News from Council

Priorities are Mayor
Because transparency, accountability, and community-building are among my top priorities, I’ll be working on making everything that our Town Council does available online. Our Town Website will soon be much more comprehensive. I’ll also be using this page as my own record.

• My priorities
• My biography
• Our Community Enhancement Committee
• Witless Bay’s (Proposed) Town Plan


• Posted April 17, 2014 •
Guinness World Record Attempt by the Town of Witless Bay
During our annual Spring Cleanup, we will be attempting to break a world record for the BIGGEST PUFFIN EVER MADE OUT OF GARBAGE! Join us on May 10th to help make it happen! Here’s a screenshot of our application:

The Town of Witless Bay will be attempting to break a world record for the largest puffin ever made out of garbage!

The Town of Witless Bay will be attempting to break a world record for the largest puffin ever made out of garbage!

• Posted April 4, 2014 •
DRAFT AGENDA – April 8th, 2014 Public Meeting of Council
Witless Bay Town Hall – 7:30 p.m.

1. Call to order

2. Adoption of the April 8, 2014 Agenda

3. Adoption of the Minutes of the March 11, 2014 public meeting

4. Business Arising from Minutes:
a) Compilation of a list of all roads that are currently substandard, and a quote from the Town’s Engineer to bring these up to standard.
b) Standing offers from local contractors for all equipment they possess.

5.General Business:
a) Notice of Motion – Ratification of the proposed regulations on permits
b) Notice of Motion – Final amendments to Town Plan
c) Notice of Motion – To temporarily suspend (during May 13 public
meeting only), Motion #2011-113 that states, “Be it resolved as of October 11,
2011, Council will not be accepting any future amendments for any
development in the Town until the Town Plan Review is completed and
d) Motion to ratify the Public Works Commiittee’s recommendations relating to road signs, as mapped by Council
e) Correspondence – Minister Steve Kent, RE: Emergency Response Plan
f) Gas Tax Secretariat – Approval of Track Road Project and signage requirements
g) NL Environmental Awards

6.Presentations: Individuals / Delegations
a)Ed Vickers (FORB)

7.Committee Reports:

North-East Avalon Regional (NEAR) Plan -
a) Minutes of February 17, 2014 meeting

Recreation -
a) Meeting with the BBBAA (RE: Recreation infrastructure in Witless Bay)
b) Group Ratification request

Community Enhancement Committee
a) ACOA – Consultant Advisory Service for Tourism Plan
b) (i)Signage [Report on meeting with ACOA]
(ii) Crown Land application
c) Motion: Add a door to the front of the existing tourist chalet
d) Community mapping initiative
e) Kinsmen community clean-up [scheduled for May 10, weather permitting]
f) Car wrecks

Heritage Committee -
a) Cultural Economic Development Program Grant application

O’Connor 50+ Club -
a) Request to meet with Council

Finance -
a) Cash Flow Analysis Report and Payables
b) Snow Clearing Logs
c) Residential Tax Agreement (privileged session)

Public Works & Compliance -
a) Request to rezone Parish property – The Avenue
b) Request to rezone John Shea’s Grove Road (Alban Carey’s Road)
c) Correspondence regarding pavement cutting
d) Correspondence regarding flooding – Tamarack Drive
e) Department of Transportation & Works – Ice Control Materials for 2014-2015
f) Application to operate Hair Styling Business on 37-41A Gull Pond Road
g) Application to expand parking – 93-97 Harbour Road
h) Application to develop residential dwelling – Harbour Road
i) Application to develop residential dwellings on:
14 Ocean View Drive
16 Country Path Drive
14 Ocean View Drive


• Posted April 1, 2014 •
April 1st meeting of Community Enhancement Committee CANCELLED
Let’s not risk our lives traveling in this weather! Our next meeting will be on April 15th.

