What Odds at City Hall: 18 April 2022

There’s debate over a proposed apartment building, the City updates their socials, & the Rennies River Flood Mitigation Project gets pushback.

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Instead of Mayor Danny Breen sitting at the ceremonial chair, it was Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary. She explained the Mayor is away and she’s chairing this regular council meeting.

She kicked off by proclaiming next week Volunteer Week, running from April 24 to 30.

She was joined by three representatives from the City Staff’s youth and volunteer service, provincial volunteer week representative and the provincial volunteer ambassador.

“The City of St. John’s recognizes the enormous contribution that volunteers and community organizations make to the social, cultural, and economic development of our province,” she read out the proclamation.

It’s also still Poetry Month and to mark the occasion, at the start of each regular meeting there would be a poetry reading. Last week was Matthew Hollett‘s time to shine, where he recited his poem “North Head Trail.”

City of St. John’s Poet Laureate Mary Dalton introduced this week’s poet, Alison Dyer. 

Dyer read a poem called “Lament for Groc. and Conf” which was published in her collection I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game.

“The old corner stores carried things in ones and twos. Individual, buy one at a time smokes you needed to get through the day,” she recited.

The City Hall chamber was pretty empty today. Besides Mayor Breen, Cllrs Ian Froude, Debbie Hanlon, Jamie Korab, and Ophelia Ravencroft were absent.

Council voted to approve a Crown land lease for 11.23 hectares of land off the Foxtrap Access Road in the area of Jillings Road, for the proposed agricultural use of growing foraging and root vegetables. But there are conditions.

The applicant knocked off 2.6 hectares of land from their lease application because of a wetland at the rear of the property. If the lease is awarded by the Province, the applicant has to submit a development application to the City showing that all of the proposed development is located outside the identified wetlands, waterways and buffers on the property, explained Cllr Carl Ridgeley.

Jillings Road. (Source: City Agenda, 18 April 2022.)

The property at 10 Main Road has been approved for a 9.99 percent variance on lot frontage so it can be subdivided into two lots. Parcel A will have a 8.66 percent variance for a frontage of 27.4 metres and parcel B will have a variance of 1.33 percent for a frontage of 29.6 metres, said Cllr Ridgeley.

Main Road. (Source: City Agenda, 18 April 2022.)

Fairview Investments Limited—directed by Alice Noftall, Barry Clarke and Geoffrey Clarke— got a discretionary use at 11 Cedar Hill Place.

The company’s application is for an apartment building with six dwelling units. Each unit is approximately 94 m² and on-site parking is provided. The area is in the Residential 2 zone, where an apartment building with a maximum of six dwelling units is a discretionary use, said Cllr Ridgeley.

The City received four letters speaking out against the proposed apartment building, citing a concern it would decrease in their property values. People also said they thought it was going to be a condo and not apartments. They were also worried about extra traffic, a loss of green space that people felt they paid a premium to get, and that the large building didn’t suit an area with single detached dwellings and semi-detached dwellings.

Cllr Sandy Hickman pointed out that according to the agenda, council approved this project in 2018 and wanted to know if this was the same project or slightly different.

A staff member said itt was the same 6 unit apartment building but it lapsed so a new application was needed.

Site of proposed apartment building at Cedar Hill Place. (Source: City Agenda, 18 April 2022.)

Updating City Socials Policy

Council then approved a revised social media policy and rescission of a current related policy which dates all the way back to 2010.

Cllr Ron Ellsworth said they’re basically updating their social media policies to reflect today’s usage and identify gaps.

Cllr Ridgeley said he agreed with the recommendation and added that because of how fast social media is changing, maybe they should look at the policy every 18 to 24 months. (The approved policy states it is to be reviewed every four years.)

They also approved another new policy—the New Replacement of Water and Sewer Service Lines for Residential Redevelopment Policy and Rescission of Related Policy.

“This is basically something that modernizes the rules for replacement when a significant project is undertaken on an existing home,” said Cllr Hickman.

It wont come into effect until June 1 in order to give people who might be impacted by the new policy time to review it. At that point the current policy will be rescinded.

He said this will clean the policy up, modernize it, and make the standards higher as well.

Bumpy Road to Development

Council is also asking staff to draft the terms of reference for a Land Use Report for 20 Georges Pond Road. The report will include the servicing studies needed to fully analyze how development should proceed. This will also be brought back to Council.

Nosegard Holdings Limited—directed by Brian R. Noseworthy—made a rezoning application for land at 20 George’s Pond Road.

