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What’s next for Sunnyside now that GBS has moved out?

"For Rent" and "For Sale" signs are a sign of the times in Sunnyside.
"For Rent" and "For Sale" signs are a sign of the times in Sunnyside.

SUNNYSIDE, NL — A month after the massive gravity base structure (GBS) was towed out of Bull Arm to the Hebron oil fields, "For Rent" and "For Sale" signs appear to be the norm in Sunnyside. 

Sunnyside mayor Robert Snook.

Robert Snook, mayor of this small town that sits just off the Trans Canada Highway, and across the road from Come By Chance, says that of the 287 dwellings in Sunnyside, 110 are rental properties.

Many of them were occupied by temporary workers — who had jobs on the construction site at Bull Arm. They’ve now have packed their bags and left, leaving the houses vacant.

While there are still some renters — people who are working on the new transmission line being built across the province — Snook says the departure of the GBS meant a big difference in the community.

" I see a big difference in the traffic . . . there's still some properties occupied by people working on the pole lines . . .  but when they're gone, and I guess that's going to only last another few months, we'll be back to where we were before any of this started, with just the local residents. It's going to be a big difference,” he said.

Not all of the empty houses have the same story.

Residents Rex and Daphne Coish have lived in Sunnyside for the past 40 years. The hope to sell their two-story home on Main Road, overlooking the water at Centre Cove, to move into a small house in the town; downsizing in retirement.

"The two of us grew up here, went to school here, had our kids here.  We built a retirement home and put this up for sale, but we know there's nothing moving right now," Rex explained.

"A lot of properties here for sale . . . typical out-port Newfoundland.  This is a retirement area."

Rex, who says he has worked in construction industry for 30 years, worked as a scaffolder on the Hebron project.

He says the 'boom-and-bust' cycle is the norm for Newfoundland and Labrador.

"That's Newfoundland as a whole —  boom and bust. It seems like we can't keep anything constant here work wise.

" I've been working 30 years in construction and that's the way it's been.  You get four or five good year's home, then you got to go wherever you can get work."

It’s not hard to miss the landmark that was the GBS.

Towards the end of its construction, it was visible from pretty well every point in Sunnyside, the town where every home has an ocean view.

"It was constantly there; when you sit at your kitchen table, there it was out the window.  At night it was always lit up.  You were always aware of it," said Mayor Snook.

"And now it's gone.  They just removed all the tension buoys, and it's just like it was never ever anything there."

The GBS was towed out of the Bull Arm site Saturday, June 4.

VIDEO:Hebron platform being towed out of Bull Arm

While the Bull Arm site is still being marketed by NALCOR, it’s not known when more industrial work will come to the site.

"I guess it'll be a dormant site for a while, and that's a concern for us here.  I don't see anything in the near future; it doesn’t leave you with a good feeling."

Snook says he remains optimistic, but also realistic, about the future.

He added the impact of the boom-and-bust cycle, such as the multiplicity of empty homes, is not unique to Sunnyside.

"This is not uncommon. That's what's happening in Clarenville, Random Island, Long Harbour.  You go anywhere you like and you'll see the same thing.  It's just a sign of the times that people are choosing to live elsewhere."

Still, there is a bit of a cushion for Sunnyside as the town adjusts to the ‘bust’ part of the cycle.

They have a million dollars tucked away, a legacy fund of sorts from the Hebron build.

Each year, in lieu of taxes, the Hebron project had been paying the town a grant of $225,000 annually.

Snook says this money will be used for a new community recreation building.

"We have submitted applications for municipal capital works and Canada's Building Fund to leverage that money to build a recreational community centre.”

Currently the town has a very small building that used to be a one-room school. It’s home to the Lions Club and is used for many community events.

But it’s old, and very small.

“We'd like to see a new, modern building,” said Mayor Snook.

Sunnyside is $1 million richer Thanks to Hebron project

Even though there’s not as many people living here now, as there were a month ago, there appears to be some business optimism.

Rex Coish points to the Foodex, a grocery story that opened this past Spring, and appears to be a busy spot.

“It seems like their doing good," said Coish.

Ed Green and his fiancé Michelle Best opened the Foodex on May 18, giving the people of Sunnyside a local place to shop after the former grocery story shut down two years ago.

Green says their first months of business have been busy ones.

After all, boom or bust, people need to eat.

Sunnyside opens first grocery store in two years

For now though, Snook says it's simply a matter of waiting for what the future holds.

"We went through this before.  It's a boom-and-bust cycle associated with industry and construction.  We had a boom for four or five years, and now we have to weather the bust.

"We'll move on, and hopefully something good will happen." 

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