• Posted March 25, 2014 •
Extension to the Robert E Howlett Memorial Drive
On March 25th, Minister Nick McGrath announced that the Robert E Howlett Memorial Drive would be extended up to Bay Bulls. The planned route begins at the current end of Robert E. Howlett Memorial Drive (at the intersection of Route 10), and will continue south 9.5 kilometres, parallel to the current road towards Bay Bulls. Click HERE to read more about this fantastic news for residents of Witless Bay!!!

• Posted March 21, 2014 •
About Council’s decision to abandon the rezoning of Ragged Beach
CONTEXT: In 2010, a developer purchased a 1½-acre parcel of land and applied to purchase a larger parcel of neighbouring Crown Land in order to make the construction of a road leading to this parcel feasible through the selling of other lots. Access to the property was identified as a possible problem from the very first time the proposal was presented to Council, and it came up as an issue throughout the history of the file. A rezoning request was eventually submitted to Municipal Affairs, who agreed to the request based on two conditions, one of which being that Mullowney’s Lane was to be widened to allow for the increased traffic flow from the proposed development.

On Tuesday, March 11th, 2014, Witless Bay Town Council passed a motion to preclude the widening of the lane to accommodate the proposed development at Gallows Cove / Ragged Beach. This motion also terminated the rezoning process and closed the file on this development.

Council’s decision was not taken lightly, and was based on an assessment of the many interests and the many considerations at play.

Past members of Council had been very clear on the fact that Mullowney’s Lane would not be widened to allow for the proposed development. The former Mayor had even gone on public record guaranteeing that the lane would remain untouched. The ethical question of the seizure of land and property (whether through outright expropriation or through other means of seizure) that would have been necessary to make access to the proposed development possible was a major consideration for a number of councillors, both past and present.

Another consideration was the overwhelming opposition to the project. A very large proportion of the residents of Witless Bay actively petitioned Council and the Provincial Ministers in charge of various portfolios to help protect the only easily accessible beach with a “private” feel in the Town. One group even resorted to litigation in an attempt to stop the project (at great cost to both this group and the Town).

The Public Consultation process that was held to allow for various stakeholders’ opinions to be heard showed resistance to the project, and the report submitted by the Public Consultation Planning Committee was squarely opposed to it. The Planner responsible for drafting the Witless Bay Municipal Plan – an expert in Town planning – also advised against it.

Many stakeholders voiced concerns about the potential detriment that the proposed development could have on the integrity of the East Coast Trail, and a number of experts, specialists, researchers, associations, and citizens’ organizations voiced concerns about the environmental impact that the proposed development could have on the nearby Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, as had the Province’s Minister of Environment and Conservation.

For this project to see its way to fruition, Council would also have to allow the “bending” of a number of rules, including some of the Town’s own regulations. Council does have the power to do this, but allowing the rules to be bent sets dangerous precedents. Other developers then expect the same freedoms, which can put the Town in a questionable legal position.

The developer did offer shouldering some of the costs, but this project would nonetheless require a willingness on the part of Council to invest significant resources (including a possibly very substantial financial commitment). New developments should benefit residents; the costs associated with these should never exceed the tax revenues they’re hoped to generate. In contending with the various unforeseen costs, another question might have been: “Would Council have felt comfortable telling residents that another $10,000 of taxpayers’ money had been spent in order to enable this project? Would Council be comfortable announcing a $100,000 outlay? Or $500,000?” At which point does such a project cease being viable, given residents’ opposition to it and the other considerations at stake?

Since Council’s mandate is to help ensure a better quality of life for residents, projects adopted by Council must also consider the impact of these on the lives of residents. In which ways would the proposed project have elevated residents’ quality of life? In which ways would it have been detrimental? Lastly, should Council have chosen to ignore the issues listed above to allow the project to go ahead, what impacts could the proposed development have on the town in the future?

When Council looked at the “bigger picture” and gauged the compounded effect of all of the concessions that would have been necessary to allow for the project to go ahead, Council assessed that allowing the rezoning request to proceed would not be in the best interests of the Town.

