What Odds at City Hall: 23 August 2022

Small businesses get approval, NIMBYs write in to Council, and City Hall signs off on observing the National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
St. John's City Hall on New Gower Street.
St. John’s City Hall. Photo by Elizabeth Whitten.

So you might have noticed that this week’s city hall council meeting took place on Tuesday. Yup, on Monday morning I saw the tweet that the meeting had been pushed back a day—due, I suspect, the hockey-related revelry going on downtown. Anyway, we’re back now.

It was pretty empty today in the chambers too. Cllr Sandy Hickman was sitting in the mayor’s chair, explaining Mayor Danny Breen and the Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary were out, as well as Cllrs Ophelia Ravencroft and Debbie Hanlon.

Cllr Maggie Burton joined virtually.

Though there were a lot of items to get through, Council got through them in under an hour.

First up on the agenda, Council approved the reconstruction and expansion of a 15.7 m² accessory building at 2 Outer Battery Road. However there’s a condition: it can only extend away from the front property boundary, parallel to the street.

2 Outer Battery Road. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Child Care Coming To East End

A family home childcare got the okay to set up at 8 Riverside Drive East.

Cllr Korab said it will be owner-operated and can accommodate up to seven children. Its hours will be Monday to Friday, 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. On-street parking is available.

Six submissions were received, four against and two in favour. Those against raised the potential issue around noise, more traffic, reduced parking and potential property value impacts. The City’s traffic division looked at the traffic concerns and found no issues, said Cllr Korab.

One such person wrote in: “the increased traffic with parents dropping children off and picking them up will be an inconvenience. The increased noise by having a larger group of children in a backyard will be an annoyance.” What a delightful person. They also added: “having a business on [redacted] residential will devalue [redacted] properties.”

Another person opposed to it argue there were several retired people in the area and they’d like to enjoy their decks without the presence of kids yelling.

This person also raised the specter of devalued property and I’m sorry, this seems like fear mongering and pearl clutching. Is there any proof having children and daycares decrease home value?

One of the people who supported this venture pointed out it’s really hard to find childcare in St. John’s right now, and this service is very much needed. Also, I live just around the corner from this proposed business and I have no problem with it. The house values in this area are just fine—and high, thank you very much.

Anyway, Cllr Jill Bruce said that she was glad to see a daycare coming to the east end. And while she heard the concerns, she felt that City staff had addressed them and she’d be supporting this.

8 Riverside Drive. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Businesses In Bloom

93 Casey Street was previously slated as a barbershop but has got the go-ahead to become a floral design store after Council signed off on an application for a change in non-conforming use.

According to the agenda it will be open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, and open until 6 pm on special occasions like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas Eve. The applicant is also the sole employee.

93 Casey Street. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

A pet grooming business has gotten a discretionary use application approval to open at 118 Montague Street.

It will be operated by the owner, said Cllr Korab.

The agenda noted its hours of operation will be Monday to Saturday, from 8 am to 2 pm and Sunday 8 am to 12 pm. On-site parking is also provided. The business will see four to five animals per day, and the clients are scheduled so they don’t overlap.

Two submissions—one for and one against—were received by the City. And as usual, the person opposed brought out the typical concerns: noise, traffic, parking, adding it’s also not an appropriate business in a residential dwelling.

The person opposed wrote, in block letters: “I am a taxpayer and having a pet grooming business in a dwelling [redacted] is not right. Pet grooming business (sic) should be operated in a separate dwelling.”

118 Montague Street. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Council approved a 10 percent variance at 80 Grenfell Avenue to allow an accessory building height of 4.62 metres.

80 Grenfell Avenue. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Then the Council approved a Crown Land Grant for 400 hectares of land on Incinerator Road. 

The Provincial Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture referred this application to the City.

The applicant will have to submit a development application, and all waterways and wetlands on the property will need to be delineated.

The proposed use is for a laydown area and for washing and screening sand, which is a permitted use for land zoned Industrial General.

Cllr Ron Ellsworth voiced a concern about the sheer size of the parcel of land being leased and wanted to know more about the proposed use.

Deputy City Manager of Planning, Engineering & Regulatory Services Jason Sinyard said he didn’t have any additional information besides that the land will be used for laydown and it’s a permitted use in the area. Still, when the development application comes to the City, they’ll ensure it meets the requirements under the regulations.

