Harbour Grace about to unleash big land sale

By Alexandra Brothers, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / August 18, 2023 Edition

For the past two years, the Town of Harbour Grace has been trying to determine a plan to sell off vacant Town-owned land. The Town is interested in profiting from roughly 50 unused properties in the municipality. Some of these properties are Town-owned land that council sees no value in keeping, while others have been seized because their owners didn’t pay their taxes. Getting permission from the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs has delayed the process of getting the properties on the market, said Mayor Don Coombs, but now that they have acquired it, the Town is finally ready to put the properties up for sale at a public auction.

The Town collaborated with Clark Real Estate to determine the fair-market value of the vacant lands. The fair-market value is the minimum price the Town can accept for the properties as per Municipal and Provincial Affairs requirements. According to Coombs, the properties include “beautiful building lots” and shorefront land that have been appraised at a high cost. He called the upcoming public auction “a good opportunity” for prospective buyers.

But it’s not only the buyers who will benefit from the exchange, the mayor hopes.

“If we are lucky enough to sell them, we’ll get some source of taxation back to the Town,” said Coombs. “And as a municipality, we have decided… that funding from this will go back into economic development in our Town.”

Finance committee chairman, councillor Gordon Stone, presented a motion at this past Monday’s council meeting to purchase 2’x2’ signs to mark each of the properties for sale. The signs will display the contact number for the town manager who will be able to provide details regarding the cost of the land and any additional fees that may be associated with it.

Councillors also discussed the timeframe for the upcoming sales. Mayor Don Coombs said he was eager to see the land purchased and would therefore recommend the land be for sale for a three-week period. That way, in the event that the land could not be sold for fair-market value, the Town could appeal to the Minister of Provincial and Municipal Affairs to be able to sell it at a reduced cost.

“I think that’s more than fair,” said Stone. He then made the motion to impose a three-week time limit for the land sale that will commence once the signs have been posted on the properties.

Both the motion for the purchase of the signs and the motion for the three-week timeline were carried unanimously.

“We’ve been two years at this,” said Coombs, “It took a lot of effort, a lot of hard work by a lot of people.”

Now the Town can finally move forward, he said.

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