We do empathize with the developer, but our responsibility as a Municipal Council is to weigh the benefits of a project against the costs associated with it, and to make decisions that are in the best interests of the Town in the long term. Now that the file is closed, Council will be working to mend bridges and striving to make Witless Bay the positive and uplifting community that it should be again.

• Posted March 13, 2014 •
“Lights from West Aquarius worry bird ‘keepers’”
Irish Loop Post, March 12, 2014 (Volume 7, #5; Cover & p.7)
Irish Loop Post - MARCH 2014Irish Loop Post - March 2014 continued
Click HERE for media coverage of our work

• February 2, 2014 •
Council’s February Newsletter

IS WITLESS BAY THE NEXT TIDY TOWN? This year, Witless Bay will enter into the Province’s “Tidy Towns” contest! To help prepare the town for the competition, Council has created the Community Enhancement Committee. The main goal of this committee is to energize residents’ community spirit and make Witless Bay a better, even more beautiful place to live. Meetings will be informal, and will be held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. The first meeting will take place on TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 4th, at 7:30pm in Council Chambers. We hope to see you there!

THE REGIONAL WINTER CARNIVAL is soon here! It will take place from February 21st to March 2nd. The brochure with the full list of activities will be sent in February, but you can also check for updates on The lineup for this year includes Carnival Breakfasts, dances, seniors’ fitness events, skating, sliding, talent shows, the Seniors’ Outreach Dinner, card games, Bingo, the 50+ Potluck, Winter Frolics, a youth ping-pong tournament, a youth pool tournament, and more!
To volunteer, please contact Trudy: / 334-2300!

MUNICIPAL TAXES: As many have already noticed, Council has reduced residential property taxes to 5 mils this year, in keeping with the commitment made during last September’s election campaign. All other rates and fees remain the same as last year’s (PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS NOW A UNIVERSAL $25 APPLICATION FEE FOR ALL PERMITS. I APOLOGIZE FOR HAVING FORGOTTEN TO MENTION THIS IN THE NEWSLETTER, BUT THIS DETAIL WILL BE INCLUDED IN THE NOTICE IN THE IRISH LOOP POST). Tax invoices have been mailed, along with important information, including:
• Taxpayers are entitled to a 5% discount on residential taxes if paid by March 30th 2014.
• Seniors receive a total of 10% discount on residential taxes throughout the year.
• All taxes are due and payable by May 31st 2014. Any taxes not paid by May 31st 2014, or without arrangements being made, will be charged an interest rate of 18% per annum. Interest on overdue accounts is calculated automatically, but will not be posted on accounts until after the final deadline. If the account remains unpaid after the deadline, the amount shown on your invoice will be a calculation of interest from January to the end of May. The office cannot remove interest from outstanding accounts.
• The Town accepts Visa, MasterCard, Debit, and pre-authorized payments. If acceptable arrangements are made with the Town Office before May 31st 2014 to have your account paid in full by November 30th 2014, no interest will be charged to your account.
• Delinquent accounts unpaid by November 30th 2014 will receive a final notice that their account is being prepared for submission to Credit Recovery for collection.

THE ANNUAL BBBAA AUCTION DINNER & DANCE is on May 10th this year. For more info, please contact Trudy at or 334-2300!

WITLESS BAY HAS A NEW COUNCILLOR! Due to departure of Jeff Swain, who recently resigned from Council (Jeff is moving out of the community), there was a vacant seat on Council. On January 28th 2014, this seat was filled by Terry Dunne, who was acclaimed. Terry will be sworn in at the February 11th public meeting of Council.

