What Odds at City Hall: 28 February 2022

A tanning salon fans flames, the Quidi Vidi pump track picks up speed, & the Benevolent Irish Society wants to hang the deputy mayor’s art.

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First up, Mayor Danny Breen and Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary congratulated the 2021 Athletes of the Year. Abby Newhook was named as Female Athlete of the Year – Marg Davis Memorial Award, and her mother and grandfather were on hand to accept the award.

Liam Hickey was also named Male Athlete of the Year – Tom “Dynamite” Dunne Memorial Award and his parents accepted his award.

Then O’Leary named Team Gushue as Team of the Year – Molson Coors Canada Award, and team members Mark Nichols and Brett Gallant accepted the award.

As a note, all councillors were present at today’s meeting, with Cllr Jill Bruce attending virtually.

A Lot of Lot Allotment

First up on the agenda, Council approved a variance on lot frontage at 26 Pitcher’s Path for the subdivision of a new lot.

An application was submitted to the City to subdivide 26 Pitcher’s Path, which is in an area  zoned Rural Residential Infill where the minimum lot frontage is 30 metres. The proposed new lot frontage of 26 Pitcher’s Path is 27 metres, which will need a 10 percent variance.

26 Pitcher’s Path. (Source: City Agenda, 28 February 2022.)

Council also gave the okay for a 6.3 percent variance at 8 Forde Drive for a single detached dwelling with a rear yard setback of 5.62 metres.

As a little background, 8 Forde Drive is in the Residential 1 zone where the minimum rear yard setback is 6 metres. The proposed rear yard setback for the dwelling is 5.62 metres, which means it will require a 6.3 percent variance.

8 Forde Drive. (Source: City Agenda, 28 February 2022.)

39 Waterford Bridge Road is getting some stormwater detention infrastructure.

Cllr Jamie Korab said the City received an application to upgrade the parking lots of 39 Topsail Road (Leaside Manor), 37 Topsail Road (Midstream Manor) and 26 Waterford Bridge Road (Compton House)—all three are owned by the same group.

There needs to be some stormwater detention plan and the proposed plan is a storm sewer line that will cross Waterford Bridge Road, under the driveway of 39 Waterford Bridge Road (the floodplain buffer area) and end up discharging into the floodplain of the Waterford River, Korab explained.

The application was referred to the Environment and Sustainability Experts Panel and they reviewed the application and had no concerns, said Cllr Korab.

Of course, the final approval will need an easement from both the City and the owner of 39 Waterford Bridge Road.

Waterford Bridge Road area and floodplain buffer. (Source: City Agenda, 28 February 2022.)

A home childcare operation is getting an expansion. 

Based at 16 Blake Place, the business is owner-operated and back in September, Council signed off on the business when it could accommodate six children with a floor area of 23.2 m².

Now the owner wants to expand to accommodate up to seven children and a floor area of 41.53 m². It will be open Monday to Friday, 8 am – 5 pm and on-site parking is provided.

Council then moved along to approve a discretionary use application for a home occupation at 484 Maddox Cove Road.

The business is for a body sculpting and weight loss studio, which will take up a floor area of 24 m² and operate Monday to Thursday, from 10 am – 6 pm. As well, clients will be by appointment only, with one client per 30 minute session. There are also two parking spaces onsite for the clients, said Cllr Korab.

484 Maddox Cove Road. (Source: City Agenda, 28 February 2022.)

No Sun, No Fun… No Problem?

Next up is another home-based business, this time for a sunless tanning salon at 6 Calgary Street. Its journey through Council wasn’t as smooth as the above business. There was a lot of back and forth over this, so buckle up.

First up, the basics. The business will take up 22.5 m² space and operate Tuesday to Friday from 11 am – 7 pm, and Saturday 12 pm – 5 pm. Clients are seen by appointment every 20 minutes, with a 10-minute buffer between sessions. The applicant is also the sole employee. There is also one parking spot on-site for the business, said Cllr Korab.

There were 11 letters sent to the City about this proposed business. Some of the letters against it cited worries about dropping property values and a potential flood of small home based businesses coming into the area in the future.

