What Odds at City Hall: 17 October 2022

Council signs off some holiday walks, Mardi Gras gets its road closures, and the City ratifies a collective agreement with CUPE Local 1289.
St. John's City Hall on New Gower Street.
St. John’s City Hall. Photo by Elizabeth Whitten.

Mayor Danny Breen started off with a proclamation that October 20 is International Credit Union Day: “Whereas credit unions are financial cooperatives, democratically owned and operated and founded by people working together toward economic advancement; and whereas credit unions embrace a ‘people-helping-people’ philosophy that supports the growth of healthy, vibrant communities.”

He was joined by three members of the local credit union.

Challenging Car Culture, One Townhouse at a Time

Council granted parking for three townhouses with subsidiary dwelling units at 13-15 O’Neil Avenue—against staff’s suggestion to reject it.

Basically: someone wants to subdivide land to build three townhouses, each with a subsidiary dwelling unit. As is stated in Section 8.3 of the Envision Development Regulations, one parking space is required for a residential dwelling unit, explained Cllr Jamie Korab.

Each of the proposed townhouses will contain an apartment, which means two parking spaces would be needed per lot, for a total of six parking spaces. So one parking space is proposed for each lot and the applicant requesting parking relief for 3 parking spaces.

The Staff recommendation was that Council reject this request, reasoning that the lack of parking spaces could result in cars parking on lawns because there’s no overnight parking on the street, as well as snow clearing problems.

13-15 O’Neil Avenue. (Source: City Agenda, 17 October 2022.)

However, several Councillors said they would be rejecting that recommendation.

Cllr Ophelia Ravencroft was the first to say she would vote against this motion, explaining there is a need for accessible housing in the City.

She argued many people are forgoing cars, sometimes for economical reasons like the cost of insurance and said she thinks they have to acknowledge that in City planning. As well there is the issue of the environmental impact cars have.

“I think the reality of this is, that’s something we need to consider. We need to be looking at developing the CIty where we’re challenging car culture actively where you do not require a car to get around,” said Cllr Ravencroft. “Developments like this actually go a pretty substantial way to facilitate that.”

She said she believes the staff recommendation was wrong-headed, while appreciating the rationale behind it. But believes that the pros she listed outweigh that concern.

Cllr Debbie Hanlon said she agreed with what Cllr Ravencroft said, and as on the Inclusion Advisory Board knows they need more accessible housing.

Cllr Ian Froude also said he would vote against the rejection, adding he thinks sometimes they put too much weight on parking requirements. He also pointed out bus routes are close by to this proposed development.

Cllr Maggie Burton and Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary also said they would vote against the rejection.

So the initial motion to reject parking relief was unanimously rejected and Cllr Ravencroft brought the motion to approve parking relief for three spots, which was unanimously approved.

Council votes unanimously to reject the Staff recommendation around parking spaces on O’Neil Avenue.

All’s well that ends well.

A Nightmare Before Christmas (for one Thorburn Road resident)

Council unanimously approved a discretionary use application for a seasonal retail use at 161, 169 and 171 Thorburn Road from October 1 to December 30 for Halloween and Christmas themed walks. However, the applicant may have to take further parking and traffic modifications (should the need arise).

The evening festivities run from 6 pm to 9:30 pm nightly, with a matinee from 1 pm to 4 pm by request. The walk starts at 161 Thorburn Road (where the ticket sales are) and then runs through 161, 169 and 171 Thorburn Road. The tour takes about 10 minutes. There will be 20 employees on site and 45 parking spaces are provided.

One submission in opposition was received. They cited traffic and noise concerns, like screaming.

They wrote: “Although the proposed festive walks sound like a lot of fun, 3 months of nightly high traffic until 9:30 pm is too much. Particularly the Halloween walk, which I imagine is aimed at generating a lot of screaming. I would therefore suggest 2 weeks for Halloween, and 3 weeks for Christmas, 4 days a week rather than 7. Additionally, ending at 9 pm so that all traffic stops (including the 20 or so employees) by 9:30 pm. The current proposal as it stands is too much of a disturbance.”

Cllr Ian Froude said he supported this and hopes people had lots of fun.

Cllr Ravencroft added she also hoped people had fun but she couldn’t partake as she can’t handle haunted houses.

Halloween-to-Christmas Walks on Thorburn Road. (Source: City Agenda, 17 October 2022.)

Water Woes (Solid and Liquid)

It’s also that time of year when thoughts turn to snow and shovelling.

There were three options before Council on how to improve the snow clearing service around the City, which had been debated during the Committee of the Whole.

They voted to go with the third option, where pedestrian activated traffic control crossing locations aim at being cleared within 72 hours after the completion of street widening operations. This will cost $270,015.

Council then voted to kick in extra funds from the Windsor Lake Equipment Reserve Fund to buy membrane filter modules for Secondary Cell #2 and #3 at the Windsor Lake Water Treatment Plant.

Cllr Hickman said the existing membrane modules were installed in July 2015 and have now reached the end of their life and need to be replaced with new, identical modules from the same equipment manufacturer.

The total cost for the membrane filter modules, as well as freight and delivery, is approximately $220,000.

The Inclusion Advisory Committee Gears Up for Work

Paul Walsh gets to stay on both the Inclusion Advisory Committee and stay as Chairperson of the St. John’s Transportation Commission—with a caveat.

For background, the Autism Society recently appointed Paul Walsh as its representative on the City’s Inclusion Advisory Committee. However, it was pointed out he might be in a conflict of interest by serving on the Committee as he is also the Chairperson of the St. John’s Transportation Commission.

