Down to the dirt in Torbay

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Barb Sweet
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Councillor, residents protest against homeowner over backfill

Journalists interviewing Torbay town councillor Ralph Tapper are dwarfed by the huge pile of fill that has been dumped into a small valley off Howlett’s Ave. on the north end of the town. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Less than a dozen residents turned up for a Friday morning rally in protest of  a Torbay homeowner who has been backfilling his property.

They claim the resident has been creating muck, grime and dirt on neighbouring houses and the roadway, as well as spoiling a scenic view of the coastline.

The town  issued a stop-work order, but Jim Molloy is ignoring it, Coun. Ralph Tapper said.

Molloy backfilled a valley behind his property that overlooks the water with soil and stumps, Tapper said.

Council doesn’t have a policy to regulate this type of dumping and excavation work.

Tapper said without the proper regulations, the town’s only other recourse is court action.

But Molloy told The Telegram by phone he’s not doing anything wrong and town officials were OK with the work he did last summer and so far this year.

Molloy said there’s a day’s work for machinery to clean up the site and he’ll  seed it in the spring.

“I’m only upgrading my property. Everything was perfect as far as I’m concerned,” said Molloy, who insists he has no plans to build on the site. He said rather than destroy the view, he’s improved it 100 per cent.

It was hard to tell Friday, as the fog was too thick to make out the ocean view.

Both he and Tapper described themselves as friends who play music together. Molloy said he was hoping to socialize with Tapper at a fish fry this weekend.

“He’s got to do his duty,” Molloy said of Tapper.

“I’ve done nothing wrong. Everything is  above board.”

Molloy has hired a lawyer to deal with the town and in the meantime, the town is planning on passing tighter regulations by the end of the month to cover such backfill and excavation work, Mayor Bob Codner said later by phone.

“Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of calls from residents,” Codner said.

“Hopefully this will be the end of this.”

Molloy said he’s appalled at the extent of the complaints.

“Apparently, I don’t have great neighbours that don’t like to see progress,” Molloy said.

As for claims he ignored the stop work order, he said he explained to the town what he was doing, how much time was needed to finish the job and that it would all  be cleaned up.

But dentist Dr. Dilshad Mithani has been keeping her property tidy to make it a better setting for patients at her busy practice, which is in her home.

“These trees were pruned (this) summer to make this look nice. This was done so when patients come in, it’s a nice positive feeling. Who wants to go to the dentist? (But) you look out and the windows are all nice and clean and  you think ‘What a nice place.’ ”

But now, she said, her neighbour has spoiled the efforts by noise, mess and dirt from the construction.

“It’s been relentless for the past 2 1/2 months,” she said.

She said tourists used to stop on the road and take photos of the view, but that’s been marred. Mithani, an artist, painted her home’s view before it was altered.

“I mean it was so beautiful — everybody just looked at it every morning and this is what you saw,” she said of a painting of the view at sunrise.

Tapper said the situation is a wake-up call to towns that don’t have a policy in place.

He said the fill that’s been put on Molloy’s property has created a 50-60 foot drop, covering up the valley that used to be there, and he fears more will be added next year.

“He had no consideration of the neighbourhood at all,” Tapper said.

“It’s a bit much when you look at the whole scope — 1,500 loads of backfill coming into a residential neighbourhood, scarring the landscape.”

Service NL sent an environmental protection officer to look at Molloy’s property, a spokesman said. It was determined there were no pollutants involved, so the dispute remains a municipal issue.

 

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Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Torbay

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  • anonymous
    November 20, 2012 - 14:01

    A mammoth commercial operation should not be allowed in a residential neighbourhood. People have to have some peace and quiet. The whole Avalon is starting to look like an open pit mine. Land is being backfilled and terraced way too much. Good for the town to stand up to these neighborhood bullies. What kind of world would we live in if the individual can do what they please with no regard for others. I drove by this site and this is not a landscaping project as the media stated. It is a large commercial-scale " landfill" project. 50 to 60 foot banks cannot be sloped nicely. What a disaster!

  • harve
    November 18, 2012 - 09:11

    Don't no what the big deal is!! .Level it off properly,slope it nicely, hydro- seed it.This time next year you never know it.

