Business Elite Canada interviews the Mayor of Torbay, NL, as it celebrates its 50th municipal anniversary in 2022.
Although the municipality is celebrating its 50th anniversary, Torbay’s history goes back to the 1500s. A mid-size community by Newfoundland and Labrador standards, located on the doorstep on the capital city St. John’s, Torbay is objectively one of the most beautiful corners in the province, country, and world. Situated right on the Atlantic Ocean, Torbay offers breathtaking coastal views in a picturesque, rural setting. The rocky beach welcomes visitors who wish to gather round bonfires, walk the shorebound paths in search of faeries, check out massive icebergs, or watch whales swim in for the caplin.
Mayor Craig Scott’s family has been in Torbay for several generations and has seen the town change and evolve over the years. “Our town has changed a lot since I was young,” says Scott. “At that time back in the 70’s and 80’s there was a thriving commercial inshore fishery—many people made their living on the ocean. With the collapse of the inshore fishery and the moratorium in the early 90’s we lost that traditional fishery and a way of life for many.”
Torbay’s population has nearly doubled since the 1990s, growing from 5000 to 8000 residents. Scott says that the Town has certainly adapted over the years to the changing economy and population demographics. “Torbay has a population boom in the 90’s and early 2000’s and many new houses and subdivisions were built. New families came to live in Torbay at that time, many of whom work in the offshore oil and the technology sectors. At this time, we were one of the fastest growing communities in the province, mostly attributed to the influx of young families which also made us one of the youngest towns in the province.”
Motivated to help preserve magic of Torbay and contribute to its future, Scott and his wife, Laureen, ultimately decided to settle down in Torbay for good after the birth of their second child in 2004, moving back from some time in Ottawa and building a home in Torbay in 2005.
“Once I was finally comfortable in the fact that I was going to be remaining in Torbay, I decided to run for council and get more involved in the community,” says Scott. “Over that past nine years that I have been on council, the last five as Mayor, we have made tremendous progress addressing the requirements needed to support our rapid growth.”
Town Council has accomplished a great deal in ten years to propel the community. The construction of a new municipal depot now ensures staff can provide the necessary services to residents. There is also a new community centre that has enhanced the town’s ability to provide recreation and community services to our residents. Heavy investments in other recreation aspects of the town, like constructing a multi-purpose building at Upper Three Corner Park and developing many kilometers of trails throughout the town have also been well received by residents and visitors alike.
“We have also completely renovated Town Hall to make it more modern, purchased a property from the Roman Catholic Church and renovated it to be the new home of our History House and Museum, and invested heavily in our Volunteer Fire Department with much needed modern equipment,” says Scott.
“I am very proud of the work our council and staff have been able to complete over that time and I am looking forward to continuing those types of improvements that enhance the lives of our residents,” says Scott. “We have done all of this with minimal pressure on property tax to our residents and businesses making our town a preferred destination for new residents moving to the region.”
“Our tax base is predominantly residential with some businesses to support the day to day living in our community,” he continues. “Our proximity to St John’s makes us very attractive to families who want to work in the city but live a more rural lifestyle, this is particularly true for people moving here from other parts of the province where they are looking for a bit more space and like to enjoy the outdoors.”
It’s vital that Torbay retain its wonderful natural beauty regardless of the influx of residents. Rapid growth has increased the pressure on successive town councils to approve more development. With such a fast pace of growth, Scott is prioritizing ensuring that towns plan and development regulations be updated to meet those pressures and ensure we develop sustainably.
“This is an ongoing exercise and council need to act as quickly as possible to change regulations and zoning to protect the areas we want to protect,” says Scott. “We have done this and tried to include residents in these decisions as much as possible through public surveys and public hearings when required. This type of continuous updating and recognition of what works and does not work has allowed us to protect our shoreline by zoning it conservation and limiting development in that area. We have also created habitat management zones in our town to protect our most sensitive areas and preserve them for generations to come.”
As Scott and the rest of Council’s plan for Torbay’s future, special events are also in place to celebrate the enormous progress that has taken place in the past 50 years. A total of 20 residents have stepped forward to form a special events committee. Celebrations include a Banner competition—240 entries celebrating and recognizing Torbay’s History and Heritage will be on display all year long, and a series of community events from July 1- September 30th aimed at bringing residents together and celebrating Torbay’s incredible past accomplishments and Torbay’s bright future.
Local businesses are going to get involved in the celebration, too. “We are developing a passport program—encouraging residents to support and visit the businesses who participate,” says Scott. “There will be Community Markets, BBQs, ice cream stands and the like.”