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Retiree Applauded for Taking a Stand on RV Park

June 7, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Clarke's Beach is located west of St. John's.

Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece appeared in the Newfoundland and Labrador Compass and deals with a resident of Clarke’s Beach, who opposes expansion of he Mountainview RV Park in her town of 2,000 located west of St. John’s.

Mildred Snow is exercising her right to free speech, and she’s doing it with passion, conviction and courage. The Clarke’s Beach retiree is taking a very bold stand against the activities related to an expansion of an RV park in the town, and whether you agree or disagree with her stance, she’s to be commended for her spirited struggle.

All too often, citizens refuse to voice their concerns and objections when they feel an injustice is being done. But Snow feels a line has been crossed, and she’s standing up for what she believes in.

First, she took her strong views to the town of Clarke’s Beach during a recent council meeting, arguing that the growing park is impacting the quality of life of property owners who live within close proximity of the campground. She also challenged members of council, and questioned whether they had given the issue enough consideration before approving the development of 50 new campsites back in April.

Then, on Thursday (June 2), frustrated by the constant rumbling of construction equipment and the sound of demolition activity taking place across the street from her home, she took stronger measures. She parked her car in the street, temporarily halting traffic to and from the site. She agreed to end her protest after an RCMP officer arrived on the scene, satisfied that she had made her point.

Several other area residents share the same concerns being expressed by Snow, but none have come forward in so public a fashion. They are quietly asking how it was possible that a busy campground was ever permitted to be established so close to a residential neighbourhood. And they are wondering why it is being permitted to expand, with very little in the way of input from those most impacted by the park.

These are all very legitimate questions. The town did advertise the expansion application from the park owner in this publication, and invited residents to share their views. None did. Knowing that, council set down a list of stipulations and gave its blessing for the expansion.

Could it have done more? Absolutely. Did any member of council knock on any doors in the area, asking opinions of the proposed expansion? Did anyone check with other municipalities for advice on how they may have handled similar developments? And did council go far enough in its stipulations for approval? Is the park owner doing enough to establish a buffer between his operation and the homeowners, some of whom feel their right to the quiet, peaceful enjoyment of their property is being compromised.

It’s never an easy situation for an elected official when you have to balance the needs of citizens with that of a growing business in a municipality. Let’s just hope the scales were not tipped too far in one direction in this case.

The newspaper’s news account of the incident follows:

A Clarke’s Beach woman took extraordinary measures last week to protest the expansion of Mountainview RV Park, while the park owner defended his actions, saying the development would benefit the town.

Park Avenue resident Mildred Snow used her vehicle to block the street for a brief time on June 2, temporarily halting the movement of construction equipment and other traffic to and from the park.

She agreed to move after an RCMP officer intervened, and later gave a statement to police.

Her protest was sparked by activities related to the demolition of two dilapidated buildings on Ernie Mugford’s property.

“I had to do something, and I made my point,” said the retired public service worker.

It was her latest public show of displeasure toward the project, and followed an impassioned plea to the Clarke’s Beach town council during its meeting on May 30.

Snow feels her privacy is being violated because of an unusual amount of traffic on her street. Her primary concern is that, though the facility’s main entrance/exit is located on Brook Avenue, with recent park expansion, many campers are using Park Avenue, which has been designated by the town as an emergency-only exit.

“The room is just not there,” said Snow, who has lived in the area since 1993. “I fear it’s only a matter of time before council realizes this roadway is not suited for large, heavy traffic, especially when our children are off from school.”

Snow said Park Avenue is no longer the quiet, peaceful neighbourhood it once was.

Can’t stop progress

The campground is sandwiched between Park and Brook avenues, within close proximity to a residential area. Its owner, Ernie Mugford, is unapologetic.

“You can’t stop progress of a town because one or two citizens don’t like what’s going on,” he told The Compass.

Snow lives on a narrow road located directly opposite the park, the road that also leads to the town’s family park.

In her address to council, Snow criticized the way in which the expansion was being carried out, and questioned whether Mugford was adhering to the stipulations set down by council when it approved the 50-site expansion in mid-April.

Snow has no desire to “stop change.” Her only wish is that change be for “the betterment of all.” She says the onus is on council to “use its better judgment” in ensuring that “public safety and the integrity of lifestyle … are not jeopardized.”

Mugford was present at the meeting, but was not permitted to speak, though he contends he did request permission prior to the meeting.

Among the conditions for approval set down by council were that Mugford install a fire hydrant in the older section of the campground. Entering and exiting of vehicular traffic is permitted only through the main entrance on Brook Avenue, with the emergency-only exit on Park Avenue.

Snow wants to know how council plans to enforce these stipulations.

Snow also raised the specter of noise levels at the park on weekends.

“If I live here and pay my taxes, then I’m entitled to privacy, too,” she said.

She asked about permits and whether an environmental study had been done. She wondered if council assumed residents were in favour of the expansion. Another fear was the potential negative effect of the development on property values.

No problems, says mayor

Mayor Betty Moore responded by saying,”In the last number of years, we as a council really haven’t had any problems with the park.”

Council has done all within its power to ensure Mugford abides by the stipulations, she said. “I guess it’s something we’re going to have to speak to him about again,” she added.

When asked if council had sought the views of area residents prior to approving the expansion, Moore said she doesn’t perceive council’s role to be “seeking out questions and confrontation with the residents themselves.”

She noted there’s no indication the park’s expansion is negatively impacting property values.

Snow is displeased with how council dealt with her concerns, while Mugford feels the situation is overblown.

“There’s no issue whatsoever,” he said.

Mugford suggested fire protection standards at the park exceed government requirements; he committed to transplanting a row of trees along Park Avenue, which he said would serve as a buffer; and he’s also willing to erect an emergency exit sign on Park Avenue.

Snow would prefer that he erect an eight-foot privacy fence.

Won’t stay silent

Snow plans to pursue her concerns beyond council, and has made contact on several occasions with the provincial Deptartment of Municipal Affairs, asking that it issue a stop-work order.

The Compass made contact with the department on Friday, but no one was available for comment prior to deadline.

As for Mugford, he said the park brings valuable spin-offs to the town and area. His message to Snow? “Live and let live.”

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