Protecting Pointe Beach in Cupids

Terry Roberts
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Public briefing attracts large crowd; generates plenty of discussion

Some of those who attended a public briefing in Cupids earlier this month. Pictured here are, from left, Suzanne Brake, Deputy Mayor Harold Akerman, Robert Bishop, planning consultant Arvo McMillan, and Mayor Ross Dawe.

Editor's note: the following article was first published in the Feb. 19, 2013 print edition of The Compass.

A public briefing in Cupids last week to seek input from residents about an intention to protect and enhance an area of the historic harbour known as Pointe Beach generated plenty of discussion and varying opinions.

But municipal leaders believe a vast majority of the town's roughly 760 citizens overwhelmingly support the concept, and vow to push forward with plans to acquire ownership of the Crown land and develop a recreational marina that will sustain itself through user fees and other revenue sources.

It's argued that a marina will evolve into yet another "key community asset" in the town, which was thrust into the national spotlight in 2010 during celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the establishment of Cuper's Cove, considered by historians as the first English settlement in Canada.

The celebration has left a lasting imprint on the town, most notably a renowned heritage interpretation facility known as the Cupids Legacy Centre.

The Feb. 12 meeting attracted more than 50 people, which is a healthy turnout by most standards. It was hosted by municipal planning consultant Arvo McMillan, who has been hired by the town to oversee a proposed amendment to the town's municipal plan and development regulations.

Council approved the spending of some $25,000 at a public meeting earlier this month in order to acquire McMillan's services. The money will come from revenues received through the town's share of the federal "gas tax."

Docks and harbours

The proposed amendment will add the term "transportation" as a discretionary use in areas zoned as rural. Specifically, the amendment will allow, at the discretion of council, the construction of docks and harbours along the shoreline.

Under the current regulations, such activities are prohibited.

Council has applied to the provincial government to take full ownership of Pointe Beach, a unique peninsula of land that juts into the harbour from Seaforest Drive, and protects a small barachois known as Saltwater Pond.

The "beach," as it's known locally, was considered a eyesore until significant government funds were used to upgrade the site prior to the 2010 celebrations. It is now home to the annual Cuper's Cove Soiree summer festival, and is a popular area for boaters seeking a sheltered and accessible place to moor their small craft.

A newly formed Cupids boat owners association - comprised entirely of volunteers - has been formed to administer the beach on behalf of the town, but its mandate is stalled until the town can take ownership of the site, and the zoning amendment is made.

"Right now we have no say," Deputy Mayor Harold Akerman stated after last week's meeting. "We just want to maintain what's there. We don't want it to fall down. And we can't do anything until the word 'transportation' is included in our discretionary use."

User fees

Mayor Ross Dawe said the town does not have the financial wherewithal to maintain the property, so a user fee system is necessary.

"If we don't get revenue it will all fall down like it did before," Dawe said, adding, "Ninty-nine per cent of the boat owners are willing to pay a fee to have a place to tie up their boat."

A spokesman for the boat owners association, Robert Bishop, said the potential at Pointe Beach is tremendous.

Dawe said the intent is to "facilitate community development and sustainability," and the effort seems to have widespread support.

McMillan received a petition signed by some 60 people, backing efforts to "create a long-term legacy of harbourfront infrastructure" that will meet the needs of both residents and non-residents.

There were also seven letters of support, including one from Peter Laracy, who manages the Legacy Centre. Laracy said a well developed harbour is an essential component in efforts to establish what he called a cultural destination.

"The assets of Pointe Beach are an important component in reflecting our culture, as well as our past and current way of life," Laracy stated.

"It is truly a special place, uniquely positioned directly across from the archeological site. One can stand there and truly get a vivid sense of our rich history."

In private hands

Meanwhile, support for the concept is by no means unanimous. One speaker at the meeting, Leonard Martin, suggested the town was planning to develop a "commercial marina" and questioned whether some traditional activities may soon be a thing of the past.

He wondered who would operate the marina, how much it would cost to develop, and how much it would cost the town?

Martin is worried the marina will be operated by a "private individual," and reminded those at the meeting that "landowners have been threatened with expropriation."

"If this becomes a commercial marina, will there be a chain put across?" Martin asked.

Indeed, there is plenty of evidence along the shoreline to suggest a land battle is brewing. New fencing has been installed in recent years, land pegs have been slammed into the ground, and "private property" signs are about as common as the ducks in the pond.

When asked about the vision for Pointe Beach, Mayor Dawe said those decisions will likely be made by the next town council, which will be elected in September.

"In the future there will be a plan drawn up for the pond, in conjunction between the town and the boat owners," said Dawe.

To which Deputy Mayor Akerman added: "It will never include a commercial marina. It will be classed as a recreational marina."

If the town chooses to proceed with the amendment, a formal public hearing, chaired by a commissioner appointed by council, will take place. That's likely to occur sometime before the end of March, said McMillan.



