been a challenge but an excellent challenge.”

Since the election, there’s been a whirlwind of activity. Yetman had little time to settle into the mayor’s chair, nor did incoming councillors Perry Bowering or Ross Petten have much time to adjust to the chambers, before budget discussions began.

The town passed its budget December 8.

Following the holiday break, Yetman said council was eager to put its hand to the plowshare, and one of the more pressing items of business was the creation of a new 10 year plan.

“I’ve been involved in one town plan over my 17 years. And that’s a big document. And that plan will set the path for the next 10 years. And it’s legislated that you do that, every town has to do that. So, we have a lot of work to do, but we have a council that’s ready to get busy. They’re very involved and anxious to get moving ahead. We have a lot of things on our plate, a lot of infrastructure to look into, but it’s going to be a busy year, and we’re looking forward to it.”

The former 10-year plan was passed in 2010 and expired in 2020.

Yetman said everyone will have a chance to contribute to the plan.

“I’m only one voice,” said the mayor. “There’s seven voices around the table, plus our staff have input, and our residents have input. So, everybody has their input on this document. So, for me, it’s hard for me to say how others will guide us along or what their input will be.”

He said much of the town plan pertains to zoning, which may have to be updated to reflect current times.

“It gives us a chance to change some zoning in areas where different activities (are happening), because times change,” said Yetman. “Rural areas are turning into residential areas, and mixed developments are going more commercial, and these things. So, you have to adjust to the times. And even over a 10- year period for a town plan, things change over that 10 years. So, you try your best to look ahead, to look forward, and have some goals set. I know with our town, 30 years ago we were pretty much predominately a rural town. But in my time we have changed development regulations to suit the fact that we’ve got planned neighborhoods now, a more urban setting. With sidewalks and storm sewer, we’re doing a lot of catch up on that. And I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that. We’ve invested millions and millions of dollars into that. And that’s the kind of stuff we have to look into. Our recreation facilities, tourism initiatives, our business development, all of those things tie into a town plan.”

One issue that seems to rear its head year after year in the council chamber, this year being no exception, is the condition of the main road through town.

“Route 70 is one of our top priorities, without a doubt,” said Yetman. “Without a doubt, upgrades are going to benefit our residents and going to benefit our businesses, so there’s benefits to pushing this to get upgraded. We have spoken and written to our MHA, to the Minster, and we are prepared to do whatever we have to do to get this done. It’s very important, and it’s one of our top priorities this year. It’s looking positive, and we think that the message will get through. The letter that we wrote listed the reasons.”

He said the road’s condition, coupled with heavy traffic (which Yetman said was about 18,000 cars a day according to a traffic study done a few years back, and which has likely increased since then) and the amount of tax revenue created by the Bay Roberts business core along the road merit action from government.

Speaking of tax revenue, Yetman said one of the challenges in the coming year will be how to use the town’s revenue to combat rising costs.

“One of the challenges we’re going to have of course is revenue – our costs are increasing,” said Yetman. “Inflation is taking over, and we want to have a nice, decent tax rate. We want to keep it so that we’re on the same level as other communities around. We want to be fair about our taxes. But costs are increasing. We’re not putting up taxes, so something’s got to give. Our staff have become more efficient and we’re trying to stretch our dollars the best we can to get the work done. It’s certainly a challenge, but we’re going to try to do it.”

Yetman also marveled at what he called an increase in real estate sales in the region generally, but Bay Roberts specifically.

“Properties were being bought up (last year),” said Yetman. “At one point, all the properties that had been on the market for two or three years were being brought up. And these are people who are coming from out of province even and coming to Bay Roberts.”

COVID concerns aside, Yetman anticipates a good year for the town.

“It’s going to be a busy year,” said Yetman. “Bay Roberts is a busy town.”

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