Cllr Korab said there’s no cap on the number of home businesses an area can have.

As well, the traffic division reviewed the application and said there’s no concerns about traffic in the area and there is on-street parking.

The letters weren’t read out in Council but are available in the agenda, so I’ve selected a few excerpts:

One person wrote in: “(home business) has to me, been a testament of the entrepreneurial spirit and talent of certain people to take the chance and go for it. I do, however feel we have to be careful, because of ongoing approvals, not to saturate residential areas with home based business… Homebased business is well rooted in our culture just like jigs dinner!! However, too much jigs dinner is not good for you. Because of above ongoing concerns I hereby oppose this application.”

Another cited a ‘slippery slope’ between tanning salons and sex work, so I’ll leave this here: 

“This is a quiet, residential neighbourhood; Calgary Street and surrounding streets are comprised of single family houses. No businesses of any description should to be allowed in this neighbourhood, it would change the entire nature of the area. A tanning salon is an inappropriate application. What’s next, massage parlours?”

This one is probably meant to be sarcastic; “It should fit right in with the other businesses in the neighbourhood—when can we expect the tattoo parlour.”

Fun side note: when I was a business reporter I actually interviewed the owner and the business is called Life in Sepia NL. A few of the letters noted the salon has been open for some time already—so I guess the neighbourhood hadn’t descended into total anarchy yet.

So when it came around to comments, Cllr Bruce said that generally she is in favour of home based business, adding that they contribute to neighbourhoods. However, she cited the number of submissions against the salon. She said she read through them and also got calls about it. One caller in particular was concerned about how many clients the business would have at a time.

Her question to Deputy City Manager of Planning, Engineering & Regulatory Services Jason Sinyard was: if the business owner gets more equipment or changes services, are they tied to seeing one client every 20 minutes or is it flexible?

Mr. Sinyard said based on the information they have, it’s one appointment every 20 minutes with a 10 minute break, which can be written into a discretionary use application. The City also has an enforcement mechanism to prevent a business from expanding on its current approval.

Cllr Bruce said she wanted to know if it was multiple clients, adding that was her concern. If it’s one person every 20 minutes, she said she could get on board. She pointed out people against it had voiced a lot of concerns about traffic and parking. So if the business is flexible on how many clients can be seen at a time, she said she wouldn’t be able to support this application.

Cllr Maggie Burton said she’d support the application and didn’t think the amount of traffic and parking would be a concern, adding they approve many home occupations like this one, like for nail salons. She said there are typically more concerns at the front end that don’t end up being an issue once the business gets underway.

Cllr Ophelia Ravencroft said she’d defer to Cllr Bruce on this application, explaining she was “struck by the number of submissions we received on this piece.” While they might get a letter or so on an application, she called getting 11 was significant. She also cited Cllr Bruce’s concern over the business expanding in the future, so she said she didn’t feel she was able to support it at the moment.

Mayor Breen then spoke up to Mr. Sinyard, saying it’s not uncommon for them when approaching a home based business to put some types of restrictions into the development agreement.

Sinyard said “it’s quite common to put restrictions in development agreements but in this case if Council is contemplating saying it’s one client at a time, I would like an opportunity for staff to discuss that with the applicant to see if that aligns with their business model.”

Mayor Breen suggested that Cllr Bruce ask for a decision to be moved to next week as they awaited clarification from the applicant, when Sinyard interjected with an update.

“Late breaking news,” he said. “I’ve been texting with staff while we were having this conversation and staff confirm that it’s one appointment at a time. So it’s one client at a time spaced 20 minutes apart with 10 minute break in-between clients.”

So voting on it was back on!

Ultimately, it passed unanimously.

Council then approved the servicing of a private Development in the Floodplain Buffer at 24B Empire Avenue.

Someone wants to build a Single Detached Dwelling at 24B Empire Avenue, which is zoned Residential Special. The sanitary sewer is at the rear of the property in the Floodplain Buffer where the sanitary service lateral is proposed to connect to service to the new dwelling, said Cllr Korab.