Cllr Maggie Burton said they’re looking at rezoning a portion at 20 George’s Pond Road from rural to a mix of residential and commercial zoning. However, staff had already asked Council to reject that because it has limited municipal services and it’s an underdeveloped area with lands not intended to be settled for urban development within the next 10 years. Staff have also said the development will be very expensive for the developer.

It was Cllr Froude who asked that staff draft terms of reference for a Land Use Report.

The next steps are that Council receive the land use report from the applicant and then discuss it, she said.

“Basically this is a first step to contemplating the rezoning,” said Cllr Burton.

Cllr Hickman said the land is currently “nice hinterland” and is used by people for hiking, getting their Christmas trees and snowshoeing, but it is available for development. So he says they should let him have the chance to look into developing it, though it may cost him a bit.

“Let’s give him a chance to do that and come back,” he said,

George’s Pond Road. (Source: City Agenda, 18 April 2022.)

Anti-Racism Getting to Work

Council then approved the terms of reference and selection process for the Anti-Racism Working Group members.

The group will develop and implement a work plan that fosters anti-racism while promoting diversity and inclusion in the City. It will also provide solution-based recommendations to Council and City Staff.

It will have 11 members, headed by a chair, with a vice chair and members representing various organizations, like First Light/First Voice, the Anti-Racism Coalition of Newfoundland, and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

The group will also meet three to six times a year, said Cllr Ellsworth.

Cllr Burton also thanked Manager of Family & Leisure Services Natalie Godden for her work and all the other staff who helped out, as well as the Mayor. She added she’s heard from people in the last couple of years who were wondering when they were going to get going on their anti-racism commitments.

“I’m really happy to see it moving forward,” she said. “It’s an interesting mix of individuals and organizations that are on the list here.”

Deputy Mayor O’Leary also thanked the Anti-Racism co-chair Dr. Sulaimon Giwa, and said there is a need for literature and education on these matters. She also agreed with Cllr Bruton that it’s a fantastic selection of people and interesting dynamic.

Teaching Accessibility

The Inclusion Advisory Committee recommended that inclusion training and resources be made available to support all businesses to reach a broader, more diverse audience. 

It came out of discussions about improving the Pedestrian Mall.

According to the agenda, last year the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – NL worked with other groups to develop and present a virtual training session for downtown businesses that focused on ways businesses could make accessibility and inclusion improvements. However, the agenda noted turnout was low, so this year the program will be offered earlier in the year and can be taken as a virtual workshop or on-demand online.

The orientation will be through Downtown St. John’s and included in the parklet application, as well as on the St. John’s website.

Cllr Burton had two questions for staff. First, she wondered if there has been any outreach to community spaces, not just businesses. Her second question was if there had been any discussion at the Inclusion Committee about forming a small funding pool for grant applications for accessibility upgrades in the downtown.

Staff said the orientation is meant for a very broad audience so any business or organization would benefit from it.

Cllr Burton then responded, explaining that when the City identifies an area it wants to ask people to invest in, such as heritage, it’s great to have a small pot of money to show its support.

Cllr Ellsworth then commended the provincial government because it has funding for accessibility projects, particularly Minister John Abbott, and encouraged people to reach out to the province if they needed any funding for any of these initiatives.

“And Cllr Burton is right. It doesn’t matter if it’s heritage, accessibility, if we’re being champions for those causes, then we really need to put our money where our mouth is and back up our support for these organizations,” said Cllr Ellsworth.

He added this is something they should look at during the next budget process.

Fleet Tenders

Holder Tractors Inc. secured two contracts on Monday. The first work was a $250,124.58 (HST excluded) contract for a fleet replacement of a sidewalk plow and the second was a $726,352.54 (HST excluded) contract that’s part of the fleet regular replacement plan.

Saunders Equipment put in two bids for the fleet replacement tender but both were disqualified.

MacFarlands Industrial secured a $173,012.61 (HST excluded) contract for a fleet replacement of an aerial bucket truck.

The only other bid was from Altec Industries Ltd. for $199,898.75 (HST excluded).

Council then awarded a contract for a desktop review, assessment, and mapping updates to Pictometry Canada Corp. for $101,098.60 (plus HST).

Cllr Ellsworth said this was sole sourced because it’s proprietary.

Ennis Canada Paint ULC ($274,871) and Sherwin Williams ($55,965.20) secured the bid to establish a standing offer agreement for the supply and delivery of traffic paint on an as-and-when-required basis. Total value of the contract is $330,836.20.

The tenders for streets rehabilitation and grind and patch list are going to open soon.

Cllr Hickman said this is one of the most important annual programs the City has, “because everybody notices the streets.” Deputy Mayor O’Leary said people can go to the City’s website to see if their street is on this list.

