Environment department stops activity after citizens’ rep gets involved
Leonard Martin knew the local boating association in Cupids had no right to charge berthing fees to people docking at Pointe Beach. He’s ultimately pleased it was suggested he contact the Office of the Citizens’ Representative (OCR) to get something done about it.
“I was at that for quite some time before we got anywhere, and I actually went to my lawyer and asked if there was anything he could do for me, and he said, ‘There certainly is, but before you do, why don’t you contact the citizens’ representative office.’ I was totally unaware of a citizens’ representative office,” said Martin.
According to Martin, the Town of Cupids initially applied to use land along Pointe Beach as a day-use park in tandem with celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary in 2010 of the establishment of the first English Settlement in Canada.
Martin said the town was eventually awarded a temporary licence to occupy the land with a condition that nothing be established there that couldn’t be removed.
According to a 2010 article published in The Compass weekly newspaper, $600,000 was invested in the property that summer through the municipal capital works program.
Martin contacted the Department of Environment and Conservation and did not get the response he was looking for. Once he saw that berthing fees were being charged to boat owners, he took the matter to the OCR.
“That was the best move I ever made,” said Martin.
Following initial discussions with an investigator from that office, Martin filed a formal complaint with the department in April of 2012.
By the end of that month, and two weeks after the Office of the Citizen’s Representative gave formal notice of its intent to investigate, the department wrote to both the town and the local boat owners’ association about the matter.
According to the Office of the Citizens’ Representative’s annual report for 2012-13, the department told both parties “they had no authorization to operate a commercial marina.” It further instructed them “to immediately cease occupation and not to restrict public access.”
Martin and the citizens’ representative were both unaware of the department’s actions. OCR issued a second request for disclosure in early June. Crown Lands contacted OCR a week later and enclosed the letters sent April 30.
“We made a suggestion to the department,” said Barry Fleming, the province’s citizens’ representative.
“We said, ‘You did everything right with respect to how you handled the complaint. You followed all processes and policies, but in keeping with administrative fairness, it would be beneficial if you would notify the people who file complaints with you about the outcome of your work.’”
Fleming said his office regularly handles complaints disputing ownership of Crown lands, more often relating to cabins or rights of way.
Meanwhile, the town has since applied to Crown Lands for full ownership of Pointe Beach.