CORNER BROOK, NL - A Nova Scotia widow is hoping the town council in Norris Point will make right on a land deal that has left her with a useless piece of property.
Shirley Barnes, 77, says the town was “dishonest and crooked” when it took her piece of beachfront property in 2001 and gave her land that can’t be built on.
Her husband, Clarence Barnes, was originally from Norris Point and in 1969 the couple bought his grandmother’s house on Clarke’s Road.
They used it as a summer home for a few years and then rented it. It was during one of the rental periods that the home burnt down. But the couple kept the land, with the intention of doing something with it.
In 1986 they were to return to Newfoundland and Corner Brook, where Barnes grew up, as her husband was being transferred from the Cape Breton Post to The Western Star. But Clarence got sick and they couldn’t make the move. He died in January 1989, and Shirley decided to stay in Sydney.
She kept the land in Norris Point, thinking that her children might make use of it or that it would be an investment for her in the future.
In 2000 the town council of the time asked her to sell it, but she wasn’t interested until she learned that Memorial University was putting up a marine station and needed her land in order to proceed.
“That project was a major concern for the town. It was beneficial for them to have this project there and I didn’t want to stop that,” she said.
Rather than just sell it, Barnes made a deal with the town to swap her property for another “good piece” of property on Circular Drive. In the end Barnes received two blocks of land.
“Little did I know that neither one of the lots of land was useful.”
The town then sold her land to Memorial University.
About three years ago, she listed the property with a real estate agent, without receiving any interest. Last spring, she advertised it in a magazine and almost immediately was contacted by someone interested in buying it.
It was when this person had someone make some inquiries about the land that Barnes learned her land was useless. There’s a stream running in the back and, with restrictions on frontage, only about 15 feet of it is considered usable.
“And you couldn’t put a home on 15 feet of land.”
She also found out that the town knew this, as a previous owner had been turned down for a permit to build there.
“They knew it was rotten land, but they still proceeded to swap with me.”
She approached a lawyer about the situation, and last September letters were sent to the town and to Memorial University. Nothing was resolved and she didn’t pursue a lawsuit because of the potential cost involved.
She has, however, filed access to information requests to find out what Memorial University paid for her beach land and the other properties it acquired for the project. Barnes claims the town made more than the $1,600 it offered her on the sale to the university.
She has also stopped paying taxes on the land she was given, saying the increasing value doesn’t reflect the usefulness of the property.
Because this is a legal issue, town clerk/manager Jennifer Samms told The Western Star in an email that the town has been advised to not comment on Barnes’ allegations.
Memorial University does not see where it would be at fault in the matter.
“We did acquire land to construct the Bonne Bay Marine Station in Norris Point. We have no reason to believe anyone from Memorial University acted in bad faith during the transactions at that time,” says an emailed statement from the university.
Barnes is speaking out to expose the dishonesty she claims has taken place.
She hopes doing so might warrant the town to decide to give her a decent piece of property.