Nfld. & Labrador

Land, ahoy: Wells urges province to amalgamate cities

St. John's Mayor Andy Wells wants the province not only to reject a request from neighbouring Mount Pearl for more land, but also to reopen a debate on amalgamating municipalities in the region.

Board of Trade president backs mayor's call

St. John's Mayor Andy Wells is calling on the Newfoundland and Labrador government not only to reject a request from neighbouring Mount Pearl for more land, but also to reopen a debate on amalgamating municipalities in the region.

Mount Pearl has asked the province to turn over land in St. John's near the federal experimental farm on Brookfield Road.

Wells said the request for the land— some of which was used by the controversial Sprung greenhouse in the late 1980s— is outrageous. He told Monday evening's St. John's council meeting that he will fight it.

"We're tired of subsidizing Mount Pearl and we're not going to participate in an increase in that subsidization," Wells said.

Wells— a proponent of amalgamation for much of his three-decade career in municipal politics— said the land Mount Pearl is seeking will generate millions of dollars in tax revenues once it is developed.

The spectre of amalgamation has hung over the northeastern Avalon Peninsula for years. Former premier Clyde Wells pursued a broad amalgamation plan after the Liberals took office in 1989, but fierce opposition saw the government back off in a 1991 compromise.

In 1998, however, the government turned over Southlands— a large area of land expected to be home to tens of thousands once fully developed— to St. John's, even though Mount Pearl had expected it would control Southlands.

Wells is getting support for his new amalgamation calls from the St. John's Board of Trade.

President Ray Dillon said St. John's should combine with Mount Pearl and Paradise to form one city.

"It doesn't make a lot of practical sense to continue to maintain the bureaucracies, the infrastructure, to support separate cities when the core things that cities were invented to do are actually regionally shared," Dillon said.

Mount Pearl Mayor Steve Kent, however, roundly rejects such suggestions.

"The fact that the issue of amalgamation is being raised first by certain members of St. John's council and now by the Board of Trade— which is really disappointing— is too silly to talk about," Kent told CBC News.

Kent said that he has been reassured the provincial government will not consider amalgamation unless all the municipalities want it.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to respond to Mount Pearl's request for a boundary change by the end of January.

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