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Mention the word potholes on the Burin Peninsula and one location in particular comes to mind for many people.
The Columbia Drive entrance and right-of-way in Marystown that provides access to a trio of popular fast-food restaurants as well as a small strip mall housing Shoppers Drug Mart can only be described as awful.
It’s been that way for quite some time, with occasional attempts to improve the road that have only amounted to Band-Aid solutions.
According to Subway owner Jason Daley, he doesn’t see that changing, much to his own chagrin.
Daley says he’s heard the complaints.
“I’m very sympathetic because it’s affecting me,” he told The Southern Gazette on Wednesday, Jan. 9.
The area also contains Tim Hortons and McDonald’s restaurants, making it easily one of the most highly trafficked thoroughfares for vehicles anywhere on the peninsula.
Daley says the right-of-away is divided and shared between Shoppers, Subway and Tim Hortons.
“Trust me, I hear it and I know it and I certainly don’t want negative feedback from customers trying to get into my place, or Tim’s or Shoppers or anything like that, because it puts it in their mind that it’s a chore to go there because of the road,” Daley said.
Road subgrade wrong
According to Daley, the issue is with the subgrade of the road, and it’s not a cheap fix. At one point, he said the businesses had a quote for $150,000, and that was if no other problems were encountered. That’s a lot of money for a couple of business people to bear, Daley said.
“It’s useless to put pavement back there, and I know most people don’t realize that. If it was $10,000 was the solution, it would have been fixed by any one of us a long time ago, but it’s not that, it’s the subgrade is the problem,” he said.
“We’ve paid multiple different people who’ve said they’d be able to fix the problem and as soon as the first snowfall or whatnot happens all the asphalt comes out again.”
The area also has a second entrance and exit off of McGettigan Boulevard, adjacent to McDonald’s, which provides an option for customers of that business to completely avoid the potholes. That access is apparently owned and maintained by McDonald’s.
Daley said the businesses have met with officials from the Town of Marystown about the situation in the past and he thought some headway was being made. The town ultimately decided not to get involved, however.
The businesses also tried unsuccessfully to give the right-of-way back to the town, Daley said.
Nuisance for town
While the right-of-way is privately owned, many people in the town don’t realize that, and as a result, the finger of blame for not fixing the area has often been mistakenly pointed towards council.
During the Jan. 8 council meeting, public works committee chair Coun. Keith Keating acknowledged there have been numerous calls, messages and Facebook comments about the state of the right-of-way in recent weeks and wondered what the town could do.
“All I want to do right now is see if we can investigate to see if there’s anything we can do under the Municipalities Act to tell (the businesses) they got to clean it up, they got to fix it, because if not, there’s nothing you can do only tell people what we’re telling them on the phone – we don’t own it, we can’t go in on it,” Keating said.
The Southern Gazette spoke to Mayor Sam Synard about the matter on Wednesday, Jan. 9, who reiterated the fact that the property in question is privately owned.
“We are catching heat. We all watch social media and some people seem to think that’s a town road and the town should be responsible for it,” he said. “We definitely cannot get involved in going on private land and then repairing roads and potholes and so on.”
Synard acknowledged the town has met previously with the businesses to discuss the situation but no commitments of any sort were made. He said there’s no downside to discussion and the town would be willing to continue conversations about the right-of-away.
He doesn’t see any interest from council in taking over the area, however, which he pointed out is boxed in by Columbia Drive and McGettigan Boulevard, both provincial roads.
“Why would we want to turn that into a municipal road, right? It’s a private driveway is what it is, no different than a mall parking lot or whatever else,” Synard said.
Daley said the right-of-way was originally constructed for accessing McDonald’s, the first of the three restaurants to spring up in the area.
“It’s a private road, but it’s not a private road, right? It’s a shared right-of-way, and it’s the only access we have for these businesses. It’s very unfortunate, and I don’t know what else to say about it really. It’s not good,” Daley said.
“We tried to combat this on a joint effort, but it’s way too much money that any one of us can afford. I mean, that’s the bottom line.”
That means the temporary fixes are likely to continue, he said.
“It never should have been divided up like that way in the first place. It should have been given back to the town when it was put there as a right-of-way. That way then we wouldn’t have to worry about it, because it’s been a nightmare ever since.”
The Southern Gazette attempted to contact both Tim Hortons owner Dave Weeks and McDonald’s owner Keith Roberts for their takes on the situation but did not hear back from either before publication.