Dispute between town council and developer creating building lot shortage in Gander

A dispute between a land developer and the town council in Gander has caused a shortage of available residential building lots in the community.

Chamber of commerce says lack of development hurting local economy

Penwell Avenue is located in the Spruce Court subdivision in Gander. Residents there are worried a proposed zoning change will take away green space, but council wants to restart development. (David Newell)

A Gander man is frustrated by a lack of available building lots in the town.

Wayne Walsh had no problem finding a contractor to take on the job of building a house for him, but securing a location for it has proven to be a challenge.

"The contractor said, 'I'm sorry, we don't have any lots right now,'" Walsh said.

He said the lack of building lots in the Spruce Court subdivision is a result of a dispute between the town council and the developer, McCurdy Enterprises.

"There is a court injunction against development on Phase 13," he said. "I understand there is some kind of deficiency there that the town is not pleased with."

Officials from the town have refused interviews with the CBC regarding the details of those deficiencies, citing legal issues.

Bad for business

Development in the popular subdivision has been on hold for three years, and Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce president Debby Yannakidis said it's hurting the local economy.

"There is a definitely an impact for the worse," she said. "We have heard loud and clear from our members that year over year their sales and therefore their profits are decreasing because [of] the lack of lots and the lack of homes being built. That is not sustainable. It can only go on for so long."

The town has proposed rezoning land that is now open space to allow development to resume. (CBC photo)

Yannakidis said housing development needs to happen in the community.

"When you do the math, obviously with more houses, more property taxes, more businesses paying business tax, it is in the long run going to be beneficial to everybody to resolve this," she said.

Some residents fight for green space

There may be light at the end of the tunnel.

During an open house at town hall on Thursday, council announced it is proposing a zoning change for the Penwell Avenue/Rutan Street area from open space recreation to residential medium density.

If accepted, that change would allow the developer to sell 20 to 25 more building lots and complete development along that street.

But not everyone is in favour.

Several residents have formed an ad-hoc group known as the Penwell Users Group. Stephanie Barron is among those who believe the loss of a green space would be a bad decision.

"In the original design, the road was put through, it was designated green space, and my assumption was when I bought my lot seven to eight years ago that the developer would have figured in the cost of putting in the road, the asphalt, the curb and all that and it would have been put in as part of the cost of the lots at that time," she said.

Comments from residents on the proposed changes must be submitted to the town council by July 17, with a public meeting to be held after that.

With files from the Central Morning Show