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Notes from the Rafters: 4 August 2020

in Featured/Notes From the Rafters by

19 Dundas Street: NOT approved as a “home occupation for blood collection & urinalysis service”

This was the best part of the meeting. Three of the letters to council in opposition came in as listicles, so, in the spirit of those neighbours, I will adopt that format to highlight the absolute best of the letters themselves:

1. There were only seven submissions, but I’ve never seen the term “property values” used so often. One letter writer managed to use it thrice and imply it twice: “…I have invested accordingly. Allowing business ventures to move into this neighbourhood stands the risk of significantly impacting my property value. […] 4 visitors per hour to one unit is a significant intrusion on privacy of neighbouring homes and families which will only further erode property value.…Opening businesses will further erode the property value…Opening businesses will be a step backwards and home owners such as myself will pay the price for that” [emphasis is my own.]

2. “Please keep everything completely confidential,” was a quote from another submission that the city published in their agenda, because submissions on zoning applications are public documents.

3. In a stretch of logic (that everyone who has ever explained to me why greenhouses won’t work in Newfoundland “because Sprung” will identify with) one man harkened back to “the 90s, [when] a business attempted to run an electronics store on Oxen Pond Road, near the current establishment, Biggs, and it was similarly frowned upon for the same reasons.” He added, “This is a long time homogenous residential area and should not be downgraded.” but his negative listicle was lettered and the others neighbours used numerals, so I’m not blown away with their touted “homogeneity.”

4. Mr “Property Values” [see “1.” above] sparked the most interesting debate in spite of himself with his parting thoughts on renters (yes—he, and others, managed to complain mightily about “renters” in their letters about an application for a blood collection service): “finally, the multiple rentals in this area will mean that many property owners aren’t receiving this notice…I’m concerned that you will get little feedback from actual home owners.” (emphasis mine again)

Cllr. Froude then led a discussion to find out how the city could make sure that renters are, indeed, notified properly since notices are mailed out to the property owners’ registered home addresses. Ie, end up with landlords and not necessarily the people living in an affected area. 

Staff explained that the city used to both mail (to property owners) and hand deliver (to affected properties). Then, years ago, the city decided it would be more efficient to just mail to the property owners. There was a little back and forth between council and staff about how they could ensure renters were included. 

Cllr Jamieson suggested that if the property owner’s registered address was not the property in question, that would indicate it was a rental. The City Solicitor (between massive painful bouts of mic feedback) replied that “would be a clue” but they could still miss some people. 

Staffer Sinyard suggested this discussion was better suited to a Committee of the Whole meeting where staff could have time to provide more detailed information.

However, none of that went (or will go at a future COTW) how Mr Property Values assumed it would go. Like any good fable, there is a lesson there.

There was a similar lesson seconds later when the council did reject the application, but not one of the councillors said it was because a home-based business would hurt property values. In fact, I have never—not once—seen that argument work with this council. It is never even mentioned as a consideration no matter how many times neighbours complain of it in their submissions.

This was rejected based more on the letter from someone who had worked in a similar business which explained that it was unrealistic to believe only one client at a time would be on the property as proposed by the applicant. Given the appointments would happen every 15 minutes, and the nature of having to pee in a cup, it was likely clients would be hanging around and possibly all looking for parking at once and waiting on each other to get fluids sampled. All of which was a bridge too far for a residential low density street.

New Food n Booze Decks

  • Bull and Barrell (4 Holdsworth Crt). 
  • Bannerman Brewery (90 Duckworth St.) 
  • The Vu (115 Duckworth).
  • No. 4 (4 Cathedral St), approved without outdoor speakers.
  • Salt House/Dockyard (Behind 167 Water St by 50 harbour Dr). I think this is the dockyard, but Victor Lawlor owns that and a bunch of other buildings (I believe the Neal Building and the old Fortis building as well) surrounding that parking area. He and Cllr Lane got a bit tangly last year when Lawlor kicked Lane and a bunch of artists and non-profits out of the Neal Building, saying Lane had not gotten the proper permits. Which he hadn’t. Which may be one reason Lane votes “yes” so often to small businesses for everything; he has seen how annoying it can be to try to get your paperwork in order. Also ironic that Lawlor kicked Lane out for not having his permits in order but then threw a huge hissy fit when he himself was denied an NLC permit at the dockyard last summer for not having gotten proper approvals. Clearly a bit of history there, but everyone on council voted to approve whatever he is at this time. It is a yes-y sort of season

Jack Axes (95 Merrymeeting Rd)

And speaking of tangly landlords, is there any more reviled by local small business owners than David Levine, owner of (what seems like) all things commercial, shabby and vacant in our downtown? Jack Axes (local axe throwing and craft beer serving establishment) recently escaped a Dave Levine joint on Water St. and will now be moving up to Rabbittown.

