Holyrood Mayor Gary Goobie says council is trying to position the town for anticipated growth. — Photo by Steve Bartlett/The Telegram
Sharon Metcalfe is hoping to ride the tsunami of development expected to come her way.
Earlier this year, she bought The Pantry Bakery and Cafe and is anticipating success as the development boom that’s swept through Newfoundland's Northeast Avalon in recent years reaches this picturesque Conception Bay town.
“That’s the reason we sort of got into it, because we saw the potential of a growth area,” Metcalfe says.
The sights and sounds of growth are all around Holyrood — real estates signs, new homes, cleared lots, the buzz of heavy equipment, the roar of dump trucks, the “beep, beep, beep” of big rigs backing up.
Things are going forward at an unprecedented rate in the town of 2,100.
At a meeting last Tuesday, council dealt with nine applications for residential development, two for commercial garage extensions and one for a commercial development.
Those might not be big numbers in St. John’s or Paradise, but the figures are huge for Holyrood, considering the town issued just six building permits in all of 2002.
And there should be many more applications on the way. Permits will soon be sought for two subdivisions being developed, one with 60 homes and another with 40-plus.
Holyrood’s development dial is expected to be turned up a notch or two when an extension to the Conception Bay South Bypass Road opens this fall.
The road will be 2.8 kilometres away from Holyrood, making access to the capital region easier than ever.
“I think that’s also going to expand the amount of people living here, for sure,” says Metcalfe.
“Once that road goes in, you’ve got five minutes to free-sailing into C.B.S., St. John’s and Mount Pearl.”
Her business is already benefitting from the boom, as people involved in building new homes are stopping by for coffee or lunch.
As he takes this Telegram reporter around Holyrood and tells his town’s developing story, Mayor Gary Goobie says the challenge is balancing the town’s rural nature with the progress.
“We’ve got one chance to do it, and one chance to do it right,” he says.
There are whispers about all this development taking place without a town plan.
However, Goobie says the finishing touches are being put on a new 10-year plan, a document that will soon be made public and one that maps out a usage for every square centimetre within Holyrood’s boundaries.
And all current and future developments, he notes, must meet standards adopted by council last year. Those same guidelines are in the new town plan.
Goobie also stresses that the town will dictate what developers do, not vice versa.
Developers and landowners are complying, and because of the demand, the price of land in Holyrood is soaring.
The price of homes is soaring to St. John’s-like heights, with new three-bedroom houses fetching more than $350,000.
Bob Maxwell has his name on Mountain View Estates, one of Holyrood’s new subdivisions.
“It’s still a work in progress, but we’ve have active interest in it for the past month and a half,” says the realtor with Royal Lepage Vision Realty.
“We’ve got a fair number of people ready to make deposits right now.”
Maxwell anticipates “tremendous growth” in Holyrood.
Metcalfe, the bakery and cafe owner, is feeling the pricing punch from the anticipation.
She lives in St. John’s, but wants to buy or build in Holyrood.
“I’ve noticed an increase in the pricing of homes and the availability of land, and the price of land has increased substantially,” she says.
With demand and dollar figures spiking north, Goobie doesn’t offer a prediction on how much the town will grow.
Instead, he talks about “positioning Holyrood” for what’s headed its way.
On top of everything else, he says the town is in a prime location to benefit from growth at the Marine Institute’s base in Holyrood harbour as well as Vale’s nickel plant at Long Harbour and work on the Hebron project at Bull Arm.
Maxwell expects developments like the latter two will bring a lot of high-paying jobs into the Holyrood area.
“They’re going to need houses,” he says, adding, “We’ve also had a lot of interest from people working out of the province who are looking to come back home, but not necessarily go into the city of St. John’s.”
Goobie says the town is also endeavouring to improve conveniences in Holyrood through efforts like trying to attract a grocery store and hiring a recreation director.
There are other things happening, too, including an organizational review and lobbying for a new municipal building, but Goobie believes council is working towards building a town that’s vibrant, safe and attractive.
Joe Byrne is a longtime resident and is watching Holyrood change like never before.
“Traditionally, if a person came here every 10 years, he was considered a drifter,” he jokes.
Neither in favour or against all the development — “We got to move on with the times, I suppose” — one of Byrne’s wishes is that people moving to Holyrood learn about its history as a vibrant fishing community settled by names like Hawco, Gushue and Besow.
“If anybody comes here today, I would suppose they become aware of the long traditions that were in Holyrood for 200 years, 250 years,” he says.
There’ll likely be more change in the town over the next 10 years than in all of those 250.