The incoming class of Masters and Ph.D. students at MUN’s Department of Folklore will be taking part in a three-week field methods course in Witless Bay this coming September. From September 7th to 27th, these graduate students will learn how to document heritage buildings in the community, learn how to conduct interviews with residents, and learn about Witless Bay traditions, practices, local knowledge and skills. Students will be living in the Holy Trinity Convent during their stay in Witless Bay. Several guest lecturers and experts will help out in the teaching and documentation. At the commencement of the field school, a welcome gathering will be held. Throughout their stay, students hope to immerse themselves in the daily life of Witless Bay, learning about the landscape, built heritage and oral traditions—meeting, visiting and learning from local residents. Students will keep a blog and reflect on their daily activities. During the final day of the field school, a presentation will be made to the community of what students found and experienced. The documented traditions will be available online through Memorial University’s Digital Archive Initiative. A published booklet of Witless Bay buildings and landscapes documented in the field school is also planned.
For more information, please contact Dr. Gerald L. Pocius (; 864-8366).

• Having a plan in place in case of power outages and extreme
• Checking in on neighbours (especially seniors) to offer help.
• Pairing up with a neighbour who is equipped with an off-grid heat source (a wood stove, an oil furnace, etc.) before the next power failure. Ensure that neighbours know they are welcome to “visit” when the power is out!
• Respecting posted speed limits when driving.
• Avoiding dumping any snow onto the roadway.
• Wearing bright and/or reflective clothing when out for a walk or jog.
• Checking culverts around your properties and helping keep them clear of debris so they can handle the rain and snow we will be surely getting in the
 near future!

- Sébastien Després (Mayor), Dena Wiseman (Deputy Mayor), councillors René Astrada, Ralph Carey, Tommy Crocker, Terry Dunne, and Kevin Smart, Geraldine Caul (Town Clerk), and Barb Harrigan (Assistant Clerk)

• January 5, 2014 •
Regulations for Associations Seeking the Support of Council
In order to ensure fairness and transparency across the board, Council has ratified the following regulations to help guide us in our decision-making. The ratification process is simple and straight-forward – associations simply have to fill out a one-page “Association Ratification Form” in order to have their requests (also a one-page form) considered.

A. An “Association” shall be considered as a group of persons who have come together to share a common passion and achieve a common goal. Associations must have a clearly defined purpose that does not conflict with the Mission, Vision, Values, Goals, or Objectives of Council. The association must intend to carry out activities that do not infringe any federal, provincial, municipal or other regulations and which will not interfere with the business of the Town. The association must not infringe on the rights and privileges of others, including the rights of privacy and of freedom of expression. An association is a separate legal entity from the Council, subject to its own rights and obligations. The commitments of an association are the responsibility of its members, and under no circumstance shall Council be held liable for their actions.

B. In order to receive support or funds from Witless Bay’s Council, an association must have been ratified by Council. Associations seeking ratification by Council must submit a duly completed “Association Ratification Form.” For an association to be ratified, at least 20% of its membership must reside in Witless Bay. If this condition is not met, the association must demonstrate that a minimum of 20% of the association’s activities directly benefit the Town of Witless Bay and its residents.

C. The financial contributions that the Council may grant to an association should not constitute the association’s only source of income. Associations must finance themselves through their members’ contributions and other regular channels. Only when such sources of income prove insufficient will the Council consider granting financial support.

D. Approval or rejection of funding requests is at the discretion of the Finance Committee, subject to approval of Council

E. Associations seeking funding from Council must submit a duly completed Funding Request Form.

F. In order to receive funds, the association must hold a bank account in the legal name of the association, and must not have any outstanding debts with Council.

G. Funds must be used towards serving the residents of Witless Bay.

H. Funds must not be used for the private use of a few individuals.

I. Council will not disburse funds for direct donation to charity, the cost of alcohol served at any event, or the day-to-day administrative costs of an organization.

J. Any association receiving funds from Council must list the Town of Witless Bay as a sponsor in all advertising for the event or project for which the association received funding.

