Dispute over Torbay development

Resident worries about damage to wetland, mayor says buffer zone in place

Dave Bartlett talkingtelevision@gmail.com
Published on April 23, 2011
Lee Harvey stands by Gosse’s Pond, not far from Bauline Line in Torbay. Harvey is concerned a proposed housing development, uphill from the pond, will damage waterways in the area. — Photo by Dave Bartlett/The Telegram

A Torbay man says he’s learned the hard way what happens when people don’t pay more attention to what their municipal council is doing.

Lee Harvey lives on Bauline Line and is upset that Torbay wants to rezone the wetland behind his home to allow for an unserviced development of about 10 homes.

While Harvey isn’t happy he will lose his view and a great deal of his privacy, he’s more concerned about the potential environmental damage to Great Pond, Gosse’s Pond and the river that runs between them.

Because the land slopes downhill, he said, the runoff of pesticides, detergents and sewage from the development will harm the waterways and wildlife.

Harvey’s neighbours on each side are a distance away — his land is quiet, almost secluded.

“If this development goes ahead, it’s going to literally take away my peace and serenity,” said Harvey.

He’s been fighting the development ever since he found out about it “through the grapevine,” and says the Torbay town council didn’t notify him.

Harvey said because of the seclusion of his “own little world” he wasn’t paying attention to what was going on with development around town until it affected him directly.

“When it happened in my backyard, it woke me up,” he said.

That’s when Harvey started going to council meetings. He said because members of the public don’t tend to follow what’s happening in the council chamber, the town is pushing through developments without being accountable enough to its residents.

Two of the seven members of council — Deputy Mayor Geoff Gallant and Coun. Ralph Tapper — have visited the area behind Harvey’s home and share some of his concerns. Harvey said the two recently asked council to defer the vote to rezone, but were voted down.

A number of residents in the town are also supporting Harvey’s cause, he said.

Harvey said the proposed homes would be on septic systems and he’s concerned all the town’s taxpayers will be on the hook for a cleanup of the “environmentally sensitive area” if one of the tanks leaks.

But Torbay Mayor Bob Codner told The Telegram Harvey doesn’t have all his facts straight.

Codner said council has great respect for the environment and has signed an agreement with a provincial body called the Eastern Habitat Joint Ventures to protect sensitive areas, including part of the land in question.

“We are conforming with the Eastern Habitat Joint Ventures plan, which was approved of by some of these people that are opposing (the development),” said Codner.

He said there is a 50-metre buffer zone around Gosse’s Pond in the plan, which the development can’t compromise.

The mayor also said there’s been no vote on rezoning yet, but it will likely happen soon. He said there could have been a suggestion to defer, but there was no motion.

In any case, Codner said deferring the vote for a few weeks won’t make any difference.

“There’s a general consensus that development should be curtailed in Torbay. I guess that is where all this is coming from,” he said.

Codner invited The Telegram to come to the town hall to look at various plans and rules.

“We have nothing to hide and I can assure you there is nobody in the town (who has) a bigger interest in the environment than I have,” he added.

When asked if he considered the development proposal to still be in its infancy, he replied that it was more like early adolescence.

Codner said the town has $70 million worth of projects that need to be done, including a new water treatment plant, municipal depot and community centre.

He said to meet those needs, Torbay either has to develop — to expand its tax base — or raise taxes.

“Anything we’re doing is compliant with our development regulations,” Codner said.

But late Thursday afternoon, the Department of Municipal Affairs confirmed for The Telegram it is looking into complaints regarding Torbay’s “public deliberation of issues and disclosure of decisions.”

dbartlett@thetelegram.com