He said the application was referred to the Environment and Sustainability Experts Panel and the panel had no concerns with the proposed development considering that any disruptions to the land will be replaced with appropriate vegetation to help mitigate future flooding.

Empire Avenue area and floodplain buffer. (Source: City Agenda, 28 February 2022.)

City Easing Path To Parklets

Council signed off on advertising for Discretionary Use application for parklets within the Downtown and Churchill Square, to allow outdoor eating areas associated with restaurants and lounges.

“The use of these spaces are subject to a lease agreement with the City,” said Cllr Korab.

The parklets will be permitted to operate May 20 to October 31. Construction will be allowed two weeks prior to the opening of the long weekend.

Sinyard encouraged businesses to apply early so they can be ready to roll out on time for the May 24 weekend.

St. John’s enters its golden age of patios. (Source: City Agenda, 28 February 2022.)

Can-Am Platforms and Construction Ltd. was awarded a contract valued at $315,694.94 to provide the design as well as construction services for the Pump Track at Quidi Vidi Lake—more on that below though.

It was the sole bidder for the one-year long contract.

Cllr Korab also had a petition—well, it was in his office and he said he’d go grab it, but right now he could speak on it. It’s from the residents of Pierce Avenue, which connects Blackmarsh Road to Mundy Pond Road, Ropewalk Lane/Campbell Avenue.

Pierce Avenue is a one-way street and he said it’s no question it’s a shortcut to other roads. The petition is just shy of 100 signatures and the residents want traffic calming.

He added that while he was stopped to pick up the petition and in the seven to eight minutes he was there, he stopped counting after the 40th car.

Great Grant Allocations

Council then approved the recommended 2022 Capital Grant allocations.

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said: “The City of St. John’s Capital Grant Program makes available limited financial resources to non-profit groups and organizations whose programming supports the City’s Strategic Directions. The Capital grant applications were reviewed by an internal grants committee. And key considerations included: The association’s current financial status. The program’s alignment with our City’s strategic directions. And the impact on the overall community.”

She said the capital grant budget was $500,000 and the recommended amount is $350,715, with permit fees waved at $7,340. The remaining would be $149,285, which she said it usually held back for special events and other circumstances.

Council then moved right along to approving the recommended 2022 Community Grant allocations.

Cllrs Hickman and Burton declared conflict and sat out on voting.

Applications came in from these categories: Community Groups and Organizations; Special Events and Festivals; Sport Groups and Organizations; Youth Travel Sport and Non Sport; and Artist and Arts Organizations.

Grants for individual artists were reviewed by a jury of their peers, whereas the grants to Community, Art Organizations, Sport, and Special Events and Festivals were reviewed by an internal grants committee.

In total, $1,279,600 is being distributed between the community groups, with $4,800 remaining in the overall grants and can be used for things that pop up “as a little slush fund,” said O’Leary.

Cllr Ian Froude wanted to highlight the economic and social value these grants provide to the community.

And Korab wholeheartedly approved it, citing a team that’s going to the junior curling nationals and are asking the City if they have any kind of funds to assist them going away.

Downtown Hotel Moves Along

One month later, the proposed hotel at 150 New Gower Street is back before Council.

Council voted to adopt the resolutions for St. John’s Municipal Plan Amendment Number 3, 2022 and St. John’s Development Regulations Amendment Number 4, 2022.

Lat49 Architecture Inc. applied on behalf of Manga Hotels (New Gower) Inc. to rezone land at 150 New Gower Street from the Residential Downtown Zone to Commercial Downtown Zone for a 13-storey, 136 room hotel with retail along New Gower Street and a 9-storey, 86 unit residential building at the back of the lot.

Cllr Froude announced they’d appoint Marie Ryan, a member of the City’s commissioner list, to conduct a virtual public hearing on the proposed amendments. Mark your calendars for March 30 at 7 pm.

Cllr Ravencroft said she was kind of two minds on this project; agreeing with Cllr Froude that this is also an area ripe for development and densification. She’s also lived in the area in the past and sees the benefit of the project. She also wanted to raise the flag that she’d gotten concerned emails about it as well. She said she’d vote for it today so it can go forward with a public hearing, encouraging people who live in the area to make their voices heard. It will also help guide her on its final vote.

