© Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
Mayor Charles Pender addressess council at Monday’s afternoon meeting.
Enough excuses, says Charles Pender, the city needs access to the Crown land within its boundaries for residential development.
The Corner Brook Mayor followed the approval of a number of municipal plan and development regulation ammendments at Monday evening’s public meeting of council with a rant about the delays of getting the land released from the province. Housing shortages and the lack of available land for development have been long-standing problems in the city.
“It becomes extremely frustrating when we are trying to do development for the city as a new council coming in and one of the biggest complaints we hear is the lack of development,” Pender said following the meeting.
“We’re putting our best foot forward, we are pushing our staff, we are talking to developers and trying to get it done.”
Now that the city has identified potential areas for growth and contractors are looking to develop, it’s the province holding up progress, says the mayor. He said some applications have taken up to a year for approval — he says it should take weeks.
Nearly every development is tied up with Crown lands, says Pender. He said one development has the potential for 300 homes and another for about 150 houses. While populations in small neighbouring towns keep growing, Corner Brook’s population has been left stagnant or dwindling.
“We just can’t sit on our hands and wait for these developments to come along,” he said. “In the meantime, communities around us are building 40 and 50 houses a year, and we will be lucky if we see seven or eight this year.”
Pender said some developers have gone so far as to withdraw their project. The mayor says he contacts government officials and local MHAs for an update daily. While the province anticipates eventual approval, the delays appear frustrating for all parties. The mayor does not know why the process is taking so long.
“When a city this size has to sit back and wait for the bureaucracy of the provincial government to approve ... a development to be able to move forward is absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
The city is also awaiting release of Crown land to put a water tank on the east side of Corner Brook and to start construction of the new municipal depot off O’Connell Drive and the Lewin Parkway.
With a short construction season for such development, Pender said things need to happen as soon as possible.
“We need to light a fire under somebody, and get these things moving,” he said.
During the council meeting, the mayor said all Crown land within a municipality should be released to them as a general rule of thumb.