K. Applications for financial support will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
- Does the intent of the support requested fit within Council’s mandate?
- How do the support requested contribute to the success of the association’s event or project?
- How do residents of Witless Bay benefit from the event or project?
- How much external fundraising has the association done?

• January 5, 2014 •
Proposed Regulations on Permits
At the November 26 meeting of Council, Notice of Motion was given for the ratification of the following Regulations on Permits. The great majority of these are not new regulations – they’re adaptations of the existing regulations. The intent of many of the changes proposed below is to soften the current regulations for residents, making them less onerous for small-scale projects. The intent of other changes proposed is to protect residents and landowners from potential issues resulting from unregulated, unauthorized, and illegal development. Councillors have been asked to review the proposed regulations so that we can ratify them at the May 2014 meeting of Council. Residents are invited to give their feedback on these as well!

1.No land within the municipal boundaries of Witless Bay is to be subdivided without the prior approval, in writing, of Council. (as per Statutes of Newfoundland 2000, 29.2:a)

2.No development, construction, extension, demolition, excavation, grading, clearing or grubbing is to take place without a permit from the Town.
(Current Regulations: “No excavation or development of any kind is to take place without a permit from the town.”; “General exterior repair permits will be issued to Seniors free of charge.”; “All sheds require a permit regardless of size and are subject to cost as indicated in tax structure.” From the Municipalities Act 1999, Section 194: “A person shall not within a municipality: erect a building; extend, repair, relocate or demolish an existing building; change the use for which an existing building is or was last held or occupied; or occupy a building that has been vacant for a period of 6 months or more or a newly constructed building, except in accordance with a written permit from the council.”)

3. All building applications must be must be duly filled out and signed before being considered by Council. Applications must be in the Applicant’s name, and must be accompanied by a duly filled out plot plan, the applicable application fee, and a legal survey (for new home constructions and commercial applications, the survey must be not older than 5 years).
(Current Regulations: “All building applications must be accompanied by a detailed plot plan, survey not older than 5 years and in applicant’s name, and application fee where applicable.”; “Before a residential or commercial permit is issued the Town office must have a legal survey which is not older than 5 years.”)

4. The fees related to permits will be according to the Annual Tax Structure adopted by Council.
(Current regulations: “Building permit costs will be charged according to the annual tax structure adopted by Council.”)

5. If the applicant has any outstanding debts with Council (e.g. fines, levies, late taxes, etc.), this debt must be paid in full before any application is considered for approval. (As per the Municipalities Act, Section 404).
(Example: The City of St. John’s Building Bylaws read, “Notwithstanding any other provision of this By-Law any person who owes outstanding fines to the City of St. John’s for a by-law or regulatory violation for which he has been convicted shall not be entitled to a permit issued pursuant to this By-Law until such time as all such outstanding fines have been paid” (9.1).

6. Permits issued by Council are valid for one year from the date of issue, with the option of renewal for one year. After the second year, the applicant must re-apply to the Town.
(NO CHANGE. Current regulations: “Permits issued by Council will be valid for a period of one year from the date of issue, with the option of renewal for one year. After the second year, applicant must re-apply to the Town.”

7. Permits that are issued to an applicant cannot be transferred. If a property changes hands at any point before the construction is completed, the purchaser must make a new application to the town once he is in possession of a legal deed of conveyance, and submit all required documents with the application.

8. The Town does not provide compliance or occupancy permits. Compliance with existing codes is not implied or warrantied by Council’s issuance of a permit. Council’s approval of developments is in principle only, and subject to final approvals by the appropriate government agencies. The developer of any residential, commercial, or industrial development in the Town of Witless Bay is responsible for meeting all current provincial and national standards.
(Current regulations: “The Town will not provide compliance/occupancy permit.”; “Compliance to existing codes is not implied or warranted by the issuance of permits by Council.”; “The developer of any residential, commercial, or industrial development within the Town of Witless Bay will be responsible for meeting all provincial or national standards that exist.”; “Permits given the Town’s approval shall be in principle only and subject to other government agency’s final approvals.”)