Organizations: The Compass

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Recent comments

  • concerned citizen
    February 23, 2013 - 16:42

    I wish to address the manner in which the posture for this public meeting was . misleading to the taxpapers of Cupids. It stated that anyone wishing to attend must contact the town clerk in writing,it was later reveiled, to be allowed to speak, a written notice was necessary.The posture also led anyone to think the meeting was just about inserting the word "transportation" to allow for docks and wharves.We later learn the whole municipal plan is under review and could very well be changed. This was more than just about Pointe Beach and that point should have been made clear.

  • Don II
    February 23, 2013 - 10:02

    To Don V: It appears that the Town of Cupids filled in some areas of the private land at Salt Water Pond as part of a make work project which used untreated wood which soon rotted away and much of the fill slipped into the Salt Water Pond. The use of untreated wood by the Town of Cupids or its contractor/agent is the cause of the disrepair of the cribbing along the waterfront which was not caused by the land owners. In at least one case, the waterfront land owner informed the Town of Cupids in writing that he did not want his land filled in or interfered with in any way. I found no evidence that any land owners requested the Town of Cupids to correct any flooding problems caused by high tides. It appears that the filling in of land at Salt Water Pond was used as a ploy by the Town of Cupids in an attempt to claim ownership of the filled in land. I am informed that no claim of ownership is established in law by filling in land without an expressed written agreement that title to the land would transfer as a result. I am informed that no such written agreement ever existed between the land owners and the Town of Cupids. It appears that in the case of the land owner who refused in writing to have his land filled in, that the Town of Cupids or its contractor/agent actually trespassed on the land in order to fill it in. As riparian land owners, the waterfront land owners are protected by law from the construction of any structures or impediments placed along their waterfront lands which could prevent or impede them from accessing the water or which would stop or impede their navigation in the Salt Water Pond. It appears that the Town of Cupids plan is to construct a boardwalk along the waterfront and install floating and fixed docks in the Salt Water Pond which may stop or impede the waterfront landowners from accessing the water and navigating boats in the pond. It appears that the Town of Cupids plans to charge fees to moor boats in the pond. It appears that the land owners rights stand in the way of the Town of Cupids Master Plan! Who is behind this Master Plan? Why should land owners and boat owners who have moored their boats at their own land or wharf for decades be forced to pay the Town of Cupids or its private agent for the privilege of mooring their boats in the Salt Water Pond? Why does the near bankrupt Town of Cupids want to spend large amounts of tax payers money to build a commercial marina to serve yacht and boat owners, many of whom are not even residents of the town of Cupids? What is really going on here? Who will really own the commercial marina? It appears that this issue can be traced to people with access to the power of the State who have an axe to grind and are forcing their personal will on other people without any justification.Some people think they have the power to get their way and will trample anyone's rights or abuse any rule to get it! A wise person once said: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

  • Concerned citizen
    February 23, 2013 - 08:55

    It is my understanding,back in 1974,the land referred to was back filled by the Town of Cupids after been told ,by the owner in writing,that he didn't want anyone trespassing on his land.The Council chose to ignore his wishes and indeed trespass ,filled the land then claimed to own it.

    February 22, 2013 - 19:17

    Yes, I think it is time to finalize this and put an end to the harassment the current land owners have been subjected to over the years. If the land which they own is to be expropriated, than make sure fair market value is offered for not only the area at the edge of the saltwater pond, but the whole strip of land included in the Deed of Ownership. Which, in the case of some of these landowners, run from the edge of the saltwater to the edge of the freshwater pond on the other side. This is all privately owned property. In years gone by landowners had buildings and fenced their property all along the water’s edge, which can be seen in old photographs. If these owners decide to sell their property, the piece of land at the water’s edge on either side is the selling point of these strips of land and gives it the most value, especially with Riparian Rights. All the landowners around the ponds and in the harbour area have Riparian Rights. Without these valuable sections of land, the value of the rest of the property is greatly reduced. To expropriate just the areas at the water’s edge to set up a walking trail or any kind of marina for the purpose of making a profit, would not be very fare without offering these landowners a share in the profit being made, especially if it is to be run and operated by a private individual who stands to gain from this profit. I am sure anyone of these landowners would allow any person across their property to launch a boat or walk along the water’s edge, free of charge.

  • Former Boat Owner
    February 22, 2013 - 16:30

    Seems as though the 'Mayor' had a lot to say to the Compass' reporter after the meeting but when asked to speak at the meeting, he mairly shook his head 'no'! Perhaps there was to much oppsitition there for him. The Compass also failed to note that when the next meeting goes ahead, there will be lawyers present, as stated by a landowner.

