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Notes From the Rafters: 13 October 2020

in Featured/Notes From the Rafters by

Incremental improvements! Council is meeting at city hall, they started the live feed on time AND they have added back in real time vote tallies/breakdowns like they had over Zoom. I got to see the pomp of the Mayor lead in by the gold mace and white gloves AND saw who got defeated in what votes.

Cllrs Froude and Lane were absent, and Hanlon was phoning it in—literally.

Back(ed) Up Flood Mitigation

Cllr Froude is still out so Cllr Hickman handled this today. He reminded us that this issue has been discussed for years, most recently at a Committee of the Whole meeting with the current council.

The original Rennies River flood mitigation plan has a weir at the outlet of Long Pond as the number one priority. Council approved funding for the weir in 2014. It has been wending its way (upstream perhaps?) through the provincial Environmental Approval (EA) process since and there it remains. Hickman says that the weir is “important” but at this point, they don’t know if they will ever get approval. 

So, to mitigate the stagnant flood mitigation, the city came up with alternate plans that could perhaps be completed before the weir. Berms and walls would be added in various combinations along Rennies River upstream of Kings Bridge Rd to try to limit potential flooding. Hickman says they are not talking about groundwater, but about overflow flooding from the river. He says they have been working on this since “Gabriel” in 2011. (Which I presume was a storm where the river flooded, not some Music-Man of an engineer who presented a crazy new idea, see.) The berm-ing and walls will also have to go through the provincial EA process so maybe after this stalls out too we will see an even less ambitious idea even further downstream.

Not that I’m knocking Environmental Assessments. I had to look up what a weir was (I had it confused with a fen and was imagining a sort of Grendel’s Lair) and was almost immediately radicalized via a series of Youtube videos from the Wild Trout Trust about the unforeseen dangers of upsetting sediment transport patterns.

But we also need flood measures in place. I grew up on an urban creek that flooded pretty regularly. And I can tell you it sucked… if you were a grown-up. It was AWESOME if you were a kid. Every seven years our whole dirt basement was a gorgeous disgusting horror-pool you could walk right into up to your neck from the laundry room stairs. So, of course the province has taken 6+ years to suss this out. It is tricky! Sediment transport vs attracting families with young children.

Anyway, back to the berms and walls.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary moved to defer this decision for one week until the lead (Cllr Froude) was here as she wanted to get “more answers” about public engagement. Hanlon and Burton joined O’Leary to lose deferment.

The best part about the deferment vote is that it was a microcosm of this insanely glacial and iterative process.

O’Leary: I was going to put forward to defer […] I still have some reservations. [These are excerpts. Her speech went on longer.]

Mayor Dan: So. Are you putting forth a motion to defer?

O’Leary: I would like to put forth the motion to defer.

After deferment was defeated, Cllr Burton asked Staffer Sinyard about public engagement (which they could have done to begin with instead of trying to defer.)

Sinyard recapped that, for this updated memo on the berms etc, there was no formal engagement yet but that Cllr Froude had already requested deferral to talk to anyone who had been in touch with him about the issue and residents in the immediate area. They had an informal session where he listened to their concerns. Those concerns were then discussed at a COTW (or a special meeting). There will still also be formal public engagement as part of the process of applying to the province. Then the province will “seek public comment” as well.

The proposal to carry on with this process carried.

TL;DR—A flood in 2011 inspires a decade of slow moving flood mitigation project proposals.

35 Bonaventure Avenue, Unit 218, got council’s permission to run “online consulting services” from a home office. With the occupant as the sole employee and no clients/customers visiting the site, this still got 5 submissions: 3 in favour, 2 strenuously against. It is almost reassuring that, after this past year of upheaval, some people will still take the time to object to even the most minute changes in their buildings/neighbourhoods.

Not only can 27 Bonnie Drive construct an accessory building in the floodplain buffer (a common approval for council) but Cllr Collins is fed up with the very concept of the “floodplain buffer zone.” He says it is only Corner Brook, Mount Pearl, and St John’s that even have this additional buffer zone. (Shut yer face Clarenville, just because you once had a Sears catalog pick-up site doesn’t make you a big man. But seriously… “only?” Are there other urban areas hiding on a peninsula somewhere?)

Collins says, with the 15 meter floodplain and the 15 meter buffer zone on top of that, you’ve got almost a hundred feet from a waterway where you can’t build. He suggests it should be at least halved, maybe 5 or 7 meters, because then “a lot more building lots could get passed.” 

Community Energy Transition Economic Analysis: Edmundo Fausto!

Here I must rewind and tell you something that happened right at the start of the meeting. A call popped up on the live stream, just a little box in the lower right corner that said “Edmundo Fausto is calling.” It was swept aside, but I wrote down: “Edmundo Fausto? MAGNIFICENT!” I immediately began wishing I had fiction skills because a name like that deserves a novel around and for it.

I figured I would never learn more about this mystery human with the world’s most regal name, but: Lo! Hark! Right under “Community Energy Transition Economic Analysis,” the COTW Report says “Edmundo Fausto presented the decision note.” What joy! What leaping lords of resonant harmonious joy!

Cllr Burton and deputy Mayor O’Leary managed to work in the glorious name of the sustainability coordinator over and over again. It was an Edmundo Fausto fest! A celebration of the greatest name ever.

Also the council voted to support the project that, as Cllr Burton explained, would give information to council to figure out how best to lower emissions and how policies to lower emissions will affect jobs and household energy bills.

I’m going to spray paint “Edmundo! Fausto!” across the back of my jean jacket. 

Inspired by 52 Stamps Lane, the city is proposing to redefine “subsidiary apartment.” Instead of specific requirements (size etc) it will now mean simply a unit within another building that is “subordinate to” (smaller than) the main unit.

314-316 Lemarchant Rd is requesting rezoning from “Commercial Industrial” to “Apartment High Density” to allow an 80 unit apartment building (with commercial space at street level) where the Brookfield/Scotsburn Plant is now. The current building will be demolished.

The mayor and council are all excited about the revitalization of that whole strip. Cllr Burton pointed out it is one of the city’s identified “intensification areas.”

There will be a public meeting on this rezoning and development once the Land Use Assessment Report is complete. 

The city is very pleased with itself that they were “able to work something out” regarding street parking alongside the new Salvation Army Centre for Hope on Springdale St. Three of the 6 spots will be 30 minute parking from 8-6pm Monday through Friday to help the flow of people availing services at the soon-to-open centre. Was there some point in these negotiations where they anticipated some impasse or break-down of communications? But sure, yes, congratulations.

In the go-round, Cllr Korab and Mayor Dan gave kudos to league soccer teams, Burton complimented Hickman’s new haircut (which I couldn’t see, but I love all haircuts so my compliments as well!), and Deputy Mayor O’Leary, in a really perfect “O’Leary move” asked to read a long quote from the Secretary General of the United Nations about climate change.

Photo by Graham Kennedy.

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