Council approves the move despite a number of submissions in opposition. This application got a large response from neighbours both for and against. The downtownies of council (Cllrs Jamieson, Lane, Burton and Deputy Mayor O’Leary) all spoke in favour.

Jamieson, as ward councillor, explained that the business had addressed the most common concerns thoughtfully: they will only serve beer (not hard liquor), patrons may only stay for one hour, and the amount of alcohol consumed is monitored by staff (because, axes). The music is kept at background levels, and there are sound dampening half inch thick rubber cushion floors and walls behind the axe targets.

Also, council just does not think “but, but parking!” is a good enough reason for whinging anymore at this point in our universal climate collapse, so they deemed the 6 spaces on site plenty. 

36 Cabot Ave (fronting Battery Road)

On another prickly note, Mayor Dan had a hard time even getting anyone to move ratification of this approval, even though it had already passed in an e-poll vote.

Cllrs Jamieson and Burton both declined to dirty their heritage hands with it. Cllr Jamieson went on record opposed to it and opposed to it being decided by e-poll due to the high number of submissions from Battery residents. Then neither Deputy Mayor O’Leary or Cllr Hickman could move it because they both had technical issues. (The meetings are virtual again. Boo.)

Cllr Lane stepped in to get the motion moving. Then Cllr Lane stepped in again when O’Leary had to reboot her computron and they were all waiting awkwardly for her to come back online to vote.

Lane: Anyone know any jokes? Good jokes? … me either… [proceeds to tell a joke.]
Jamieson/Burton: [pity laugh on mute]
Mayor Dan: I thought we were limiting this to good jokes.

Motion to approve subdividing property for two townhouse development approved with Jamieson, Burton and Froude voting against.

10 Carriage Lane; setback approved.

Our resident suburban-heart Cllr Korab had his time to shine after all the fun applications from downtown were done. He said he has “driven past this lot daily for 13 or 14 yrs, so it is nice to see this development push forward.”

Council unanimously approved the setback for what will be a “single detached dwelling” in name only. I cannot tell a lie, I too have a soft spot for these insanely huge McMansions that back right on to a busy commercial street (Topsail Rd). While I am generally horrified at every aesthetic and architectural choice involved, what kind of snobby dick would I be to not find joy in some fellow tacky human making themselves happy with their beige Barbie dream house. Go Big or Go Home!

Cllr Korab also wanted to second the approval of the tender award for “2 sanders” as a part of the regular fleet replacement plan to Saunders for 804k because he “has a Norwegian friend named Sander” and it was his birthday on Tuesday. But he was not fast enough and someone else seconded it. Sad Korab; he does not ask for much. 

Council all agrees stupid sidewalk widening pilot (on Elizabeth Ave; Parade St; Newtown Rd) to assist pedestrians with social distancing was stupid but for two different reasons

Reason 1: It just was.

Reason 2: It did not go far enough so was stupid in it’s half-assed, randomly placed, non-connectedness.

Upshot: it will be taken down (at a removal cost of 10$ per post) post haste, but the city still owns all those orange “candlesticks” so they could re-try it less stupidly in the future (at the installation cost of $15 per post).

THE END OF HOPE

This was my Ward 2 Councillor’s last meeting. Good bye Cllr Jamieson. You kicked Galgay’s ass in what I can only assume was a humiliating defeat for him. For that entertainment, I have been a fan of your work ever since. Your fellow councillors, in their good-byes, pointed out your work ethic, your compassion, and your passion for your work.

As is tradition every few meetings, we will end with a quote from Cllr Wally Collins: “I wish Hope all the best, and hope as she grows old she is always as bubbly as she was here […] she was a good hard worker […] God loves you, remember that.” [weirdly harsh emphasis his.]

Photo by Graham Kennedy.

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