Gaskier council, resident differ over approach to cleaning up delinquent property

     The town council in Gaskiers – Point La Haye is wrestling with a way to make a former resident clean up a dilapidated property in the community, but the action won’t come soon enough for Shannon Critch.
     Critch and her husband John recently returned to the community after 22 years on the mainland. Their plan was to start a new business and build a new house. The first has worked out. Unfortunately for them, the second part is being affected by the land next door which has an abandoned house trailer with a yard and shed strewn with materials ranging from a bike and building supplies to vehicles and oil tanks.
     “It is in a horrible state,” said Critch. “There is debris all over the property, along with it being blown on neighbours’ property. I approached council a year ago to try to have it cleaned up. They refused to take action.”
     That isn’t true according to Mayor Pearl Kielly. Council has tried a number of times to reach the former resident, including sending registered letters, she said. The town has also consulted a lawyer and called in an official from the Department of Environment.
Kielly said the Environment official inspected the tanks and found they are safe, but advised the council to make contact with the owner to rectify the situation.
     Kielly said she and council are trying. “We really can’t seem to get in touch with him,” she said.
     Keilly explained that while the property owner is two years behind on his taxes, council’s policy is that it won’t confiscate property until the non-payment reaches five years. But council is looking at making an exception in this case, she said.
     Still, council is being careful, she allowed. It doesn’t want to take action only to be sued by the owner afterwards for interfering with his property. The town has sent one more letter to the last known address for the man in St. John’s giving him two weeks to reply. After that, council will decide its next move, which could include demolishing the trailer and cleaning up the grounds, she said.
     “It’s a sticky situation,” said Kielly. “You’ve got to be careful… I’m here (on council) 18 years and I’ve never run into this kind of situation before.”
     Critch meanwhile, said she is having trouble getting council to respond to her. “I have contacted (Placentia – St. Mary’s MHA) Felix Collins and he has spoken to council also. I have no idea what else can be done. We have turned to social media if for nothing else but shaming council into cleaning up this property. This property is a hazard and eyesore for sure. Given how many tourists travel the Irish loop, it's an embarrassment to our little community.”

Posted on October 7, 2015 .