Just a few months into his new role as Conception Bay South mayor, Ken McDonald has started to implement some of his campaign platform focused on getting back to basics.
During the campaign, he differentiated himself from the incumbent mayor by stating he was going to focus on basics such as public consultations, roads, seniors, affordable housing and other issues.
He also said residents complained about not being able to develop their back lands, so he promised to do something about it.
Council recently approved $7,500 for a consultant to study the issue.
McDonald is taking the right approach. It is not as simple as asking his council colleagues to discuss and debate the issue and then make a decision. The study will provide recommendations and if the decision is to allow some backlot development, it could be a lengthy process to make the changes to the town plan.
Backlot development is a thorny issue in this urban/rural town. There are hundreds of acres of undeveloped land because it is not accessible under the town’s development regulations. The land may be behind existing homes or in areas with limited access, and because it doesn’t have the required minimum 50-foot frontage on a main road, nothing can be built on it.
Owners of these undevelopable lands are eager to have the town relax its regulations to allow residents to build homes on family land or homes with large back yards. Examples frequently used are allowing sons or daughters to build homes behind the family home, or building a smaller house for elderly parents.
The other side of the argument is that backlot development is contrary to the orderly development of the community and also creates issues and costs for servicing, snowclearing and garbage collection.
The consultant doing the study can look at some local examples of backlot development regulations. Torbay, Holyrood, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s and Bay Roberts — all similar to C.B.S. in that they have grown into urban areas but still have a rural feel — allow some sort of backlot development.
Now that the backlot development issue is to be reviewed, the new mayor can move on to some other basics mentioned in his campaign.
The quality of roads is one of the most basic needs in a community. Roads and their maintenance, along with garbage collection, are the most tangible or visible results of the taxes that we pay.
Many of our roads are in a deplorable state, with potholes and missing sections as a result of this winter’s extreme cold and warm temperatures.
It is not clear how roadwork is prioritized in our town — perhaps it is whoever complains the most — but there has to be some plan for repairing and upgrading roads which also includes crosswalks, sidewalks and ways to slow down traffic. Hopefully, McDonald’s basics will result in a comprehensive road upgrading plan.
The mayor’s campaign promise to hold pre-budget consultations was also realized. For the first time in years, the town officially asked residents for feedback on the budget, similar to what the provincial government is now doing around the province. It is a step in the right direction for our town.
The new mayor, with his council, has several more years to tackle the other basic issues, such as water and sewer, seniors’ issues and some reviews of how the town operates. He is off to a good start.
C.B.S. donation program
The town’s is accepting applications for funding under the 2014 donations program.
Sporting, cultural, environmental, educational, youth and other non-profit groups and organizations seeking funding from the town have until Feb. 28 to submit an application.
The application forms are available on the town’s website.
Joan Butler is a lifelong resident of Kelligrews, Conception Bay South. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.