To Build A Town

by Frank Tibbo

It was 1946. Canada’s air force handed back control of the airport to Newfoundland’s Commission of Government, thousands of military personnel – U. S. and Canadian – had left the airport and the airlines were moving in. The government realized there was a problem. Despite the fact that there were many temporary buildings available that had been built for the military, they were quickly running out of living quarters for the hundreds of airline personnel and other civilians who were finding jobs here.
During the summer of 1946, the Newfoundland government began plans to build a town site, and land was surveyed north-north-west of the airport. These plans were later abandoned. Possible reasons are because of the pending confederation with Canada. Many others said that the site was not suitable. In any event, the area that was surveyed was not the area eventually used for the new town.

Then in early 1950, just one year after the dust had settled from the confederation ride, the federal government decided to build a town. Orders came from Ottawa that airport personnel should be moved to a complete new town. The town would be independent of the airport, and within a reasonable commuting distance. The independence was to be complete – the town should be self-governing, not a “company town.” An Advisory Town Planning Committee was set up in March.

During August 1951, the federal government established a Policy Committee. Its purpose was to act as a temporary Town Council during the early days of development. Members forming this committee included representatives from the Government of Newfoundland, namely the Attorney General, the Minister of Cooperatives and Fisheries, and the Minister of Public Works. The federal government was represented by the Chairman of the Air Transport Board, the President of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (C.M.H.C.) and members of the Department of Transport (D.O.T.). The Policy Committee was authorized to establish working Committees. These were to include local, regional, and head office representation.

In October 1951, the Department of Transport agreed to undertake preliminary engineering works. C.M.H.C. also agreed to prepare a full town planning scheme and physically set out the Townsite.

By November 1951, the D.O.T. had finished their ground surveys and had started on the extension of the road (and power and water lines) from the airport to the Town.
During the winter of 1952-53, D.O.T. and C.M.H.C. met frequently to discuss and arrange the growth of the town. One of the many problems was the encouragement of private house building. To this end it was decided:

  1.  Rents for government-built houses would be related to tenants' income and be comparable to mortgage and other charges incurred by home owners.

  2. Intending home owners would be able to sell their houses to C.M.H.C. if they left Gander.

  3. Residential lots would be sold at $50 plus services. (My first house was built on MacDonald Drive in 1961. The cost of the 60 x 100 lots was $360.)

The Department of Transport also undertook to provide – temporarily – all municipal services.

The first 50 houses (rental units) were commenced in 1952. The Local Improvement District was established in 1954. On January 1, 1955, municipal government was first established at Gander by Order-in-Council of the Lieutenant-Governor. By the same Order, the boundaries of the District were established.

From January 1, 1955 - January 8, 1958, the Town was administered by the Board of Trustees of the Local Improvement District. The first meeting of the Board was held on February 14. During that meeting, it was agreed that the D.O.T. would continue to provide services. C.M.H.C. agreed to make payments in lieu of municipal taxes for the rental units until municipal taxation was established. The Advisory Town Planning Committee (set up in March 1950) was also to continue.

On August 29, 1955, Gov. Gen. Massey officially opened the Town of Gander. One newspaper report: “Mr. Massey opened a new townsite, making official Gander's status as Canada's first airport town.”

During October 1957, a Municipal Plan for Gander was adopted by the Board of Trustees. (First step prescribed under the Urban and Rural Planning Act, 1953, of Newfoundland for approval of such a plan by the Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Supply).

In early 1958, the Board of Trustees advised that it was applying for Ministerial approval for the Plan. The Minister subsequently made arrangements for a Public Hearing and appointed Mr. W. Adams of St. John's as Commissioner. Mr. Adams was accompanied by Mr. J. Alliston (Director of Planning for the Province). The Board was represented by the Chairman, Town Manager and other officials. Also present were Planning officials from Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Ottawa, who had prepared the Plan and report on behalf of the Board. Following the Hearing, the Board applied to the Minister for Approval of the Municipal Plan.

This was given on May 1, 1958. Public Notice of Approval was published in the Newfoundland Gazette on May 20, 1958, and in the Evening Telegram on May 16, 1958.

The first Town Council was elected on January 8, 1959.

submitted by F. Tibbo

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