What Odds at City Hall: 10 January 2022

In its first meeting of 2022, Council signed off on a pop-up business, one new parking space on Gower Street, and downtown waste removal.

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After a three week break, the St. John’s City Council is back in session and I’m glued to my screen watching it unfold as the recent surge keeps me in my home and Council out of City Hall.

First off, Mayor Danny Breen explained there was a tech issue on the City’s part and as a result, people watching the stream could only see voting results and the agenda on the screen and not the councillors speaking. C’est la vie.

First off, Council decided to unanimously sign off on a three-storey Single Detached Dwelling at 6 Strawberry Marsh Road.

This proposal was on the agenda all the way back in November.

According to Cllr Jamie Korab, there were three submissions on the proposed project. Two of the submissions were opposed, citing a worry that the additional height could negatively impact their property.

Cllr Korab said that looking at the Land Use Assessment Report shows the three-storey home proposed is pretty similar in height to its potential neighbor, which Cllr Ian Froude concurred with.

Streetscapes of the new development at 6 Strawberry Marsh Road, St. John’s. (Source: 10 January 2022 Agenda.)

Next up, Nidus Development Inc got its temporary Retail Use application approved for 318 LeMarchant Road.

According to LinkedIn, Gregory Hanley is the company’s president.

Cllr Korab said the space for the business will be approximately 111.5 m2 and employ five people. It will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will operate until February 28, 2022. There is also on-site parking.

However it’s not clear what this pop-up business will be doing, though it looks like Nidus Development Inc is a real estate company.

Downtown parking can be a bit of a crunch, but 43 Gower Street is getting one parking space. According to City staff there’s room on this street for the spot, which Cllr Debbie Hanlon agreed on.

Cllr Korab said the homeowners have also submitted an application to add another dwelling to the townhouse.

The online agenda notes the owners—who are from this province—live in California and when they’re in town they will live on the ground floor and intend to rent out the top floor. Moreover, they’d like to have two parking permits but because they’re only in St. John’s for six weeks out of a year, one permit will do.

Litter Bug Bites

Kelloway Construction Limited secured a bid on litter collection and waste removal in the downtown area, coming in with a bid of $284,390.40 (HST included).

While the value of the bid is for one year, the contract is for four years with an option to extend the contract for an additional year, said Cllr Sandy Hickman.

The agenda noted the other bidders were 86790 Newfoundland & Labrador Limited ($503,700.00), Colbourne Industrial Services Limited ($668,834.66), and 11240978 Canada Inc. ($671,600.05).

However, Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary had some concerns about this particular company, noting that the particular contractor has had the contract in the downtown area in the past. She added she’s received a number of complaints over the years about the need to improve the downtown litter service.

She said the Public Procurement Act dictates that the City has to go with the lowest bidder. “However, I do have concerns and I kindly ask if we could get an update on the litter service in the downtown area in particular. Because this has been… a contentious issue.”

Deputy City Manager of Public Works Lynnann Winsor said this tender isn’t the exact same one the City has put out previously, and that it has been “revamped to try and address concerns, so there should be a better level of service this time. And we can certainly work with the contractor to ensure that that happens.”

Anyway, the vote was unanimous.

The Council also signed off on divvying up the contract to provide the daily cover material for waste at Robin Hood Bay landfill. The estimated value of the contract is $1,886,000.00 (HST included).

Council decided to award the bid to three of the lowest bidders—Weir’s Construction Limited, Capital Ready Mix (a division of Newcrete Investments Limited Partnership), and Farrell’s Excavating Ltd.

Cllr Hickman explained the right of refusal will be given to the vendor with the lowest bid, and if they turn it down, it goes to the second lowest, and in the case where that bidder turns it down, it’s offered to the third lowest bidder.

The contract is for a two year period, with the possibility of a one-year extension.

The Go Round

Cllr Carl Ridgeley kicked things off by asking that Council find new ways they could be more in touch with the community regarding the budget, service levels and taxation. He suggested they could start engaging with citizens earlier than they did last year, maybe even starting in March with town halls, discussions, and more.

Next in his targets, he asked people to be mindful when they’re putting out recycling, as it gets pretty windy ‘round here, so maybe use your nets.

Finally, Cllr Ridgeley announced he’s looking for volunteers to help set up an ice rink in the Southlands neighbourhood.

Cllr Ian Froude asked that people go out and get their COVID-19 vaccine and boosters.

Cllr Hanlon wished everyone a happy New Year, a sentiment echoed by Cllr Hickman, who also thanked Cllr Ridgeley for bringing up recycling—an issue he’s touted many times in Monday meetings because as of January 1, we all had to switch over to clear bags. He added that there is still a grace period for people to track down those specific bags.

Cllr Maggie Burton gave a shout out to all the kids who had to go back to virtual learning and said to hang in there until things can get back to normal.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary also had a few things to bring up. First, she said over the holidays she was contacted by resident Bob Hong over an issue around the Chinese head tax memorial, which is across the main City Hall building in an alleyway.

There has been some construction happening in the area, “However, it was unfortunate how it unrolled over the past weeks, over the holiday season,” she said.

The memorial’s storyboards were covered in foam to protect them during the work, however there were “some acts of disrespect, certainly from some of the workers in the process. And I will say, this was a subcontracted scenario.”

She stressed it wasn’t from City staff, who she said were great and quickly responded to the issue.

She said Mr. Hong took photos which he forwarded to her and staff.

“Unfortunately he himself… had some unsavory comments made to him along the way, about ‘What are you looking at’ and with some insensitivity about his concern about this space when he went by.”

She added the incident brought back some terrible memories for Mr. Hong about racism he’s faced.

She then read a section of Mr. Hong’s letter: “I’ve seen such actions and battled all my life against discrimination in one form or another. And I would have thought that the monument would have spoken volumes about the nature of racism here in the past and prompted through its physical presence, a not-so-subtle yet mindful way to change our collective attitudes about  the nature of identity, inclusion and respect for others.”

Then she had a question about a 16-unit condo development at 36 Temperance Street, which was mentioned in the Development Permits List.

Deputy City Manager of Planning and Engineering Jason Sinyard said the development got it’s approval back in 2015 and the developer had been working on details since, so it was recently approved and that’s why it was on the recent agenda.

Finally, Deputy Mayor O’Leary mentioned that Bowring Park’s Self-Guided Festival of Music and Lights has been extended until the end of the month to give people a bit more “light in our lives.” As well, the Signal Hill star and downtown lights are also staying up for a while longer.

Cllrs Ophelia Ravencroft, Jill Bruce and Ron Ellsworth didn’t have anything they wanted to bring to the table this Monday.

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