In the last month, Council seats have been pretty vacant. But today all councillors were present, with Cllrs Ophelia Ravencroft, Maggie Burton and Ron Ellsworth joining in virtually.

Council signed off on an accessory building being constructed in the floodplain buffer at 8 Hall’s Road—with a caveat. It has to conform to Section 6.2 “Accessory Buildings” of the Envision St. John’s Development Regulations.

8 Hall’s Road. (Source: City Agenda, 16 May 2022.)

Council followed that up by also approving another accessory building in the floodplain buffer at 27 Fourth Pond Road and it also came with the same condition as the building above.

27 Fourth Pond Road. (Source: City Agenda, 16 May 2022.)

Harvey & Company Ltd. was awarded a contract valued at $1,086,111.92 (HST include) to supply and deliver three new current production single Axle Sanders, as part of regular maintenance of the City’s fleet.

The delivery date has to be no later than November 30, 2023.

The only other bid came from Western Star and Freightliner Trucks of Newfoundland for $1,096,589.40.

Cllr Sandy Hickman noted the two bids were close.

Then, Harvey & Company Ltd. followed that up by securing another bid for $186,547.83 (HST included) to supply and deliver one new heavy-duty truck. It was the sole bidder.

The delivery date is within three months from the purchase order date, said Cllr Hickman.

Heritage Building Renos

City signed off on renovations proposed at 355 Southside Road, which is a designated Heritage Building built in the mid-19th century.

Its historical details, like original decorative detailing under the eaves, window and door trims will also be preserved, repaired and painted if necessary. And, if they are beyond repair, the owner or contractor will document their conditions and get information about their replacements before installing them.

Cllr Maggie Burton pointed out that its neighbor at 353 Southside Road won an Applause Awards Heritage Award last week.

The agenda notes the house needed to get a little touch up, fixing a leak and making it weather tight, and the contract has ensured the historical elements will be maintained.

“I’m very happy to see that work is occurring on this building and wish the owners all the best,” said Cllr Burton.

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said she was also pleased to see this come forward, “especially on the heels of a heritage designation of the adjoined property. It’s just wonderful to see that the two together will be working collaboratively to restore and enhance the historic restoration of these incredible structures.”

353 and 355 Southside Road. (Source: City Agenda, 16 May 2022.)

WerkLiv Lives On

With the 30-day period for the paper-based commissioner’s public hearing out of the way, Council proceeded with the final steps in the amendment process for St. John’s Municipal Plan Amendment Number 6, 2022, and St. John’s Development Regulations Amendment Number 9, 2022, for the WerkLiv apartment buildings at 6 Lambe’s Lane.

They also approved parking relief of 185 parking spaces and a 1.6 percent variance to accommodate a 5.9 meter rear yard. Additionally, they adopted the Land Use Report from May 9.

On top of that, if the development proceeds, Council will direct staff to refer the application to Publix Works to consider who sidewalk clearing at Lambe’s Lane could fit into the sidewalk clearing priority list.

To catch you up: this is the three six-storey student apartment buildings proposed for a stone’s throw away from the Memorial University campus. It was last before Council on February 14’s regular council meeting.

One by one, most of the councillors spoke in favour of this proposed project.

Cllr Ian Froude said he was supportive of this proposal, saying there’s a massive need for student housing in the City.

“This one is a product that will add both quantity and diversity to the housing market.”

Deputy Mayor O’Leary was also pleased to see how much work the developer had put into it and has engaged with the community. She said she’s sure they’ve all heard about the housing issues going on in the City.

“It is extremely necessary at this point in time and the proximity, as Cllr Froude has referenced in terms of work-play-live, and I think the accessibility to Churchill Square, the university, to the Avalon Mall, to all of these central areas that obviously would provide all the basics of life that people need. It makes a lot of sense,” she said.

Cllr Hanlon also voiced her support, adding that this is the time of year when her phone lights up with people looking for places to live. This addition should also alleviate the present stress on the rental units.

Cllr Hickman made a surprising turn around by saying he’d support the development. When it was last before Council he was the sole dissenting voice, and spoke in favour of Memorial’s concern that this new development would undermine its business model.

He did voice a few concerns today, like wishing this was on university property and jointly coordinated project—adding that it was too bad the university didn’t buy the land.

“So they’ve got to live with it now,” Cllr Hickman said. “There will be some impacts on the Aquarena and some of the other things going on which may happen in the near future. But we’re just going to have to live with that.”

He then announced he’d be voting in favour for the project and had several reasons, including that would add to housing and help the rental market as well as add to the City’s tax base. 

“And three, everybody else is voting in favour of it, so I’ll vote in favour of it too.”

He explained Memorial had voiced concerns about WerkLiv in the past but it has been pretty quiet about it as of late.

Cllr Jill Bruce said this isn’t WerkLiv’s first rodeo and they’ve done this type of development before. While she did hear constituents’ concerns, she said they’ve been addressed.

Mayor Breen also said he’d support this and said the developer has done a good job in recognizing and acting on challenges. He also pointed out this type of development has been successful elsewhere, like Halifax.