  • Don
    February 22, 2013 - 15:08

    To Quiet Observer: Your comments are unbelievably arrogant and seriously misinformed. Are you seriously suggesting that the a referendum be held in the town of Cupids so that the people of the town can vote to authorize the Town Council to expropriate and take other citizens lands from them? Do you think that it is right that the people of the town of Cupids should be told to vote to take land from other people in the town of Cupids? Will the next plan be for a vigilante mob with torches and pitchforks to be going house to house in search of Witches in Cupids? As for your statement regarding the land owners claim of ownership. It appears that you do not know about the history of Fishing Rooms in Cupids. I have reviewed the documentation regarding the land ownership at the Salt Water Pond and found that it was registered in the Plantation Books of Newfoundland in 1773 and had been privately owned and occupied long before that time. The title transferred between various private owners by registered Deeds of Conveyance on occasion since that time. The description of the land so deeded gives ownership from the high water mark of the Salt Water Pond to the high water mark of Cupids Pond. Additionally, the land owners possess early Crown water lot land Grants which give them ownership of the land under the water at Salt Water Pond. That area was originally used as Ships Rooms at which wharves, flakes and moorings for their boats were constructed. As for the so called dereliction of the area around the Salt Water Pond, it is my understanding that untreated wooden cribbing was placed around the Salt Water Pond by the Town of Cupids and that the untreated wooden cribbing promptly rotted away. I am also informed that the Town of Cupids has refused to allow land owners at the Salt Water Pond to upgrade their waterfront properties and has refused permission for them to build docks, wharves and fences. It appears that what is happening in the near bankrupt Town of Cupids is an attempted land grab similar to the land grabs attempted by the corrupt Cattle and Railroad Barons of old West in the USA!

  • Quiet Observer
    February 22, 2013 - 12:48

    This battle has been ongoing for years and it is now time to finalize this once and for all. Current land owners should be offered a fair price for the land to which they claim ownership. If the price expectation is unreasonable, then other steps will have to be taken to obtain ownership. This has been in dispute for sixty years that I know about. This area has great potential for use by more citizens of the community and significantly improve the area from how derelict it has been for many years. It will be a battle for sure, but having a referendum by the tax payers is the way to go.

    • Don V
      February 22, 2013 - 14:29

      This land with all its new fencing and pegs did not exist before 1974,this land was filled in to protect the road and private land from high tides,its about it be cleaned up.

    • Kathy Foley
      February 23, 2013 - 11:17

      Why is there only one option: expropriation. To say that the price expectation is unreasonable is arrogant. If people don't want to sell their land in exchange for cash why should they? Clearly people other than the landowners will make money for a long time into the future. Are there arrangements to create financial gain in perpetuity for the families who will no longer own the land that has been expropriated?

  • Don II
    February 22, 2013 - 10:21

    It appears that the Town of Cupids neglected to inform the people of the town of Cupids that they have hired a planning consultant to prepare a report on changes to the entire Development Plan for the town of Cupids and not just for the Pointe Beach area! Any changes proposed by the Town Council which will affect zoning and development of the peoples land and properties in Cupids should have been the subject of a public notice and open consultation. What is the Town of Cupids trying to hide here? Will the Town of Cupids publish a public notice advising the people of the community that the Council intends to review the entire Municipal Development Plan for the Town of Cupids? Will the Town of Cupids convene another public information session and lay all of its cards on the table face up? The Town of Cupids finds itself in dire financial circumstances and yet the Council approved the expenditure of $25,000 from the gas tax fund to hire a planning consultant to assist in acquiring land to build a commercial marina for which no feasibility study or environmental impact study has been ever completed! It appears that the Crown Land application submitted by the Town of Cupids for a Grant of the land at Pointe Beach was for commercial purposes. It now appears that the Town of Cupids has no intention of using the Pointe Beach for a commercial marina according to Deputy Mayor Akerman who is quoted as stating: "It will never include a commercial marina. It will be classed as a recreational marina." Mayor Ross Dawe is quoted as stating that: "the town does not have the financial wherewithal to maintain the property, so a user fee system is necessary." If user fees are to be charged then the marina is a commercial venture! If membership votes are to be held and membership fees are to be charged then the marina will not be a public recreational marina open to the use of the general public. According to Mayor Ross Dawe, the Town of Cupids cannot afford to maintain the property. Why build it if the Town cannot afford it? Revenue from a handful of boat owners will not be sufficient. Who is going to bear the cost of maintaining the property ? The tax payers? The Government of Newfoundland and Canada through perpetual funding Grants? What is really going on here? It appears that the Town of Cupids has now admitted that the content of its Crown Land application is not factual. It now appears that the current Crown Land application for the Crown land at Pointe Beach for commercial purposes is not valid. Other questions were not adequately addressed at the recent public information session such as: Did the Town of Cupids get permission from the Government of Newfoundland prior to building a commercial marina in an area not zoned for marina operation? How much did the marina infrastructure constructed on Pointe Beach actually cost? Where did the money used to construct marina infrastructure on Pointe Beach come from? Was the Government of Newfoundland aware that tax payer money was being spent by the Town of Cupids to construct a commercial marina on Pointe Beach? There are lots of questions but very few answers in this matter!