The MHA for Grand Falls-Windsor-Green Bay South and the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor appear to be heading for a battle in court.
Ray Hunter told The Nor'Wester last week he'll take the town to court if they don't back off with, what he calls, their "strong arm" tactics.
"Oh absolutely, sure, I'll take them to court. This is only a tactic for them to try and force me out of it, that's all," he said, referring to the town's requests to him regarding a building he owns in the town.
The building in question is located on Ivany's Road in the town, in an area where a new subdivision is being developed.
Hunter has owned the building for about 20 years. He currently uses it for storage but it was once used by him for his heavy equipment maintenance operations.
The town issued orders to Hunter to either clean up and make structural improvements to the property, or remove it.
According to Hunter, he received notice there was a problem when a municipal police officer showed up at his door and handed a summons to his elderly mother-in-law, stating that the town wanted the property the building was located on cleaned up.
"I wasn't home at the time, and I didn't even know they came until I received a second summons for not acting on the first one," he explained. Hunter says it had slipped his mother-in-law's mind about the visit from the municipal police officer until they returned a second time.
"That right there isn't good enough," he told the Nor'Wester.
He appealed the orders from the Town with the Central Regional Appeal Board, but was ordered to clean up the property.
Hunter removed some cargo boxes from the area and cleaned up the debris. However, he says, when he visited the town hall for a permit to do some work on his building, he was met with what he considered an unfair demand.
"I have no problem doing some work on the building - but I went down last year to get a permit and they said no because they wanted an engineered drawing done up, and they want it brought up to Canadian Building Code Standards.
"And I said, 'Well, sure, it's only a shed' and they said, 'Well that's what we wants'," is Hunter's recollection of the conversation, adding he's not had formal discussions with the town but dealt mostly with town manager Mike Pinsent.
Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Al Hawkins told The Nor'Wester that while the town acknowledges some work Hunter did on the property, it isn't enough.
"He did remediate the property by doing some clean up," said the Mayor. "However, he still hasn't made any structural improvements to the building."
Hunter says to have his building brought up to the standards requested by the town would require demolishing the structure and building a whole new one - something, he says, isn't worth it for him.
"The building is a concrete block building - the finish on it is a normal finish cinder block. Go around town you can see them in any town, any city - identical to what I've got there. Sure I got a few cracks in it, but I can repair the cracks, that's not a problem. But why would I want to bring a private building up to Canadian Building Code Standards?"
The MHA alleges the request from the town is a ploy to force him out of the area, because they don't want his building in the subdivision area. However, he says, the town and the developer had plenty of time to realize what the situation was and work with him to reach an agreement.
"That building's been there since the 80s, and I've been there close to 20 years, so they knew what was there when they went in there, so why didn't they try to settle with me?"
Hunter added he figured, early on, there was going to be an issue when the town started talking about the sub-division there. Hunter says he tried to reason with the developer at the time to reach a consensus.
"I told the developer to build me another building like I got there, somewhere else, and I'll swap with you. But he wasn't prepared to do that. So I went to the town and I said . . . I needs a building for storage, so give me another building and I'll swap with you. The town said no. I even offered to take the building down on New Bay Road where the old incinerator is, but they said no, we're not doing that. They figure they can force me out of it without any cost to them."
Now, he says, he's wrapped up in an unwanted, unnecessary battle with the town.
"Going around town, you can find a lot of buildings a lot worse shape than that one. I don't know why they're just coming to me and saying 'you're the one we're going to kick out of it'," he said. "The town is being a bully."
Mayor Al Hawkins, however, says that the town feels Hunter is in violations of Crown Land agreements, and maintains that no matter who was in a similar situation, the town would still follow their by-laws and the Municipalities Act, which, he says, they're doing here as well.
"We follow the Act for everything we do . . . and we feel that what we're doing here now is well within our rights as a council, and that's why we're continuing with it," said Hawkins.
Right now, the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor is consulting with its lawyers on how to proceed with the matter.
"We've contacted our lawyers and right now we're determining what the next steps will be," said Hawkins.
However, for the MHA, he says he's ready should the town come back and take the legal route in the situation.
"They've got to do what they wants to do," said Hunter. "I'll go to court with it and fight it in court, and then a judge will decide."