The damage is already done, resident says

Bonnie Belec
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City of St. John’s takes legal action against development in Portugal Cove-St.Philip’s

The City of St. John’s has initiated legal action against the developer of this land in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s,  saying the land is in the city’s watershed area.
— Submitted photo

At least two residents of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s are relieved the City of St. John’s has taken legal action against a development in the town, but they say it’s too little, too late.

“Most of the houses on this road have minimal amount of clearing, but in this case the two sites have been totally and irreparably wiped out,” said Stephen Andrews, who lives near the controversial development on Oliver’s Pond Road with his wife, Emir Andrews.

“The damage has been done now,” Emir said.

A statement of claim filed against David Jackman, identified as the owner of 218-238 Oliver’s Pond Road, and Cadillac Services Ltd., identified only as a business registered to operate in the province, says the two defendants failed to abide by stop work orders issued by the city.

St. John’s is also seeking an injunction to prevent further development of the site which it claims is in the Windsor Lake watershed — one of the city’s sources for drinking water.

According to the court documents, it says Jackman received approval from the town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s in February to develop the land despite it being in the watershed area which prohibits certain developments. One of which is home building.

On July 16, the city wrote Jackman and the town advising them of the city’s jurisdiction over the land. Ten days later, St. John’s issued a stop work order.

The clearing of the property continued, says the statement of claim.

Four days ago the city issued a second stop work order and advised that if the work didn’t cease, legal action would be taken.

Work continued, says the court document, and on Friday the city filed a statement of claim and an application for an injunction.

The matter is scheduled to be called in Newfoundland Supreme Court Thursday.

Chris Milley, town manager of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, told The Telegram Monday afternoon two permits were issued for 218-238 Oliver’s Pond Road on July 4 for site preparation.

“Basically permits for clearing and grubbing the land. To prepare the lots to get them ready for building,” he said.

The permits are for two homes which make up about two acres. Milley said because the construction is in a residential rural zone, one-acre lots are required.

He said the land is on the boundary of the St. John’s watershed. Milley said the town was aware that the city issued stop work orders and was aware the developer ignored them.

“I guess it’s the city of St. John’s stop work orders. If they had to have been our stop work orders put in place we would act upon them to get them to stop and probably do whatever the city of St. John’s is going to do to get them to stop,” he said.

Milley said there are no stop work orders in place from the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s.

Andrews said he has many questions about how the development came about. He said one is how the city of St. John’s got involved after the town gave approval to homes being built in the watershed area. Another is the manner in which the land has been cleared.

“It’s a development in our community that is affecting the development of our community. We’re here trying to maintain some degree of rural character and this looks like a development in the city of St. John’s,” he said.

Emir Andrews said it looks as though it’s been cleared for a subdivision.

“My primary concern is the interference with the watershed area, but I’m not one bit happy about the clear-cutting of the land. It is totally out of character of the neighbourhood and the community,” she said.

“Supposedly the goals of the community are to maintain the rural character,” said Emir Andrews.  

“When we built our house we cut the trees with a chainsaw and an axe. As many trees for our house and septic tank is all that has been cleared on our land, and most of the houses in here are like that,” she said.

The city of St. John’s communications department said,  “A statement of claim has been issued together with an application for interlocutory injunction against the property owner and the contractor. As such, no further statement on this matter will be made at this time.”

 

bbelec@thetelegram.com

 

Organizations: Cadillac Services, The Telegram

Geographic location: Portugal Cove, Pond Road

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  • Don II
    August 27, 2013 - 16:40

    If the developer believes that he is in the right he should fight this situation vigorously. The developer should also determine the exact boundaries of the watershed area and discover how those boundaries were originally determined in order to confirm that the land which is the subject of the development freeze is actually located inside the watershed area. The developer should also determine if the land should even be protected at all. For many years, the practice of the Government of Newfoundland has been to draw lines on topographical maps in order to arbitrarily establish the boundaries of municipal water supply watersheds in the Province. In some cases the elevation information on the topographical maps has been shown to be inaccurate which meant that the water on the land being frozen actually flowed in another direction away from the protected water supply! This arbitrary line drawing on maps system is unfair, unprofessional and could result in improper freezes on development of land that should not be even included in the watershed. In many cases the water courses in the land do not even lead into the protected pond or lake. In many cases, far too much land is frozen for watershed protection than is really necessary. In most cases buffers which are much smaller than watershed would be sufficient to protect public water supplies. In many cases the Government of Newfoundland froze land within valleys where the water supply is subject to pollution from road salt and vehicle oil runoff, garbage and sewage from nearby communities and contamination from animal waste and low valley vegetation mixed with chlorine instead of using cleaner ponds located at much higher elevations. The use of ponds located at highest elevations would also reduce watershed size and allow for cleaner water available for distribution with gravity flow. I am aware of one case in which the Government of Newfoundland placed watershed protection restrictions on private land that has watercourses that do not lead into the protected water source at all and in another case has placed watershed protection on private land to protect a watershed that was discontinued in favor of a larger regional system in 1996! Basically, the Government of Newfoundland freezes land, issues stop work order and imposes regulations that are not necessary which results in prosecutions and stop work orders that should not be necessary either. If it turns out that the city of St. John's or the Government of Newfoundland placed watershed protection development freezes on privately owned land that should not have been included in a protected watershed and prohibited development or issued stop work orders, they should immediately rescind these restrictions or they should be subject to Judicial review!

  • Big Al
    August 27, 2013 - 16:13

    Terry, do your homework before making any comments. I think it's great that development is happening in St Phillips and Port Cove. It means the local economy is healthy, and increased tax revenues for the respective towns. Without these new developments, you would be complaining about the poor services you are getting from the town. Typically Newfoundlander, always needing something to complain about. St. John's and PCSP is growing.....get used to it. Welcome to reality. It's this way in every city across Canada.

  • MIchael
    August 27, 2013 - 14:19

    This is why we need to amalgamate. The separate entities do not make any sense.

  • Billy
    August 27, 2013 - 14:19

    It won't be long before these so-called developers will have most of the NE Avalon destroyed..All the councils are a complete joke because they are letting our area's be devastated..it's like a feeding frenzy and it makes myself and many more people very angry! The Telegram could help by finding and publishing a list of developers and which projects they are associated with?

  • Joe
    August 27, 2013 - 13:48

    If there comes a time when supply of water from Winsor Lake becomes a problem, I am sure PCSP will find an alternate water supply for the Town.

  • Terry Walsh
    August 27, 2013 - 07:48

    The town of PCSP should take a close look at there policies regarding the construction of homes and subdivisions. . This is not the only travesty that the town has allowed, take a look at the subdivisions now being built on Dogberry Hill Rd where clear cutting has been the norm since the town has decided more monies in the coffers is more important than keeping the integrity of the rural setting and quietness of the community. The City of St. John's should take a look at the development on Dogberry Hill Rd near Thorburn Rd. as it may also be infringing on the watershed. It is about time that the Town of PCSP stopped rubber stamping applications without first checking to see if it is violating any conflicts with The City of St. John's and it's position on preserving water quality. Chris Milley if you were informed that the city of St. John's had a stop work order and the content you should have immediately issued a stop work order in conjunction with them to protect the residents of PCSP. It is about time that the Council and public works department set in place some guidelines to prevent clear cutting for subdivisions whereas a percentage of green space must be maintained rather than gaping holes in what use to be natures beauty. Smarten up it is the future of your children and community that is in jeopardy and the Town of PCSP should be doing everything in it's power to preserve not destroy the rural landscape.