Bay Roberts councillors grapple with snow clearing pleas from residents of private lanes

By Craig Westcott

Private lanes are often the bane of community councils as almost inevitably the residents who live on them come to expect town services even though the roads are usually not up to regulated standards. Last week, Bay Roberts councillors fielded two such requests.
The first was from residents at 387, 387A and 387B Water Street for snow clearing.
“There are three houses in this lane, the lane is very long and it is expensive to have to pay ourselves,” one of the residents wrote in a letter to council that contained a number of signatures.
The lane is located near the top of Church Hill.
Mayor Walter Yetman asked chief administrative officer Nigel Black if he had any advice on the matter before he called for a motion on what to do about the request.
“The only thing I can add, I guess, is that lane has been discussed a few times by councils over the years and at least to this stage it’s never been taken over as a Town road,” Black said. “Now obviously council changed the policy in the fall of last year when it comes to what is required to take over a road. I would think if you’re going to do this – and we don’t just provide snow clearing, you either take over the road or you don’t – so this is a discussion that really needs to take place in terms of whether that road meets our new requirements.”
Black recommended the request be referred to the new committee of the whole for review and discussion as to whether it deserves to be a Town road or not.
“Well said, and I’ll make a motion to do exactly that to send it to the committee of the whole,” said Councillor Silas Badcock, whose motion was seconded by Deputy Mayor Geoff Seymour.
“And I’ll just clarify that they’re asking for snow clearing but it’s really (the provision of) Town services, like the CAO said,” said Mayor Yetman. “We don’t do just snow clearing without garbage collection, or road maintenance, or anything like that.”
Councillor Perry Bowering asked whether a staff person could be sent to take measurements of the lane so that council will have some details to consider when it discusses the request at the committee of the whole.
“That’s a good point,” said Badcock.
“I know the road they’re talking about,” said Bowering. “It’s very narrow there.”
A committee of the whole, meanwhile, is essentially a meeting of all councillors, but conducted privately, and not in a public forum like the regular bi-weekly meetings which are open to the public and also broadcast on YouTube. Bay Roberts council only recently adopted the practice of meeting privately as a committee of the whole. Deputy Mayor Yetman asked whether the residents’ request will also be discussed at council’s public works committee, as would normally have been the case in the past, and whether that should be done before the committee of the whole meeting.
Black said anything that is referred to the committee of the whole will also be referred to the appropriate department director and it will be up to the councillors who lead the committees to “touch base with your director, if you want to.”
Seymour allowed the heads of the various committees, which council now calls “the lead” instead of chairperson, will have to make that effort in order to discuss a matter properly at the committee of the whole.
Mayor Yetman pointed out that all senior staff attend the committee of the whole meetings and “the lead” as well as the appropriate director can both add to the conversation.
Seymour then turned back the specific request under discussion. “Does this lane have a name?” he asked.
“No, said Black. “At least not that I’m aware of.”
“Another good point,” said Badcock.
Put to a vote, council agreed to refer the request to the committee of the whole.
A couple of agenda items later, council found itself addressing another request from a resident of a private lane looking for snow clearing. But this lane actually has a name – Streetwood Place, and even a sign testifying to that effect.
“It’s a private lane that has been discussed in the past by councils, but it’s never been taken over as a Town road,” Black said. “So, I’d recommend the same thing that you refer it to the committee (of the whole) and evaluate it against our current regulations for taking over a road to become a Town road.”
Deputy Mayor Seymour moved to do just as the CAO advised. That motion was seconded by Badcock. It carried unanimously.

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