So Moved, St. John’s: 22 February 2021

Take a moment to lean in and listen to what’s happening around the council table. The little bit of normalcy, routine, and poking fun might cheer you up.

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Municipal Vermouth

Last week’s meeting was cancelled at the 11th hour, which was probably a relief for everyone involved (including me). If you’ve watched Stranger Things, you’ll know what I mean when I say that since the lockdown began on Friday, February 12th, it kinda feels like we’ve been pushed through a dimensional gate into The Upside Down. 

Given the glitchy electoral circus that is unfolding province-wide, and the mental and physical health implications of the B117 variant outbreak for everyone in our community, city politics hardly feels worthy of anyone’s focus at this moment. But, perhaps that’s exactly why we should take a moment to lean in and listen to what’s happening around the council table. The little bit of normalcy, routine, and poking fun cheered me up. Hopefully it will for you, too. 

On the agenda today, we had some imaginary, virtual champagne for Heritage Award winners; a smattering of development applications (including some new businesses!); some confusion about whether insects are animals; and, *gasp* a handful of townhouses proposed in Kenmount Terrace.   

Where’s Yer Roots, Now Das What I Wants To Know!

Mayor Dan retroactively proclaimed February 15th Heritage Day. We are meant to “rejoice” in our heritage and environment. Exaltations unto merchant’s dormers and bay windows everywhere. Amen. 

Whoever’s computer was being used to livestream the Council meeting, well, they kept getting eSCRIBE instant messages pop up on-screen. This was quite amusing. Here, we see Chief Planner Ken O’Brien wishing everyone a Happy belated Heritage Day! Adorbs.

Awards given out for Built Heritage this year are as follows:

  1. Preserving or Restoring the Original Character of a Heritage Building: Jennifer and Kirk Anderson — Canada House (74 Circular Road)
  1. Preserving or Restoring the Original Character of a Building in Heritage Area 1: Isabelle Goodridge — Clifton (71 Rennie’s Mill Road)
  1. Infill Development that Blends Into a Heritage Area 1 Neighbourhood: Bruce Blackwood — 29 Military Road & Donald Hayes — 27 Military Road

Mayor Dan reflected with whimsy on his days walking past Canada House on the way to St. Bons and Brother Rice. Proper Corner Boy he is. It’s a ‘job well done’ from him, to all the award winners.  

Development Wins

  • An enterprising retailer and dog kenneler on Ruby Line is expanding business to sell wood and wood stoves. Hard times for kennelers, b’y. I s’pose since no one can go on vacation, and having a social life is illegal, people wouldn’t dream of kenneling their dogs. Pets are quickly replacing human friends. 

    The price of electricity is still projected to rise though—Covid or not—so wood seems to be a safe venture. They had to submit an application to council to set the parking requirement, specifically for the sale of wood. It was decided that 2 spaces would be quite sufficient, and that was that. 
  • A Kinesio-massage Therapy and Training Clinic was proposed and approved for 32 Guzzwell Drive. One client at a time, with an hour’s buffer between each. Applicant is the sole employee. Parking provided in the driveway. Home occupations can be considered in the residential low-density zone as a Discretionary Use. 

    Two neighbours joined forces and submitted an opposition to this application. I don’t know if it’s lockdown fuse-shortening, the dead of winter, or the true realization of how commonplace classism is in this city sinking in, but: it made me kinda pissed this time. I just cannot

    They seem to have invented their very own Zone: “R1 – Residential Exclusive,” in which they say their neighbourhood lies. (Reality check: it’s R1 – residential low-density. I searched for Residential Exclusive in the current development regs [published in 1994], and the older regs from 1986, and got zip, nadda.) Either that, or they’re confusing some unenforceable promise a developer made to them back when Clyde Wells was premier with the real rules. 

    They went on to say that “no one is permitted to even have a registered two apartment dwelling in the area,” and “any resident who wanted to garner additional income from their properties to meet mortgage and other various expenses are unable to do so.” Wild! In The Upside Down, even zoning goes out the window!

    They bought their properties in the 1990s based on these premises, and since then they feel that with “(a) much lower priced homes being built and (2) [numbering error in original], two-apartment dwellings being erected,” their home values were negatively impacted. And they want the madness to stop. 

    “Unbelievable as it may sound that negative effect is still being felt in our reduced property values in 2021 vis-a-vis similar priced subdivisions that existed at the time.” 