Council decided, as read out by Cllr Hanlon, “that the IAC relay to Council their consensus or dissent in relation to the continued membership of Paul J. Walsh as ASNL’s representative on the IAC on the following basis: that Mr. Walsh recuses himself from speaking or voting on matters that relate to the services of the SJTC, the St. John’s Transportation Committee at meetings of the IAC. And that Mr. Walsh recuses himself from speaking or voting on matters that relate to IAC’s accessible transportation positions or recommendations during meetings of the SJTC.”

Cllr Froude said he’d worked with Mr. Walsh and that he works with integrity and professionalism, and believes he will recuse himself when necessary.

The IAC recommends that the Accessibility & Inclusion facilitator act as a liaison between the IAC and the Pedestrian Signals Working Group, in order to ensure the jurisdictional scans and research of best practices is completed as part of the consultation with the IAC. As well, final recommendations will then be vetted through the IAC committee for input and recommendations.

Council signed off on the development of an Accessible Parking Working Group—reporting to the Inclusion Advisory Committee—to give advice and recommendations for improved accessible on-street parking in St. John’s.

The Accessible Parking Working Group will work to improve accessible parking and make recommendations on a public engagement process about accessible parking concerns of City regulated spaces, Cllr Hanlon explained. There will also be a public awareness and education campaign concerning accessible parking and accessible parking permits, which includes invisible disabilities.

(Source: City Agenda, 17 October 2022.)

The IAC recommends that the Accessibility & Inclusion facilitator act as a liaison between the IAC and the City’s department and committees in order to ensure the jurisdictional scans and research of best practices is completed as part of the consultation with the IAC. As well, final recommendations will then be vetted through the IAC committee for input and recommendations.

Tenders! Tenders! Tenders! (And Mardi Gras)

Coastline Specialties Ltd. – for $167,750.50 (HST included) – will be securing and installing playground equipment at Della Drive and Gould Recreation Complex.

The other bid came from EMCO ($182,703.95).

McLoughlan Supplies Ltd secured a $503,838 (HST Included) bid to supply and deliver ornamental lighting parts for the Downtown LED Lighting Retrofit. It will increase illumination, reduce light pollution, and be efficient LED technology.

The funding is from a Municipal Infrastructure Funding Agreement under the Investing In Canada Program.

George Street Mardi Gras got its road closure, noise by-law extension, and extension of alcohol sales on October 29.

Specifically, they’re getting a road closure on George Street from Adelaide Street to Water Street. The noise by-law extension and the extension of alcohol sales will go to 3 am.

City Ratifies Collective Agreement

The City of St. John’s and CUPE Local 1289 ratified the collective agreement for the period of July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2026.

The union ratified the agreement on October 11, so on Monday it was before Council for a ratification vote.

Cllr Ron Ellsworth said the tentative details are for a duration of four years, with wage increases at 2.75%; 2.5%; 2.25%, 3.5% per year, plus a $1,000 signing bonus.

This is meant to ensure pay equity and an appropriate wage differential is maintained between managers/supervisors and their direct reports, he said.

According to the agenda, the estimated cost of paying out the signing bonus is $300,000.

The Go Round

Cllr Carl Ridgeley wanted people in his ward to know that the playground equipment discussed in today’s meeting is separate from other plans already in motion to get more equipment, which means the playgrounds will be better.

He added last week they held a meeting about the damage caused by post-tropical storm Earl and he expects to hear back from the provincial government this week, and hopes the news will be good.

Finally, Cllr Ridgeley had a query: he said water retention is required in new developments so there isn’t an increase in runoff when land is developed. He wanted to know if there was a way for the City to retroactively put storm retention systems in existing troubled areas that don’t currently have it. He isn’t looking for an answer today, he said, but would like Staff to look at it for future improvements.

Cllr Froude wanted to remind people about sewer vapour testing that starts this week on and around Empire Avenue. This testing is done to determine what areas need work

Cllr Ravencroft built on comments she had made during last week’s Go Round about issues happening in the downtown core. She was also glad of the response those comments got, and at the end of the day the community has to come together. She reiterated that there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ when it comes to our community.

She added she met with residents of Balsam Street and was even welcomed into someone’s home for this discussion about issues their neighbourhood is facing, adding the people she met with were progressive and desire to help struggling folks. Discussion on these issues are ongoing.

She then brought up harm reduction strategies and the issue of hypodermic needles that are still being found around the City. She said there are 10 needle disposal sites in the City and if you find one, call 311 and describe the location you found the needle in.

Finally, she had a bit of show and tell, bringing along a Naloxone Kit. She said this can save lives for people who are undergoing an overdose and Naloxone, along with first aid, can keep people alive until they can reach a hospital. She said you can get these kids from SWAP for free as well as the pharmacy.

She said she has one at her home, even though she doesn’t use opioids, in case she sees something in the street or a neighbour needs it. She encouraged people to look into getting a kit.

Cllr Jill Bruce said she was pitching the Youth Engagement Forum one more time as it is taking place at City Hall tomorrow evening.

Cllr Hanlon said she had a good news story to share: because of the BlindSquare app, a couple were able to go on their first dates at the Pedestrian Mall.

Cllr Hickman said the Pump Track on the Boulevard is set to open tomorrow.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary ended the meeting by announcing the annual Pumpkin Walk. It will take place at Bannerman Park on November 1 from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm, and the first hour will be sensory friendly. You can also drop off your pumpkin starting at 8 am. Afterwards the pumpkins will be composted at Robin Hood Bay. If the weather is bad, the date moves to November 2.

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