St. John’s city council has given more space to bicycles and skateboards, and plans for the proposed Fortis building to continue development.

There were 10 letters of objection to the plan for an indoor skateboard facility, mainly due to concerns about vandalism and noise. Councillor Frank Galgay said residents feared they would lose peace and quiet in the neighbourhood.

However, there were also 23 letters of support for the plan. Councillor Sheilagh O’Leary said the accusations of vandalism were discriminatory against young people.

“We need to be supporting more recreation for youth,” —Sheilagh O’Leary

“We need to be supporting more recreation for youth,” O’Leary said, citing diabetes and obesity as two major health problems for young people in St. John’s.

Councillor Sheilagh O'Leary

Councillor Tom Hann said some of the detractors of the plan think the facility will be used by “people on drugs and vandals.” He supported the park, saying it would be giving a recreational space to bikers and skateboarders who have “nowhere to go.”

He said rock-climbers had the same predicament years ago, and had nowhere to climb until a local rock-climbing business, Wallnuts, was established.

The applicant, Rob Yetman, already runs an indoor bicycle and skateboard park on Waterford Bridge Road. Residents and business owners who complained about the proposed park were invited for a tour on May 10.

Because the proposed site for the park is zoned as Commerical Industrial, development regulations allow a “Place of Amusement” as a Discretionary Use – meaning the public gets to see and comment on the proposal before it is approved.

O’Leary says Yetman, as a business owner, “has a very good track record.”

In the end, councillors unanimously approved the application for the new park in the basement of 77 Blackmarsh Road. There will be 100 square metres allocated for retail space.

New Fortis building

Later in the meeting, council reviewed the proposed Fortis building.

If the Springdale Street building is approved, the land will have to be rezoned. Office and retail buildings downtown are allowed to be 15 metres high, but rezoning would allow for 12 storeys.

The St. John’s Municipal Plan would be in favour of this development, provided the building meets certain specifications for traffic and parking, among other things.

Council previously decided to wait to review the municipal plan until the province completed its regional plan. However, there was support on Monday to start reviewing the municipal plan immediately.

Fortis will now have to complete a land use assessment report, after which a public meeting can be held to discuss rezoning.

Acting Mayor Shannie Duff wouldn’t say how she thought the project would fare in the long run, but from what she has seen so far, she said, “I think it will be a building that will make us all proud.”