    I’ve laid it out for you visually, as the complainants see it, using their written reference to “north of the [Virginia River] bridge” and “south of the bridge”, with said bridge represented in red.

It’s as if they think, upon catching a whiff of self-employment, that any potential buyer of their homes in The Earldom of Guzzwell would be granted a pardon from the King to pay less money for their residential nest-egg. It’s like they’re saying that anyone who works a home-based business, or rents, doesn’t deserve to exist near them. 

They even went so far as to say that “children and pets will be on the street [during the operational hours of the business]” and the increase in the volume and flow of traffic is a concern. One additional car entering and exiting the neighbourhood. At a maximum of once every two hours. People really will go to any length in trying to hold an iron grip on their static sense of a neighbourhood. 

I wish the new business owner all the success. 

  • A new home-based salon in Airport Heights, and a tutoring centre (Commercial School) at 31 Peet Street, were both approved. 

New Watering Hole on Duckworth

What used to be Piccadilly, and then Crazy Horse, has been set to become Brewdock Bar & Eatery since March, 2020. Presumably, Covid has gotten in the way of this beer garden’s grand opening. 

It seems that the extra time has given the lads of Tap Wagon Inc. (owners of Brewdock) pause for thought, and they now want to change their indoor operating hours on both ends. They’re requesting permission to open at 7 a.m., and to close at 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 2 a.m Fridays and Saturdays, for special events. Staff noted, “These proposed hours of operation would also be in line with a similar type of business [Bannerman Brewery] across the street.”

When the proposal for Brewdock first landed on the scene, there was significant pushback from residents of the area, including a petition. This amendment doesn’t seem to garner the same kind of opposition, but most residents made it very clear that breakfast café hours were fine, but they didn’t agree with the bar staying open until 2 a.m.

Council agreed with residents and granted Brewdock operating hours of 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily.

Another Serving of Classism, Sent Back to the Chef by Council

On February 4, a public hearing was held to explore how scary it might be for everyone if three, two-storey townhouses were built in Kenmount Terrace. 

Although the city had heard from fear-mongers back in October, who indicated their intended attendance, independent Commissioner Glenn Barnes and two members of the City’s planning department were stood up at the virtual hearing. Rude!

Right now, the property (138 Ladysmith Drive) is zoned Residential Narrow Lot (RNL) where the only housing form permitted is a Single Detached Dwelling containing only 1 Dwelling Unit. Classist zoning. Blegh. RTO Capital Inc. has requested amendments for a rezoning, to Apartment Medium Density (A2), which would allow the townhouses. 

Opponents of these townhouses cited concerns over increased traffic, “CRIME,” and a perceived reduction in property values. Several also seemed to think that the only reason for such a development is greed, on the part of the developer, to sell the greatest number of units. 

I’ve said it a thousand times but will not tire: density is healthy, and single-detached dwellings are not for everyone. People living in a community with different budgets and preferences shouldn’t be hived off from one another. Think about the future owners or tenants of these properties, and their needs, too! I’m all too relieved that developers are pivoting to meet demand for smaller, more sustainable homes. 

The independent Commissioner recommended approval via the necessary Municipal Plan amendment—the “re-zoning is consistent with the envisioned mixed residential housing for the area.” And Council so approved. 

Municipal Brandy

The city stocks John Deere parts for its fleet, to ensure accessibility as required. Cllr Hickman moved to approve Brandt Tractor Ltd. for $96,112,62 worth of parts, over a 2 year period (with option to extend for 2 additional 1-year periods). These guys hustled to win the contract—they quoted far more line items than their competitors: Harvey & Company, Colonial Garage, and the honestly-named Parts for Trucks. 

“Keeping it in the animal realm,” Cllr Hickman continued on with a bid approval for Caterpillar parts, from Toromont Cat, at $102,831.36 for 1 year (option to renew for 1 additional 1-year period). This crowd was the lowest and only bidder. A Darwinian disagreeance ensued:

Cllr Hickman: “From Deere Parts to Caterpillar Parts [get it?!]…”

Mayor Dan: “It’s an insect, I think, Cllr Hickman.”

Cllr Hickman: “Ah, part of the animal kingdom, though.”

Mayor Dan: “Ohhh, yesss. Yes.”

Cllr Hickman: “We won’t get into that discussion any further.”

Mayor Dan: *bursting grins and townie head nods*

Main photo by Graham Kennedy. All screenshots provided by the author.

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