Cllr Ellsworth said his concern wasn’t the use but the size of the crown grant, thinking that down the road when they have issues the water way protection being impacted by grants given out years ago.

“It could potentially cost the taxpayers millions of dollars to resolve,” he said.

He said he didn’t have enough information to support it and would vote against it.

Still, it carried six to one.

Incinerator Road. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Council also approved the Crown Land Grant for 0.4 hectares of land on Blackhead Road for the proposed residential use.

Blackhead Road. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Cafe and Climbing

A cafe has gotten the go-ahead to open at 314-316 LeMarchant Road.

It will be open seven days a week, from 7 am to 9 pm, with parking provided on-site. Cllr Korab said it’s basically a climbing gym with a cafe.

One letter regarding the application was submitted, writing: “though I am more than happy for the space to be reinvigorated by a new business, I do have one concern: parking.”

Cllr Korab said he has spoken with the proponent and thinks it’s an interesting idea. There’s also some revitalization going on in the area, which he said Cllr Ravencroft could speak to if she were here, as it’s in Ward Two.

316-318 Lemarchant Road. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Housing Coming to Janeway Place

Council approved the discretionary use application from the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation for two four-plex dwellings at 35 Janeway Place.

“I move because as most people know we are in a bit of a housing crisis now so this is a welcomed addition to the City,” said Cllr Korab.

Again, the one person who sent in a letter objected to the proposed development with concerns about the increase of vehicle and foot traffic to the area, as well as its potential impact on property values as well as privacy.

“I have contacted multiple real estate agents and an experienced appraiser and they’ve concluded that this new development would most certainly have a negative affect (sic) on [redacted] property value and that of [redacted] neighbors too.”

They then asked for more time to find out about what type of “tenants”—their use of quotations—could be moving in.

I’m proposing a new drinking game, every time someone mentions decreased property values I take a shot. (Of caffeine, that is.)

35 Janeway Place. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Hockey Celebration in Downtown

A little bit of time travel happened with this next item on the agenda, which was for road closures on Monday for the Stanley Cup Parade celebrating Alex Newhook.

But council members didn’t really talk about the road closures but how great Monday’s event was.

“It was amazing how many people were actually down there with the number of events that went on through the City,” said Cllr Ellsworth.

“I want to congratulate our staff. I know it’s an unusual event for them to take on but it was a seamless piece—”

Here he was briefly interrupted by Cllr Hickman looking for a seconder, which he got from Cllr Froude. Cllr Ellsworth then reiterated what a great job staff had done.

Cllr Korab also thanked the City staff as well, noting that it’s the NHL people who tell them when the Cup is coming, so they have to organize around them.

The agenda tells us that the parade was a joint venture between the City of St. John’s, Downtown St. John’s, and the George Street Association.

Stanley Cup Parade Route. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Council approved the Terms of Reference for the Emergency Continuity Management Advisory Group.

A staff member said this was an additional oversight committee, with the mayor and other executives will sit on this board. It will do things like plan exercises, make sure people on the team understand their roles, look at the best practices of other jurisdictions, and things like policy development.

You can read it in the agenda, starting on page 75.

First Light Plans Expansion

Council then signed off on the renovations and extension at 716 Water Street but with one exception: incorporating horizontal cladding at the front of the building continues around the sides of the building.

The building is owned by non-profit First Light and it contains the Shanawdithit Shelter, First Light offices, meeting space, and public programming space.

First Light wants to add 10 transitional housing units, along with programming and transitional spaces. The idea is for each unit to have its own small lounge and eating area, fully accessible washroom, bedroom and outdoor space. Another element is a new elevator that will connect the two buildings. They also want to do some exterior work, like new windows, roof and cladding.

716 Water Street. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)
(Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

New Rules for Land Use Reports

Council has voted to consider rezoning from the Rural Zone to the Residential 3, Apartment 2 and Commercial Mixed Use Zone at 20 George’s Pond Road.

There will also be a request that the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to consider an amendment to the St. John’s Urban Region Regional Plan to redesignate the proposed development area from the Rural designation to the Urban Development designation.