Cllr Burton also said she liked this development that would add hundreds of units of rental housing near Memorial, so it would free up some supply in the market and hopefully drive down the cost of renting in the university area. 

Another reason she says this development makes sense is the density involved and the location.

“When we build density in an amenity rich area we can have more efficient use of City services, such as water, sewar, snow clearing, transit—anything that we’re providing,” Cllr Burton said. “So it’s a great location.”

Cllr Ravencroft, who is the nonprofit housing lead, said she’s heard plenty of stories about the affordable housing crisis going on.

“The reality is that increase in supply is a good thing and an increase in supply that is specifically targeted in a way that addresses the needs of a particularly recently vulnerable population is remarkable.”

She said they’re getting stories about five or six people living in a three bedroom house because they can’t find anything else that’s affordable.

She was also pleased to see this proposed development is pedestrian focused.

Ultimately, it passed unanimously.

6 Lambe’s Lane. (Source: City Agenda, 16 May 2022.)

Road Races Coming

Council then turned its attention to two upcoming events taking to the road.

The Motorcycle Ride for Dad is taking place on June 17 at 2 pm (with a June 18 backup date in case of rain).

The motorcycle parade will begin at Newfoundland Power Building on Kenmount Road and finish at the Newfoundland Power Building on Mews Place. They aren’t looking for road closures and the riders will be using the curb lane so traffic can flow. The RNC will also be on hand to guide them along the route, said Cllr Debbie Hanlon.

Mews 8K Road Race map. (Source: City Agenda, 16 May 2022.)

The Mews 8K Road Race is happening on July 10 from 7 am – 9:30 am. It starts at Mundy Pond and will end at the Quidi Vidi Boathouse. Approximately 400 runners are expected to take part. 

The RNC and several retired RCMP officers will be about to implement the lane closures and reductions.

Hudson & Rex Filming

Hudson & Rex has got the okay for a road closure in order to film its fifth season.

The road closure is for Blackhead Crescent on May 24 from 5 pm to 10 pm, though local traffic and emergency vehicles can still get access to this road.

The Go Round

Cllr Ravencroft said she’s heard from a few people who had gotten tickets because their vehicles were on the road during street cleaning hours. She wanted to remind people that the new hours are 10 am to 6 pm—so their vehicles have to be off the road if it’s their scheduled night.

She added that it’s nice to be back to attending Council meetings, explaining she had one week of vacation that was then followed up with a week of Covid.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary said there was a cleanup at Belvedere this weekend and she wanted to thank everyone who showed up, including some Sobeys employees.

She then referenced a letter written by Memorial University president Dr. Vianne Timmons which is in today’s Evening Telegram that mentioned the increase in international students, particularly coming from Bangladesh and Ukraine. A number of these students also participated in the Belvedere cleanup and O’Leary said these students were excited about being in St. John’s and also their friends are planning to come here.

Then the Deputy Mayor drew attention to the proliferation of illegal signage popping up on polls, which she said is a seasonal issue. She explained this is not permitted advertising and not the way to promote a business.

On her final note, she said she attended Equal Voice NL’s gala that marked Yvonne Jones’ 25 years in politics.

Cllr Hanlon also brought up Cllr Ravencroft’s comments about people being ticketed for having their vehicles in the road during cleanup nights. She recommended people sign up for an e-update, which will remind people a day in advance when cleaning is taking place.

She also promoted the Inclusion Advisory Committee’s orientation workshop, which can be done either through online or in-person workshops. It was initially created in the wake of the Pedestrian Mall and to try to make downtown businesses more accessible, but Cllr Hanlon said it’s open to any business and you can sign up on the City’s website.

She then gave a shout out to the winner of the Senior of the Year Award, Jocelyn Delaney, which was announced last week.

As well, summer recreation programs are now open for sign up.

She also congratulated the George Street Association for taking home the Legend Award at last week’s Applause Awards.

Cllr Bruce said on Saturday there was a successful cleanup event in the Airport Heights community, with about 40 people showing up and producing 50 bags of garbage. If anyone wants to start their own cleanup initiative, she said you can reach Clean St. John’s and they’ll pick up the garbage when you’re done. She also encouraged businesses to clean up around their spaces.

Cll Jamie Korab thanked people for participating in the Canada Drive road rehabilitation comment process through the Engage St. John’s website, which has since closed. If people still want to add their two-cents, he said they can call or email him.

Cllr Carl Ridgeley also said it was a pleasure to present Jocelyn Delaney the award for Senior of the Year.

Over the weekend Ward Five hosted three big cleanup events and he thanked people for coming out, as well as Karen from Clean St. John’s.

Next Council meeting will be on Tuesday, May 24, because Monday is Victoria Day.

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Elizabeth Whitten is a St. John's-based journalist and The Independent's St. John's municipal politics reporter. She's previously worked for allNewfoundlandLabrador and Downhome Magazine, and her work has been published by CBC, The Overcast, and the Toronto Star. She's currently writing a book about how Dr. Cluny Macpherson invented the gas mask in World War One.