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Pam Frampton: Courting common sense in Newfoundland and Labrador

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“Common sense is not so common.” — Voltaire

Two stories in The Telegram last weekend have me convinced that this province’s legal profession will never lack for work because people seem unable to settle their differences anywhere but the courtroom.

Pam Frampton
Pam Frampton

Saturday’s front page had a story about a homeowner in Paradise engaged in a legal battle over a shed that seems to be impeding nothing and no one. Yet the town seems intent on having him either move the shed, cut a corner off it or buy a strip of land from a neighbouring town councillor that would make the building compliant with town rules.

The fact that the shed was built 19 years ago and largely managed to escape the town’s notice for years suggests it wasn’t posing much of a problem. I understand that rules are rules, but sometimes there needs to be a little leeway when no one is being adversely affected.

Paul Perham, who bought the property in 2014, has been trying in vain to get a letter of tolerance — essentially pardoning the shed for its transgression of being less than a metre short of the town’s setback regulations.

I understand that rules are rules, but sometimes there needs to be a little leeway when no one is being adversely affected.

He’s invited town councillors to come and see the shed, but as of last week no one had taken him up on the offer.

“A casual observer visiting the property on the quiet Paradise road would likely wonder what all the fuss is about,” reporter Glen Whiffen wrote. “It’s a spacious backyard and beyond the shed at the rear of the property the land rises, apparently built up over the years with fill. There appears to be nothing the shed would interfere with.”

And yet, despite numerous meetings, conversations and correspondence between Perham and the town, the matter has gone all the way to the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court where, on April 19, the town will seek “the ability to carry out the relocation of a non-compliant accessory building situated at 4 Hickey’s Road and recover the costs as a civil debt.”

None of his neighbours have objected to the shed, and it’s on Perham’s land, so you have to wonder why the Town of Paradise is spending taxpayers’ dollars in a dispute over one corner of an outbuilding. It’s not like Perham has turned his shed into a strip club or is using it to house a moonshine still or a ferret farm. It’s just a shed.

Then there’s news that the Newfoundland and Labrador Folks Arts Society is going to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador over $44,000 in funding it’s been denied by ArtsNL, the provincial Crown agency that administers grants to artists and arts organizations.

The Folk Arts Society had been approved for $22,000 a year for 2017-2019, and had to submit a financial report annually to demonstrate eligibility. This year, a delayed courier delivery just past deadline appears to be why the society’s funding was denied. The society uses the grant to help put off the annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival and other events.

In the case of another group, Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues — which is not involved in the court action — the placement of a figure in the wrong field of an online form appears to be the reason why it was rejected for a $10,000 grant.

No doubt ArtsNL considers carefully every precious penny that’s allotted, and has strict guidelines to follow. Still, you’d think a simple phone call might have been able to clarify both those situations, particularly in a province where arts and culture is the backbone of the tourism industry.

It’s not like these groups were unknown quantities — they’re well-established organizations.

“My hope is that someone up in government comes to their senses and cuts us a cheque, and then cuts a cheque to the other organizations that were denied funding for the same reason,” Folk Arts Society president John Drover told reporter Tara Bradbury.

Both stories hint at bureaucratic intransigence.

Maybe the province should establish a court of common sense. It’d save taxpayers a bundle.

Related stories

Town of Paradise has no tolerance for resident’s shed

N.L. Folks Arts Society suing province, ArtsNL

Pam Frampton is a columnist whose work is published in The Western Star and The Telegram. She’s also The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email Twitter: pam_frampton

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