In addition, they approved a draft terms of reference for a Land Use Report. So when Council gets a satisfactory Land Use Report, Council will then refer the application to a public meeting chaired by an independent facilitator for public input and feedback.

Cllr Korab said the proponent has been working on this for a while and he’s happy to see it move forward.

George’s Pond Road. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Automating Pedestrian Signals

Up next, Council provides direction to staff to operate Pedestrian Signals on recall in the pedestrian core area and any expansion of pedestrian recall will be carried out by a working group formed with the Inclusion Advisory Committee. 

Clrl Burton said the current recommendation is that they have a pedestrian recall program, automatic crossing in the pedestrian core that includes around 30 intersections. They also have 21 accessible pedestrian signals in the City that need a button pressed to hear the signal. She said they’re looking at outside the pedestrian core recall will be based on vehicle-pedestrian volume, feedback from MetroBus, as well as looking to form a working group with the Inclusion Advisory Committee and the Sustainable and Active Mobility Advisory Committee.

They’re looking at switching 30 intersections back during the winter time because it’s difficult to access the button due to snow.

Cllr Bruce said she’s heard from a lot of seniors in her ward who were glad they didn’t have to push the button in the winter, adding it’s not just when the snow builds up. People were finding that when there was cold temperature, followed by the temperature warming up, only to get cold again, the button would freeze.

Cllr Froude said he’s glad they’re keeping the core pedestrian area so people don’t have to push the button and he’s also looking forward to the input from the Sustainable and Active Mobility Advisory Committee and Inclusion Advisory Committee on what they might consider outside this area.

“I think this is a balanced approach with the many, many demands on our transportation system. I think we’re getting to a point where it’s a middle ground that suits the system as a whole,” he concluded.

Map of the Pedestrian “Core”. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Council approved the Youth Engagement Working Group to get started on working on a youth forum for Fall 2022 and provide direction on whether they would like to see one or more in-person events and/or virtual events.

The Youth Engagement Action Team report to Council back in 2020 included a number of recommendations to get young people more actively engaged in civic matters, said Cllr Bruce.

“One of the recommendations in the Youth Engagement Strategy was to create more youth focused events such as youth forums, live youth events on social media, and to demonstrate the value of youth voices in decision making,” she said.

Tenders, Tenders, Tenders!

Infinity Construction Ltd, was awarded the contract valued at $202,652.50 to address trip hazards and other surface defects on St. John’s sidewalks at various locations in the City.

The contract is for 11 weeks.

The other two bids came from Pyramid Construction Ltd. ($314,105) and Modern Paving Ltd. (no value given).

Royal Lifesaving Society Canada – NL Branch Incorporated will be setting up a Learn to Swim program at the City’s public aquatic facilities, with a winning bid of $55,440 (exclusive of HST).

The contract is for three years, with the chance of five, one-year term extensions.

The other bid came from the Town of St. Stephen, with no value given.

Cllr Burton asked if this would allow more lesson slots at the rec centres but Deputy City Manager of Community Services Tanya Haywood said this was to replace the former lesson program that was previously offered by the Red Cross, who are getting out of that business.

“So we are seeking a new partner to offer swimming lessons. It will require that our staff now become recertified in this new program, which is currently in progress or will start very soon, I should say. It doesn’t mean we will be able to add new lessons,” said Haywood.

To do that she explained they’d need to have additional life guards: “we’re offering as part of this program additional lifeguard training courses to train new staff to become lifeguards.”

The City’s annual contract for snow clearing and ice control required for the City’s water treatment facilities and remote pumping stations has been awarded.

Siteworx Excavation and Development Ltd.—with a bid of $88,320 (HST included) for a two year period—will be handling the work.

The other bids came from JAT Excavating Inc. ($115,920), Gladneys Bus Ltd. ($213,503.25) and Parsons Paving Ltd. ($839,816.25).

Cllr Carl Ridgeley wanted to know why there were such discrepancies between the different bid amounts.

Deputy City Manager of Finance & Administration Derek Coffey said there’s time to time when there’s one or two bids that are “substantially different.”

“But we haven’t seen anything that results in a lack of service,” he explained. “But every now and again we see one that tends to be on the outside for some reason. We have no knowledge as to why.”

