Al Lewis is “frustrated right to death.”
Lewis owns a piece of land in Marystown that he’s been trying to build a new home on since last November.
The Department of Transportation and Works has denied him approval to install a culvert so he can build a driveway to access the Marine Drive property, however.
The road is one of countless thoroughfares in towns throughout Newfoundland and Labrador owned by the province.
As far as Lewis can tell, the rejection has to do with a sightline regulation that has been on the books for a while but has not been enforced until recently.
Lewis says he’s been told by the department the peak of the road next to his property is 15 centimetres too high to safely locate a driveway in front of his land.
“I was planning on having (the house) started last November, having the ground cleared and all that stuff, but I can’t seem to get no way with anybody, especially the Department of Transportation,” Lewis told The Southern Gazette.
Bought land from town
Lewis bought the property from the Town of Marystown in 2011.
It was intended for his daughter who lives in Alberta, he said. Then his wife died that same year, diminishing his children’s desire to move back home.
Lewis sold his home in the Little Bay area of Marystown last fall when he received an unsolicited offer. Given the current market conditions, he thought it was a good idea to accept it.
He’s been living with his partner in the neighbouring community of Jean de Baie since.
“We were going to sell both houses and build one between us. That was the plan,” Lewis said.
If he had known of the hassle headed his way then, he wouldn’t have sold his home in Little Bay, he said.
Lewis indicated Marystown council has been trying its best to help him and said he doesn’t fault the town.
Marystown Mayor Sam Synard told The Southern Gazette council was “blindsided” by the department’s decision to turn down Lewis’s application.
The mayor said there has never been a problem related to sightline permissions from the provincial government for any development on Marine Drive in the past.
Synard said he was in the process or reaching out to Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker to find out more about the regulation and when it had come into effect.
Synard said the rule has the potential to be very problematic for development going forward.
Had the regulation been in place all along, there are likely dozens of existing homes that wouldn’t have been built in the town, he said, and if it continues to be enforced, construction of dozens more may not go ahead in the future.
“If the current regulation was implemented, Reddy’s Subdivision would not be developed,” he said, referring to an area located off Marine Drive not far from Lewis’s property.
“There would not be one house in Reddy’s Subdivision. There wouldn’t be a personal care home in Reddy’s Subdivision.”
The town doesn’t have any sightline regulations for its own roads.
“It’s a bit off the wall,” Synard said of the regulation.
There are other properties adjacent to Lewis’s sold to private individuals by the town that the mayor believes will also be impacted.
Speed limit reduction
The Southern Gazette contacted the Department of Transportation and Works for clarification about the regulation in question, and was referred to the sight distance at individual accesses to two-lane roads section of the department’s highway access policy.
There is a potential solution to Lewis’s sightline issue.
According to the policy, because the speed limit in the area is 50 kilometers per hour, there must be 115 metres of sight distance for turning movements.
When the speed limit is reduced below 50 kilometres an hour, the required sight distance for turning movements drops down to 80 metres. Lewis’s would then be in the clear.
At the town’s request to make the change, the department conducted a traffic study in the area.
Planning and development control director Alje Mitchell told council during its meeting on June 3 he had not yet received an official response on the request to reduce the speed limit.
In a follow up, The Gazette sought clarification of enforcement of the sight distance regulations but did not receive a response from the department before print deadline.
At a loss
Lewis is at a loss about what to do with his property.
He said a department official told him the culvert would have been approved had he applied last year.
“I could see a new road, something like that, but this is a fully developed highway here. If they’re going to start enforcing (the regulations) now, it’s a bit ridiculous,” he said.
“I wouldn’t care but there’s driveways all over the place, on the other side of the road from me, right straight across the road from me.”