Harbour Grace pasture can carry on as normal

By Craig Westcott/March 24, 2022

What looked at first to be a negative decision has turned out to be okay for people who use the ‘community pasture’ on the southside of Harbour Grace.

At last week’s public council meeting, Mayor Don Coombs referenced a letter from the provincial Minister of Forestry and Agriculture that seemed to put the kibosh on further use of the land.

But after meeting with representatives of the animal owners the next day, Coombs was delighted to learn they will be able to carry on.

The group had written the minister asking for a licence which would have enabled them to apply for government funding. The Town had offered its support for the request. But after weighing it, officials in his department advised the Minister to say no.

“But they did give approval that they could look at working with the property owners and that they could continue to use the pasture, which they’ve done,” Coombs said.

The pasture is used by people from Harbour Grace and surrounding areas who graze their livestock there during the summer. Coombs said it has been used that way “forever.”

Coombs said the group told him they can carry on without the licence as they are self-sufficient financially.

“Everything is back to normal,” said Coombs. “They’d don’t need any more government funding. They are self-sufficient. We as a municipality help them out by helping with the old gravel road that goes down (there)… It’s great for tourists and it’s great for people to see. From the municipality’s point of view, if the animals weren’t over there, they’d be in somebody’s yard during the summer, and everybody would be complaining… People come to see them (the animals), and kids come to see them, so it’s good, it’s tidy over there… This is a win-win.”

The mayor said he wouldn’t be able to guess how many people keep animals in the pasture but it’s not unusual to see some of the owners during the summer with their binoculars out on the north side looking south towards the pasture to check on their animals.

The pasture is home to the usual livestock, cows, sheep, and horses.

“They’re looked after and the place is spotless,” Coombs said. “You can still walk right to the east end of the trail and the animals are not going to hurt you. So, it’s all good.”

WATER TAX

In other council news, Mayor Coombs is taking it upon himself to meet with some residents of Fishermen’s Road who are unhappy about having been assessed a water tax.

Deputy Mayor Keith Skinner, who chairs the public works committee, offered a “clarification” to residents of the road during last week’s public council meeting.

“When a water line passes by any residence, according to the Municipalities Act, the Town has to charge this tax to the resident,” Skinner said. “For the residents on Fishermen’s Road who are concerned about that, there is a two-inch line that runs in front of these properties, and this two-inch line was put there a number of years ago. And of course, when we put water and sewer in so far, we eliminated that well (that was there) and we hooked that two-inch line onto where the eight-inch main water lines are.”

Mayor Coombs acknowledged the Town has heard from a number of people who are concerned about having to pay the tax. 

“I’m prepared to sit down with the residents and explain it to them,” he said. “We have no choice under the Municipalities Act but to charge when the water goes by the property, and I have asked for the committee to meet and review it. So, I’ll reach out to the people and explain it to them if council is okay with that.”

VACANT LAND TAX

As the result of a review of Harbour Grace’s budget by the Department of Municipal Affairs, council has established a minimum Vacant Land Tax of $50. 

Finance committee chairperson Sharon Reynolds made the motion to amend the Town’s Tax structure to accommodate the change.

“Again, it was identified under the Municipalities Act that that tax has to be charged, the same thing as Deputy Mayor Skinner just explained with water going by a property,” Coombs said. 

In an interview later, Coombs explained the Town has never taxed vacant land before. “Not that I know of,” he said

But when the 2022 budget came back from review by the Province, the Town was told it had to charge the tax.

Coombs estimated there’s enough vacant land in town to generate about $20,000 worth of taxes. Council will now have to adjust its budget accordingly to account for the extra revenue. “But that’s going to be good money,” said the mayor, implying it will be put to good use.

CHARGING AHEAD

The Town will apply to Take Charge NL to obtain a charging station for electric vehicles at the Danny Cleary Community Centre.

Councillor Gordon Stone, who chairs the business and economic development committee, said Take Charge NL, which is an entity funded by Newfoundland Power, Newfoundland Hydro and the Government of Newfoundland, is looking for 10 sites to place fast charging stations.

“It will be one more thing to attract people, tourists, to drop into the town and get to know what Harbour Grace has to offer,” said Stone.

“It would certainly be another addition to our prosperity in the Town of Harbour Grace,” agreed Mayor Coombs.

STEP INTO THE PAST

Landscape Architects Mills & Wright have presented draft construction drawings on two heritage district walks, the Harbour Walk and the Shipyard Walk.

Councillor Randy Wrice, who chairs the tourism and heritage committee, noted the Harbour Grace Board of Culture successfully applied to Heritage NL for $8,125 in funding to help supplement the completion of a third and final category of historic walks.

NO DUMPING

Council will look at placing No Dumping signs on the Old Kildare Road after a resident complained about garbage being left there.

Deputy Mayor Keith Skinner said sometimes when people come to town to drop off garbage at the Eastern Waste regional facility and find that it’s closed for whatever reason they’ll look for a back road to offload it.

Mayor Coombs said that’s another reason the Town is anxious to meet with officials of Eastern Waste Management to discuss problems with the operating hours of the regional facility in Harbour Grace. Coombs is hoping to host such a meeting at the Danny Cleary Community Centre shortly.

“Certainly, I don’t think council would have a problem with putting up some signs and the sooner the better,” he said. 

COVID SURGE

Meanwhile, the current coronavirus surge has impacted the operations of the Danny Cleary Centre.

Councillor Stone said some 60 per cent of the staff at the centre were off because of omicron recently.

“We’ve got a very dedicated staff and because they are dedicated and put a lot of time up there with our children and with the public, they managed to keep the place going except for a day and a half,” Stone said. “The manager and all the staff worked together, some long, hard work on our behalf under difficult conditions. I just want to reach out and say thank you to them and wish them all the best. They’re doing a fantastic job of keeping the centre going. I’m sure every councillor appreciates that. It’s a very important part of our town.”

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