9. The applicant and builder are both responsible to construct as per submitted plans. Any changes must be approved by Council, in writing.

10. Permits to develop will not be issued on newly-developed roads until the road is legally turned over to the Town.
(NO CHANGE. Current regulations: “Permits to develop will NOT be issued on newly developed roads until the road is legally turned over to the Town.”)

11. A driveway must be properly ditched and a culvert meeting the Town’s standards must be installed and inspected by Council before the Town can grant a permit to develop a new lot or construct a new home.
(Current regulations: “Prior to any new home construction, a driveway must be properly ditched and an appropriate culvert (plastic, min. 24″ in diameter) installed and inspected by Council. A permit will be given only when the work is completed to the satisfaction of council. (Motion #2006-094).”)

12. There shall be no unauthorized ditch filling or altering. Building on any watercourse constructed as a public storm sewer or ditch without prior approval from Town Council is an offence. Written notice will be given to the property owner that the installation will need to be removed upon the Town identifying, at its discretion; i) a potential detrimental effect to Town-owned infrastructure, ii) unsafe or failed conditions, or iii) the installation as a contributing cause to drainage issues. The property owner will be given five weeks (35 days) to remedy the issue. If the issue is not resolved within 35 days, the Town will rectify the issue at the owner’s expense.
(Municipalities Act 1999, Section 196: “A person shall not within a municipality: dig or construct ditches, drains or culverts; make greater use of existing ditches, drains or culverts; or connect to an existing storm drainage system, whether publicly or privately owned, except in accordance with a written permit from the council. A council shall not approve a permit under subsection (1) without the prior written approval of the Department of Environment and Labour.”

13. To construct, renovate, demolish or excavate without a permit or with an expired permit carries a fine of not more than $5,000 for a first offence and not more than $10,000 for a subsequent offence. In addition, if construction contravenes the Town’s zoning regulations or by-laws, an additional fine of up to $10,000 may be levied. Also, the owner will be responsible for the cost of dismantling such construction and restoring the site if so ruled, and the cost of rectifying any problems identified by Council.
In most Canadian cities, the fine for building without a permit is normally up to $50,000 for a first offence and up to $100,000 for subsequent offences. Most towns with this type of bylaw specify $25,000 for a first offence and up to $50,000 for any subsequent offence.

14. Stop Work Orders can be issued by Council at any time if no permit has been issued for the civic address/addresses in question. Where a permit has been granted and has not yet expired, any Stop Work Order must be sanctioned by Council during a public meeting.The daily fine for disobeying a Stop Work Order shall be $500.
(Current regulations: “No excavation or development of any kind is to take place without a permit from the town.”; “All Stop Work Orders must be issued only if approved by Council at a public meeting and listed by civic number only.”; “The daily fine to be imposed if a stop work order is not obeyed will be $25.00.”)

15. Development applications which do not conform to the Town Plan, municipal by-laws, the Municipalities Act, and/or other development regulations will be denied. Specific reference to the regulations in question will be cited in the Town’s written response and denial.

16. All Discretionary Use Notices, Variance Notices, and Stop Work Orders that are posted will be listed by civic number only, and will be accompanied by a map as well as the intended use of the land.
(SLIGHT CHANGE TO INCLUDE SWOs. Current regulations: “All discretionary use notices and variances that are posted will include civic number only (if land is assessed) and will include a map, as well as intended use of land.”; “All Stop Work Orders must be… listed by civic number only.”)

Click HERE to see the ARCHIVES, where older posts are kept.
• My priorities,
• My biography
• Our Community Enhancement Committee
• Media coverage of Council


All content Copyright © 2010-2014 Sébastien Després. All rights reserved. The views, opinions, positions and/or strategies expressed on this site and other sites owned and controlled by Sébastien Després are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of Witless Bay's Town Council.