Castle owner feeling cramped

Seeking more land for privacy

Published on November 23, 2013
A private property sign sits on land next to a house off Marine Drive known as the castle. A hiking trail runs right next to the house. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

A man who built a castle in the town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove has found that his secluded oceanfront property isn’t so secluded after all.

James Zaleski moved into the towering, turreted structure in 2007.

It’s nestled on the cliffs of Logy Bay surrounded by pristine woods and native shrubs and bush. Zaleski purchased 15 acres of private land off Middle Cove Road in 2001.

Last month, the American engineer and businessman — who began his career, according to businessweek.com, “in advanced avionics programs for the Apollo 13 rescue and historic moon landings” — filed an application with the town looking to acquire more land in order to create a buffer.

“We would like to purchase a section of Crown land that borders our property on the east side,” Zaleski wrote in the application.

“We have a problem where the hikers on the East Coast Trail are getting off the trail and hiking across the Crown land behind our house and looking into our bedroom windows and down on our rear patio.

“Because of the topography of our lot, our house was built against the southeast property line at the minimum allowed setback. The house is set down so the second floor is level with the Crown land behind us.

“This presents an annoying and unsafe condition, where hikers are looking directly into our bedroom windows. As such we would like to purchase 50 metres of Crown land that is adjacent to our southeast property line which would provide enough of a buffer where hikers could not see in our bedroom windows,” states the application.

The dimension of the land, according to the documents, is 50 metres by 277 metres, or about three acres.

Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove Mayor John Kennedy told The Telegram Friday that when a resident wants to buy Crown land in the town, a municipal recommendation form has to be filled out by the town and sent to the provincial government.

That wasn’t done in the Zaleski case.

“The land is on reserve to MUN since the 1990s, which means the land is alienated unless MUN decideds they’re not interested in it anymore,” Kennedy explained.

He said if that freeze is lifted the Crown land would become available and the town could entertain applications for it provided the development meets the zoning requirements.

Kennedy said that area of Logy Bay, which is also home to the Ocean Sciences Centre, is zoned coastal marine.

A spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, which oversees Crown lands, emailed a statement to The Telegram Friday about the reserved land.

It says MUN applied for the land next to the Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay in 1992  for a deep water intake for an aquaculture facility  under construction.

“The reserve was established and our lands branch are in the process of contacting MUN to see if it is still required. If it isn’t and it’s cancelled, Crown land applications must be first approved by the Town of Logy Bay–Middle Cove–Outer Cove and the purpose must be in conformity with the municipal plan.”

Part of that plan is the preservation of the town’s coastline.

Kennedy said the town is actively involved with the East Coast Trail Association in trying to secure land to make sure the trail goes through the town, or, in areas where there is a trail existing, that there is a green belt around it.

He said the trail near Zaleski’s property is not part of the East Coast Trail, but is one that was used by fishermen more than 100 years ago, and people still enjoy the hike.

“Unfortunately, the existing trail went through the land that Mr. Zaleski owns. The association would like to use the original trail, but Mr. Zaleski isn’t in agreement with that, and where it is private property there’s nothing can be done. So what the association did was route it so that you have to leave the trail, go onto the road and go back onto the coastline when you get past Mr. Zaleski’s property,” Kennedy said.

“There are areas where they have gained permission from private land owners to have the trail on their land, but in this case Mr. Zaleski didn’t want it there so there’s  nothing the town could do, or the association,” said the mayor.

Kennedy said the town tries to encourage development while also helping maintain public access to the coastline and hiking trails.

“For example, we have a proposed subdivision in Middle Cove and we’ve entered into an agreement that in order for that to go ahead — again, the existing trail crosses (the developer’s) property — he has agreed to turn that over to the town as green space with a buffer to ensure the trail will be kept there. On top of that, we have a 30-metre no-development buffer on all the oceanfront — even if you own the land you can’t develop within 30 metres of the cliff’s edge,” he said.

Zaleski couldn’t be reached for comment.

bbelec@thetelegram.com