Bursey Excavating & Development Inc.—for $1,667,328.65 (HST included)—will be undertaking necessary replacement of an existing deteriorating culvert at the location where Gleneyre Street crosses the Virginia River.

A substantial bit of the work has to be done by November 18.

The other bids came from Modern Paving Limited ($1,997,719.63), Pyramid Construction Limited ($2,160,523.52), and Coady Construction & Excavating Limited ($2,400,809).

Deck the Halls

Nutri Lawn won the contract to supply, install and remove Christmas lights around the Duck Pond at Bowring Park for $131,077 (including HST).

The contract is for four years, plus the possibility of two one-year extensions.

The other bids were from Windco Enterprises Ltd. ($165,549.40), Top Notch Electrical ($181,700), Kelloway Construction Limited ($221,393.40) and Tri Star Excavating Inc. $402,702.40.

Mark Your Calendars

Council approved the road closures for some upcoming events: The Provincial Marathon, the Battle of Britain Parade, and the Terry Fox Run—all taking place on September 18.

The Provincial Marathon and the Uniformed Services Run starts at 7:00 am and finishes at 1:00 pm.

While this will have road closures, most closures will be in one direction only and will allow vehicles to move in the opposite direction. As well, local residences and businesses can still be accessed, but only from one direction.

The Battle of Britain parade’s first section includes a rolling closure and will travel from the CLB Armoury at 10:30 am and wrap up at the Anglican Cathedral on Church Street at 11:00 am. 

The second portion is also a rolling closure and will move from Church Street at 12:15 pm and finish at the War Memorial at 12:30 pm. There will be a short service, and then the parade will march west on Water Street and turn down Ayre’s Cove to finish.

Full road closures are requested on Water Street and Duckworth Street, from Cochrane Street to Prescott Street, from 11:30 am to 1:15 pm.

Battle of Britain Parade Route. (Source: City Agenda, 23 August 2022.)

Terry Fox Run is scheduled to take place around Quidi Vidi Lake and they’re requesting the closure of Clancey Drive from Carnell Drive to Lakeview Avenue from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. 

The agenda had this little detail: the City’s Special Events Regulatory Committee has asked that in future, the Provincial Marathon should find a date that doesn’t conflict with the established dates of the Battle of Britain Parade and the Terry Fox Run.

Council then voted to approve observing the National Truth and Reconciliation Day on September 30—following in the steps of the federal and provincial government. It also means City services will be suspended and municipal buildings and facilities will be closed on this day.

“In honor of residential school survivors, their families, and Indigenous communities, the City is planning education and awareness initiatives for City employees during the month of

September. Should Council decide that the City will be observing the September 30th holiday,” said Cllr Ellsworth.

Cllr Korab asked that if the province made it a statutory holiday would the City follow? A staff member said they’d have to check the language in the collective agreement, but it is his understanding that if the province does that, they will too.

Council agreed to consider a text amendment to the Envision St. John’s Development Regulations to add “restaurant” as a permitted use in the Commercial Highway Zone.

“When the Envision St. John’s Development Regulations were brought forward, the Restaurant land use was inadvertently left out of the zone table for the Commercial Highway Zone. It should be added in, as it is a long-standing permitted use in the zone,” said Cllr Froude.

Council approved an additional Capital Grant application for the Panda Bear Little University Inc.

They’re looking to provide an outdoor shade area for participants, and are installing a mini-split heat pump in their program space.

The money—$7883—will go towards completing renovations at their new day care site of St. John Bosco School. The total cost for the project is $15,776 and the group is currently fundraising to recover the remaining half.

The agenda also includes the detail that at the moment there’s $149,285 remaining in the Capital budget.

The Go Round

Cllr Burton had a question for staff regarding the work that needs to be done at the Carter Hill stairs, as she got a few questions about it over the weekend.

Mr. Sinyard explained the tender is almost ready to go out and the work will be done this fall.

Following up on comments made earlier by Cllr Ellsworth and Korab, Cllr Ridgeley also thanked City staff for its organizing efforts for Monday’s parade, as well as the accomplishment of Alex Newhook and his supporters.

Cllr Hickman ended it, noting last week he was at the Canada Games and went through four days of meetings. They took in all the information and it will be sent back to them too. 

He congratulated the medal winners on behalf of Council, and that their showing was outstanding.

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter.

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