Down to the dirt in Torbay

Councillor, residents protest against homeowner over backfill

Barb Sweet
Published on November 17, 2012
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.