Artist’s rendering of the proposed 150 New Gower Street developments as seen from the corner of Springdale Street and New Gower Street. (Source: 31 January 2022 City Agenda.)

Photo Finish

The Benevolent Irish Society has asked the City for a temporary, short term loan of the Twinning Lines photograph series created by now-deputy mayor Sheilagh O’Leary 18 years ago.

At the moment, the art is on display at 348 Water Street, which houses the Department of Economic Development, Culture & Partnerships.

A bit more detail about the plan from the agenda: the society wants to display them at the BIS building at 30 Harvey Road during Irish Week, which runs from March 13 – 20, 2022. So the BIS will take possession of the artwork two days before the festival kicks off and return them the week afterward.

On top of that, BIS needs to have the right insurance coverages in order to cover any damages that might occur. The City’s Legal Department is in the process of developing a lending agreement to be signed by the BIS, the Mayor and City Clerk.

Tracking the Pump Track Funding

Pump Track concept. (Source: City Agenda, 28 February 2022.)

Back on agenda, it’s the Pump Track. So earlier in the meeting Council signed off on awarding the contract and now it had to sign off on additional funding for said-contract, explained Cllr Sandy Hickman.

Back in May 2021 Avalon Mountain Bike Association approached the City for funding the construction of a Pump Track. At the time, the estimated total cost of the track was between $150,000-$175,000 and the association had gotten a major donation from Canary Cycles of $100,000, so it was asking $60,000 from the City. At the time, the decision was approved.

According to the agenda, the City issued a Request For Proposals for the design and construction purpose and there were two submissions. However, neither of these unnamed companies met the minimum technical component to proceed to opening the cost. So there was a second call out in the fall of 2021, and again there were two submissions. One met the requirements, but there was a snag: Can-Am Platforms and Construction Ltd. cost $315,694.94 with HST, almost twice the allotted amount.

The agenda also noted Avalon Mountain Bike Association has since raised approximately $110,000. With the $60,000 from the City, there’s a shortfall of $150,000.

So during Monday’s council meeting they voted to fund the shortfall of $150,000 from the Parks and Open Space Reserve so the contract can be awarded.

There was some back and forth between Cllrs Ellsworth and Hickman, with Deputy City Manager of Public Works Lynnann Winsor settling it by saying the pump track’s location will be on the west side of the small dog park.

The Go Round

Cllr Burton encouraged the public and council to read the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report, the UN body that assesses the science of climate change. This report is on the physical science of climate change and how the crisis was caused by human action, with some changes irreversible.

“So it’s a very concerning report,” she said, adding there’s a summary for policy makers that the council could find useful.

Cllr Debbie Hanlon said it is encouraging to see so many applications for new builds and businesses.

She then remarked that this was the first time she had been on council that the Deputy Mayor didn’t have any remarks, which got a few chuckles from the chamber.

She also congratulated Shirley Hong on the Rice Bowl’s 45 years in business.

Cllr Korab mentioned that the City is getting ready to hire students for various jobs in its programs, like day camps and lifeguarding. So those interested should apply by April 1.

Cllr Carl Ridgeley had the last and maybe longest word at the end of the meeting.

He wanted to assure residents of the City, not just Ward 5, that city staff are working on a solution to the issue of recycling blowing about and making a mess. He touched on the same issue last week in the Go Round.

He then asked for an update following a meeting with Hospitality NL, Destination St. John’s and the department of tourism over unlicensed accommodation. “It’s a sore point with a lot of businesses in the City and me personally.”

Deputy City Manager of Finance & Administration Derek Coffey said City staff met with representatives of the province, there’s legislation in the process of getting the regulations drafted for final implementation.

Finally, he said he received a letter from St. Kevin’s High School over concerns about speeding in the area. He said he’d like to see all school zones be 30 km an hour, whereas some are 50 km/hr, as well as a 1.6km stretch of sidewalks near schools.

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