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A light agenda on the menu for the regular council meeting this Tuesday—delayed from Monday due to the holiday temporarily known as “June Holiday,” while a more appropriate name is hopefully in the works. The “discovery” moniker so many Boomers, both old and young, on the internet seem so deeply attached to was changed from the original “St. John’s Day” in 1997 to reinforce the doctrine of discovery—and presumably an anticipated opportunity to catch a few tourism dollars—associated with the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s arrival on the (very much already inhabited) island of Newfoundland. Those crying erasure due to the name change should be reminded the “history” they’re clinging to is literally a bit of questionable late 90s branding. Our heritage, indeed!

The Avalon Mall got the go-ahead for an outdoor eating area, year-round as weather permits, at the front of the building. I would hazard a guess that there are varying opinions on which side is the “front” of the mall, but no one asked the question during the meeting so we will have to wait to find out which parking lot we can eat our fries in.

Cahill’s on Southside Road submitted a discretionary use application to turn two residential lots into a paved parking area adjacent to their facility for their staff. Six submissions were received, including a couple suggesting that instead of a parking lot, the space should be turned into a park and/or playground and/or gazebo for neighbours to use due to an alleged lack of green space in the area, forgetting, perhaps, that one of the most beautiful trails in the city runs immediately behind the lots? Of course, the problem the proponent is trying to solve is not a lack of gazebos, but let’s take a moment to admire the gumption to respond to the question, “What do you think about this proposal to have a parking lot here?” with, “Actually I think these folks should build me a gazebo.”

Cllr Collins introduced the motion and confirmed with staff that only passenger vehicles would be permitted on the lot, as some residents had raised concerns about storage of industrial materials and heavy equipment. Regardless, Collins said, “I know they do a good job on it, but your worship, I can’t support it because there’s a few residents that don’t want it up there because of the tree buffer and, you know, the noise.” This in spite of the minimum 6 metre tree buffer required as mentioned in the decision note and the limitation to passenger vehicles. 

This sort of position is classic for Cllr Collins, and perhaps why the man is in his sixteenth year on council: he is absolutely and to the exclusion of all else focused on the voices of residents in ward 5. Six submissions in opposition is reason enough to reject an application. Here again we see the tension between the kind of reactive decision making that follows feedback without question and the kind of decision making that stands on a framework of forward-looking policy. Cllr Collins seems to rest very firmly in the former camp. He appears to be very confident in this position and his constituents have rewarded him for it with a long career. Bless him. Motion carried 4-3 with Cllrs Collins and Stapleton, and DM O’Leary voting against.

There are tenders up for approval for cube vans, swimming pool chemicals, and plumbing services for non-profit housing. This last one will outsource “routine and emergency plumbing services” because “The City currently does not have sufficient trained staff to perform the work required in the scope of this contract.” The Deputy Mayor wants us to know that, “there is ongoing attention, certainly, to the upkeep of our non-profit housing, and this of course will certainly help make more efficient that process.”

George St. United Church gets a late approval for a $7000 capital grant and waiver of $837 of permit fees to help with repairs to their building, despite having missed the deadline last November to apply for the grant. The amount will come from the reserve of $230,437 held over from the $500K capital grants allocation from 2021.

The go-round was entertaining as Cllr Hanlon sang a few bars of Great Big Sea and got local famous Allans Hawco and Doyle confused with one another. The Mayor noted that Water St. “feels like the night before the regatta,” and Cllrs Stapleton, Skinner, and Collins all said some variation of “somebody’s gonna be killed if drivers don’t slow down.” Must be summer in St. John’s. 

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Hope Jamieson is a municipal correspondent with The Independent, covering city council meetings in the weekly column, So Moved, St. John's. She served as Ward 2 Councillor from 2017 to 2020. Hope works in the affordable housing sector, and is dedicated to poverty reduction, social equity, and inclusion. She lives in St. John's with her partner and their three children.