So Moved, St. John’s: 8 March 2021

If you are a fan of poetry, affordable housing initiatives, and/or municipal capital allocations, then you are absolutely in for a treat.

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Municipal Vermouth

The City’s 10-year strategic plan—Our City, Our Future—has finished its second full year of operation. Accountability is cool, so you can check out staff’s progress on goals over at the public dashboard

There are 30 new initiatives identified for 2021, connected to construction, affordable housing, internal efficiency, and effectiveness in programming and service delivery. Council approved this plan. Cllr Froude encourages you to look at the document, and if you have questions, reach out! 

2021 Capital Out of Revenue—Goodies We Can Afford To Pay For

A big list of projects were approved that will be paid for by a combination of sources: municipal revenue, federal gas tax funding, provincial gas tax funding, and transferences from other municipal reserves/funds. 

In total, we’re talking about ~$26 million. A big chunk of that has already been dedicated, for things like the Mews Centre replacement, water-related projects, and fleet acquisition. That leaves ~$4.5 million as uncommitted funds, for general use.

Some highlights:

  • Galway’s getting a new park worth $1.6 million!
    • I’m kinda disappointed this wasn’t approached in the same way that street lights were. Can’t DEWcor build a fancy Playgrounde, and then try to sell it back to the City? 
  • A $100k City Hall Energy Efficiency Assessment (directed by the City’s sustainability plan)
  • $50k on Pedestrian and Bike Counters
    • This will be a huge help in tracking the impact of policy, and policy changes, around multi-modal transportation. 
  • $2 million on pavement grind and patch work! 
    • A poignant reminder of the broader, sometimes hidden costs of urban sprawl. The more low density residential subdivisions we have, the more km’s of street, and the more it costs to maintain.

City-Owned Vacant Land and Affordable Housing

Five pieces of municipality-owned land were up for contemplation this week, on whether they might be used for affordable housing projects. The Google maps screenshots below show you where these are.

There are currently no planned projects for any of these sites! This is just the exploration stage. Cllr Skinner also clarified that “this is not meant to be a finite process” and the City is “continually looking for other pieces of vacant City land that we might be able to utilize.” As potential sites are identified, they’ll be brought forward to Council. 

28 Eric Street is the only one engaged with an application process, but that is still subject to “successful rezoning, development approval, and collaboration with the Eric Street Community Garden.” 

Staff’s direction note says the remaining four properties are being brought forward now, in the spirit of “early stakeholder engagement” which may “increase support for a development on these sites”.

In the end, Cllr Skinner moved that 245 Freshwater Road should be removed from the list, as this overflow parking lot is important to the Community (Farmer’s) Market. The remaining three are to be put forward for public consideration, and staff will create an engagement plan. Funding will also be sought to do prep work on these parcels, such as environmental assessment and geotechnical analysis. This is good due diligence. All of Council agreed, and the motion was carried.

It was nice to see staff take “criticisms related to the lack of advanced engagement around the Eric Street Project” in stride, and adjust their process accordingly. Staff want to hear about concerns, and input on what local stakeholders would like to see in the area, well in advance, so they can address these things before any proposed development is on the table. Exemplary!

They also recognized national advocacy for a relaunch of the Rapid Housing Initiative, which creates a potentiality for funding on the horizon. This foresight is so encouraging!

Municipal Brandy

A Clinic providing massage therapy, counselling, occupational therapy services, chiropractic, and nurse practitioner services, has been approved at 22 O’Leary Avenue. I love this multi-modal approach to health services. After a year of un-ergonomically working from home—and two periods of lockdown during which one’s social life is converted to ruminatory introspection—I would go for the full package there. 

Mary Dalton, Poet Laureate of the City of St. John’s, is having her term extended to include the calendar years 2021 and 2022. I really love that the City formally acknowledges “poets and poetry and the value of their contribution to civic life.” Council is looking into broadening this post to become Cultural Laureate, but, as with most projects, it’s been delayed due to [gestures broadly at everything].

Photo by Graham Kennedy.

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