Bay Bulls Mayor Patrick O’Driscoll can probably expect a nice Christmas card from the town’s lawyer this year.
That’s because the mayor is loading up the lawyer’s firm with lots of work and potentially billable hours.
At the town’s public council meeting Tuesday night, O’Driscoll requested a number of items be referred to the town’s lawyer. The first was a copy of the digital recording of council’s February 8 meeting.
"I want to make a motion to send a copy of the digital copy of the recording of our last meeting to our Town lawyers to have on file and to be used in any future litigation that might arise," O’Driscoll said.
Deputy Mayor Harold Mullowney asked whether the mayor intends to send the recording of every meeting to the lawyers, or just the February 8 one. The February 8 meeting marked the first time that clerks with the town started recording the sessions. That followed a motion from O’Driscoll in January that each meeting be taped to help with the preparation of minutes but with the stipulation that the recording be destroyed immediately afterwards.
O’Driscoll said his new motion pertained to the February 8 meeting only.
"Why this one?" asked councillor Madonna Hawkins.
O’Driscoll said there was a reference made during the meeting about "a legal party" and he wants the recording kept "as evidence of what was spoken."
Mullowney said he had no problem with keeping a digital record of the meeting, but worried about the potential cost of placing it with the town’s lawyer. "If we send a digital record to our lawyer, that’s two and a half hours of tape or so, they’re going to charge us $300 or $400 an hour to listen to it," he noted.
O’Driscoll said he only wants to send the tape to the lawyers, not have them listen to it, unless it becomes necessary.
Mullowney suggested in that case it would be simpler to copy the recording onto a memory stick and store it in the town’s safe.
Councillor Rick Oxford said he saw no problem with sending the recoding to the lawyer as long as the town is not billed for it.
Put to a vote, the mayor’s motion passed with Oxford and councillors Jason Sullivan and Gerard Mulcahy supporting it. Mullowney, Hawkins and councillor Joan Luby voted nay.
The next item that O’Driscoll wanted referred to lawyers pertains to land on Dunn Drive.
Three years ago, the developer of the subdivision, EMA Enterprises, offered to donate a free building lot for a tot park. The donation was matched by a $15,000 grant from the provincial government and a promise of $8,000 from the town council to go towards playground equipment. Around the same time, the developer ended up in a dispute with council over the town’s handling of competing applications for land for a new subdivision. In the end, the building lot was never ceded over to the town.
"I’d like to send it to the town lawyer ... to review any legal action the town can take to move this forward," said O’Driscoll.
Deputy Mayor Mullowney pointed out it might be cheaper in the long run to meet with the developer to discuss the situation.
"I just want to send it to the lawyers, get a recommendation or get some legal opinions on it and see where it goes from there," the Mayor countered.
"What’s the problem?" asked councillor Luby. ""You’re saying you want to go after the company, is that it?"
"I’m just saying send it to the lawyer to open a file and get some correspondence," the mayor replied.
Mullowney said he is worried about the cost of getting a lawyer to "open a file" on the matter.
Luby was also skeptical of the wisdom of such a move. "I’d like to know the reason why they didn’t give the land," she said. "It’s going to cost us money and the lawyers are the ones who get rich in the end... For a lawyer to look at this, how much is it going to cost? And then how much is it going to cost to go to court and everything else? Is it worth it?"
O’Driscoll said the town is not going to court, only asking the lawyer to look at it.
"This is going back three years and to be fair the proponent has been asking to meet with us for three years too on issues and we have not met with them," said Mullowney.
O’Driscoll said those issues are separate from the one regarding the playground. "You can’t link the two together," he argued, then called the vote. His motion passed 4-3 with Mullowney, Luby and Hawkins voting against it.
"I still want to talk to these people at some point," said Mullowney.
"So do I," said Luby.
The next issue O’Driscoll moved to place in the hands of lawyers is a moratorium on all new Crown Land applications until such time as the Town develops a policy to handle such requests.
Deputy Mayor Mullowney asked what timeline the mayor has in mind for such a move. O’Driscoll wasn’t sure at first.
"We’ll have to meet with the lawyers," he said. "Whenever it gets created it will be done, but until we get one developed I think we should not accept any more Crown Land applications."
Councillor Mulcahy seconded the mayor’s motion.
"I have no problem with it, it’s an idea (that should be looked at) but it should be time stamped in some way," said Mullowney. "We should put a time limit on it. I wouldn’t want it to last for three or four or five years."
O’Driscoll said it wouldn’t last that long. The process would depend on council sitting down with its lawyers and planner, he said.
Mullowney said he would still like to know a firm timeline, suggesting the mayor’s motion was open-ended.
"I’ll say a maximum of 12 months subject to change," said O’Driscoll.
"I have no problem voting on it for a year, but realize it could effectively shut down any development by individuals who have a single acre of Crown land that they want to apply for, Mullowney cautioned. "Much of the issues we have been dealing with are larger plots of land people are applying for (for subdivisions)."
Councillor Luby said she wouldn’t like to see people stopped from applying for single lots.
"Why would you go treat one group of applicants differently than another?" said the mayor. "Treat everybody the same. Your policy applies to everyone."
Put to a vote, O’Driscoll’s motion passed unanimously. The moratorium won’t affect large Crown land applications already in the works, such as councillor Sullivan’s 50 lot subdivision in the north end of town.
Basement apartments targetted for review
In other council news, the mayor has ordered staff to compile a list of all houses in Bay Bulls that have basement apartments and to hand it over to the provincial Municipal Assessment Agency to have the property values of the homes reassessed, a move which could mean higher taxes for the owners. O’Driscoll is also ordering staff to contact Service NL to have the septic systems of the homes inspected to see if they meet capacity requirements for having two families in one home.
"We have no approval process in place for basement apartments," the mayor said, introducing his motion.
Councillor Sullivan seconded the motion.
O’Driscoll noted if someone wants to build a shed or garage they have to apply to the town for a permit, but there is no such requirement for basement apartments.
The motion passed 4-3 with Mullowney, Luby and Hawkins voting against it.
Keep on Trucking
Council has voted to buy a new five tonne truck from Royal Garage for $111,838. That’s about $1,200 higher than the lower of the two bids it received, with the slightly cheaper one coming from Hickman Group.
Councillor Sullivan said the Royal Garage truck is on the lot and ready to be picked up, while the Hickman vehicle would have to be ordered and would take some 12 weeks to come in. The Royal Garage truck also has more useful features, including a better plow, he argued. The Royal Garage truck he added, would allow the town to take over its own snow clearing if it ever decides to do so, instead of contracting it out, as it does now.
Town must pay in
And finally, the Town of Bay Bulls will have to pay the Canada Revenue Agency a little over $5,000 after an audit revealed a discrepancy from the HST monies collected and paid in for the year 2013.