  • John
    November 17, 2012 - 23:45

    Do you really thing in any urban area you could truck 1500 loads of fill and dump into a site without a permit. Some of the other writers here think that just because it is small town Newfoundland they should be able to do any they want because it's their property and hell, it's only a small town so if in their mind they are making it better they should be allowed to do what they want. Guess what, you still should have address whether or not the community will want your "improvement". How about this if you want to start changing things in a town the go to council and ask for approval regardless of whether there are rules and don't be disappointed if you don't get it approved. Small towns are ill equipped with proper regulations to handle large developments and the landowner took advantage of that resulting in his own problems when people complained. If he had gone to council first instead of assuming it would have been okay then maybe he could have avoided all this mess himself.

  • Don II
    November 17, 2012 - 12:34

    If the neighbors don't want the land developed they should buy the property and keep the land undeveloped. They should put up or shut up! How can you clear or fill in land without creating a temporary mess? This harassment of land owners is typical in small town Newfoundland. This kind of thing goes on all the time. I have seen landowners accosted simply for trying to clear trees and bush from their boundary lines with a chain saw. I have seen water front land owners stopped by Town Councils from building wharves, fences or retaining walls along their waterfront land. The Councils claimed that the waterfront land was Crown land and ignored the fact that the land was a privately owned registered fishing room and water lot before a Provincial Government or Town Councils even existed in Newfoundland! There are reasons why a lot of people from away will never buy land in any small town in Newfoundland. They know that there would never be a minutes peace with the locals. The neighbors would be threatening and calling their friends and relatives on the Town Council. The Town Council would be calling and e-mailing the officials in the Government in St. John's every 5 minutes trying to haul the land owner into Court. If that did not work, the Council would be sending their henchmen to serve the land owner with trumped up Stop Work Orders. If that did not work, the Council would refuse permits or change the zoning to stop the land owner from developing his land. I am aware of one case where the Council told a land owner he could not build his new house because a protected watershed existed on his land. Documents show that the Town Council knew or ought to have known that the watershed protection had been removed years ago after a new municipal water supply from a different pond had been constructed. If the Council can get you into Court they will spend tax payer money to try to beat you or outspend you. The Town Council has more pull with the Court and they use that advantage to get the Judge to further abuse the land owner. I know of one Town Council that wanted to grab somebody's land and claimed the land without having any history of title. When that did not work, the Council trespassed on a land owners property and filled in the land without the land owners permission and then tried to claim title to the land. The Council claimed that water and sewer pipes were under the land. When it was proved that there were no water and sewer pipes under the land the Council tried to convince a Judge that there were pipes under the land. When that did not work, the Council tried to expropriate the same land that the Council had earlier claimed that it owned. Why would a Council expropriate land that it already owned? There is no end to the rackets, schemes and abuse that small town cliques and their Town Council pals will resort to trying to harass land owners who are just trying to improve their properties. Giving some of these Town Councils unbridled power under the Municipalities Act is like allowing a two year old to play with a loaded gun! These Councils have power and hidden agendas and they will do what they have to do to get their way. I know of one Town Council which destroyed over 200 feet of fence that had been built on private land destroyed because "We don't want it there." This is typical of Town Councils abusing their power when they trespass on private land, fill it in without permission and say to a land owner who has every legal right to build a fence to demarcate their land boundaries that 'We don't want it there." Excuse me! The Government of Newfoundland either does not know or does not care how some Town Councils abuse their power. The time has come for the Government of Newfoundland to start closely supervising Town Councils and putting a stop to their unchecked abuse of power.

    • Anonymous
      November 18, 2012 - 10:10

      Wow, you know a lot about town council's don't you Don...I think you're more upset than the actual homeowner!

  • Gerry
    November 17, 2012 - 10:38

    Jesusmary&joseph...get a life people. Good thing these whiners didn't live between Torbay & Pouch Cove up until the earlier 80's when a lot of folks still had cows, hens & some still used a horse and cart on the roads. Or when folks spread manure & caplin on potatoe grounds & kitchen gardens....of course, these same whiners would be crying about the smell of horse, cow s**t and caplin assaulting thier delicated olfactory sense.....grow up

  • the jones
    November 17, 2012 - 08:40

    No problems with him doing the work. It is jsut he nieghbours complaining that his property will now look better than their's once he gets the landscaping done. I am sure he is not blocking anyone's view. I am sure that there would be no drainage problems or run off from his land into anyone elses. While it might be an eyesore and headache right now, this is no different than any construction or renovation. In the long run it will make the area look more beautiful and put the neighbours to shame.

  • torbayboy
    November 17, 2012 - 07:55

    Honestly people get a life!!!!! Its the mans land not yours so suck it up buttercup and move on .