The ANE Mile Road Race is leading to some road closures and lane restrictions. The following road closures will be in effect on May 15, from 7:45 am – 8:45 am (except to local traffic):

  • The Boulevard from Carnell Drive to Quidi Vidi Village Road (both directions)
  • Local access between Carnell Drive and the Start Line (Bandstand).
  • Local access between Quidi Vidi Village Road and the Finish Line (Bridge on Carnell Drive).  Legion Road, East White Hills Road, Pleasantville Ave
  • Lead barriers will be placed in advance of the barrier at the intersection with The Boulevard, so that drivers can be redirected or turn around in more convenient locations.  

The RNC will be around to implement the lane reductions and race marshals will be stationed on all barricades.

Map showing ANE Mile Road Race route and associated closures. (Source: City Agenda, 18 April 2022.)

Flood Mitigation Drags On

You can now check out the The “What We Heard” document for the Rennies River Flood Mitigation Project – Phase 2 (Portugal Cove Rd to Kings Bridge Rd) on the St. John’s Engage page.

The recent public engagement process had more than 66 people in attendance and Cllr Burton said they were a very passionate group.

A number of aspects were raised through the engagement process, like the need to look at the upstream issues first, as well as technical questions about drainage, catch basins, fish habitats, and habitat conservation. Another issue was funding and timing of the project, and its relationship to the Long Pond Flow Control project.

Cllr Burton said there is still the option for Council to do nothing in the face of flooding.

She said the next step—after sharing the document today—will be the report for environmental review. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change would then have about 45 days to review the report, and then 10 days to post a decision. That means in the next couple months, Council will see the next step.

Cllr Ellsworth remarked they seem to continue to go around in circles on this.

“The chance that the province is going to sign off on the Long Pond piece… that’s not going to happen,” he said. “That’s being passed back between Pippy Park and government, back and forth and back and forth.”

He added the people with homes downstream feel they shouldn’t be burdened with solving a problem they didn’t create. From what he’s gathered, these people aren’t interested in the proposed berming. He then wondered: at what point does Council step back and ask what are the other options they can look at?

Cllr Ellsworth also pointed out that if residents aren’t interested in the berm that will stop flooding into their properties, and the provincial government isn’t interested in what the City talked about around Long Pond, “then we’re kind of caught in between—like a chicken and egg situation here.” 

Council is also spending a lot of time and resources, as well as raising emotions in the community, that they won’t be able to solve, he observed.

At this point, Cllr Ellsworth said they’re just going around in circles without any real resolution in sight.

Cllr Hickman echoed the sentiment, saying he’s been there since the beginning, since those big hurricanes Igor and Gabrielle caused massive flooding and damage around Portugal Cove Road and devastated many areas.

“Cllr Ellsworth is 100% right. It’s been moved around. We’ve had different opinions from the same person,” said Cllr Hickman.

Council could do nothing, but he said after eleven years of this, he said he’d feel irresponsible if he didn’t try to protect people’s properties.

“But there are so many ways of looking at it,” Hickman said. “I’m not saying I’m ready to give up but I’m definitely frustrated with the whole thing as well.”

Deputy Mayor O’Leary also added—as the Pippy Park Commission representative—that Cllr Hickman is “absolutely correct. There is certainly reticence there to support the other weir project. We’ve gone through this dance for many years.”

She said one of the things the City has been really trying to tackle is mitigation of development upstream which impacts the downstream homes.

Ultimately, she argued this is about engagement with the community and thanked people who participated in the process. 

“There’s no doubt this is a very challenging situation but the bottom line is: how long do we continue to go down this road and try to find some solutions that are going to please everybody?” she asked. “And at what cost to the taxpayer overall?”

The Go Round

Cllr Burton said Heritage Grants are now open for submissions. The process closes May 1.

Cllr Jill Bruce had a question about what happens after someone puts in a complaint against a business to the City’s 311 line.

Deputy City Manager of Finance & Administration Derek Coffey said when a noise complaint is received by 311, it is forwarded to inspection services who then contact the property owner. If it’s necessary it will get further monitoring on a go forward basis if necessary.

Cllr Bruce then mentioned that community cleanups are getting underway and she’s orgazning two this May in her own Ward and encouraged others to do the same. They can also reach out to their Ward councillor or Clean St. John’s so that groups can get garbage bags provided as well as garbage pick up.

Cllr Ridgeley once again spoke about road work happening in the Goulds and said there will be delays and diversions, and asked that people be patient.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary said the City had the recent honour to host the Nigerian High Commissioner and the President of the Nigerian-Canadian Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. She also remarked on the recent passing of Paul Pope, who had a far reaching impact on the local film community.

Next Monday is St. George’s Day, so the regular council meeting will be on Tuesday—so see you then!

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