What Odds at City Hall: 25 July 2022

A new restaurant is looking to come to the east end, so many tenders, getting down to recycling, and some recent Landlord Survey results.

A quick head count of who is present at the chambers today showed that all but Cllr Maggie Burton were there.

The first order of business was the By-Law amendment relating to the heritage designation of the George Street United Church.

Cllr Ophelia Ravencroft stepped up to move this motion up, as Cllr Burton was absent.

Back on July 12—the last time council met on its summer schedule—Cllr Burton announced she would make a motion to remove the Heritage Building designation on the annex portion of George Street United Church at 25 Buchanan Street and 130 George Street West.

Cllr Ron Ellsworth announced he’d be abstaining from voting on this in anticipation one of his clients may be involved with this.

Dining Above

Someone is looking to open a restaurant and lounge at 300 Torbay Road.

It will be located on the second level of the building and its hours of operation will be seven days a week, from noon to midnight. Parking is provided on-site, said Cllr Jamie Korab

Two submissions were sent to the City, raising concerns about how close it is to nearby residences, noise, traffic and parking, as well as litter and some (potentially) bad behaviour by patrons and loiterers, he added.

One person wrote:

The fact that this will be a Lounge as well as a restaurant leads one to believe there will probably be loud music and other things usually associated with a Lounge. This proposed Lounge will be located very close to an area that is mostly occupied by Senior Citizens and an increase in noise and traffic certainly would not be appreciated. With the number of Restaurants and Businesses located in this area we feel it is not necessary to add an additional restaurant & lounge. Also there was no mention of what is proposed for the first floor of this building.

The building was most recently a car dealership but many years ago it was Hong’s Take Out, which is a neat little fact. I’ll also point out there was plenty of traffic to that spot in its previous uses.

Another person wrote in about the litter that’s gathered in the lot of the building, and argued it would only increase with another restaurant.

They also raised the issue of drunk and disorderly behaviour:

With a lounge comes the real possibility that people will drink to excess. Presently I have noticed an uptick in vandalism and criminal behaviour. We have had incidents of people breaking in, or attempting to break into cars, homes, and sheds. There are properties that have been spray painted and people have had their cars keyed, tires slashed. There is also the possibility of drunken people being very loud and belligerent.

They also raised the issue that the parking lot might not be big enough for the restaurant and lead to customers parking on the road, taking away from residents.

Again, this used to be a car lot. I think it’s big enough.

Anyway, when it came to voting, it passed unanimously.

Cllr Jill Bruce said she got a call from someone with concerns about this business—which she said might have been someone who wrote in about it. She also spoke with the person who is proposing this business.

Cllr Bruce also gave a few additional details about the business: there is no business proposed for the ground floor, and it will be a mirror of an existing restaurant the proponent already operates.

It will seat 15 to 20 people and there will also be no live music and all music will come from televisions. There is also a buffer between the residences and the buildings and plenty of parking. So she was reassured about this proposal.

300 Torbay Road. Photo: Elizabeth Whitten.

Tenders Ahoy

WLH Contracting Limited secured a bid valued at $249,918.75 (HST included) to undertake the necessary retaining wall rehabilitation works at the following locations: Duckworth Street and Holloway Street, Duckworth Street adjacent Trapper John’s, and 42 Henry Street to the corner of Duckworth Street.

The contract is for six months, said Cllr Sandy Hickman.

The other three bids came from Infinity Construction ($270,498.97), Carew Services Ltd. ($304,813.82), and Weirs Construction Limited ($324,242.50).

Cllr Ravencroft chimed in to say she was happy to see this work going forward, as she lived in the area and was aware of some of the work that needed to be done.

Council then approved accessing funding from the Regional Water Equipment Replacement Reserve Fund in order to buy a replacement Southlands Pump for $93,550.00 (HST Extra).

Recycling Woes

Council is considering and providing direction on strategies the City could potentially adopt to secure blue bag recycling placed at the curb on collection days.

Cllr Sandy Hickman said there have been complaints about wind blowing the bags around. He said staff have put a few thoughts together on this and some potential ideas like an annual fee to households to support and maintain programs such as provision of recycling carts or nets. 

Another idea was to allow households to purchase carts or nets through the City directly at a reduced cost. They could also partner with retailers to provide households access to carts or nets at a reduced cost from the retailer directly, he said.

There are pros and cons to these suggestions, he added.

“All of the ‘hybrid’ approaches presented have significant drawbacks specifically in program controls. Given the current budget situation, staff recommend utilizing some of the communication tools already in use by the city to support curbside collection,” said Cllr Hickman.

“Additionally, households are becoming more used to recycling. Staff can monitor collection activities and assess whether these measures alone may reduce situations where blue bags move on windy days,” he concluded.

However, Deputy Mayor Sheilaigh O’Leary said she would not be supporting it today, though she respects staff suggestions. She thinks there are certain areas that need specific consideration, like the downtown core that can’t accommodate a bin like they’ve done with garbage containers. She prefers a systematic approach from the city, not one left in the hands of the private market.

Cllr Bruce said she was okay with giving this a year and seeing what comes out of it.

Cllr Ravencroft said she had two minds on it, as she has no problem with the communication aspect of the plan, as they should use all the tools in their arsenal. But she had an issue over the storage of recycling, as it’s something she’s heard a lot from her constituents about. And she said the City has to do what it can to enable people to participate in these programs.

With a lot of environmental issues, it gets devolved into a personal responsibility—but we need to make sure people are helping divert waste from the landfill and set up infrastructure so they can do it effectively, she said.

“And I struggle with the idea we’re going to say ‘okay well we’re demanding that you do this. There could be fines in it for you if you don’t but we’re not going to give you anything to make it easier,’” said Cllr Ravencroft.

She wouldn’t mind any of the three options they suggested, and she’s fine giving this a year, but she wouldn’t be supporting it today.

Cllr Korab said he would support it, at least for a year.

Cllr Ellsworth said he understood this is not a one-size-fits-all situation, adding he heard the concerns of Cllr Ravencroft, as downtown doesn’t have much space for storing recycling. But he also said there’s a lot of personal responsibility here for property owners.

Mayor Breen said he’d be supporting this recommendation, adding when the CIty brought in automatic garbage collection and bought 40,000 containers there had to be returns on it. And he said they’ve seen returns in Occupational Health and Safety improvements for staff. There’s also been an impact on keeping the City clean and they’ve gotten rid of blankets and nets that were used to cover garbage.

“I really don’t want to go back to nets and things like that. I think it caused a lot of excess clutter and caused a lot of other equipment problems too, especially in winter when they were being used,” Breen said.

He also agreed with Cllr Ellsworth on the issue of personal responsibility as well as preference.

Adventures in Residential Re-Zoning

Council has decided to consider a rezoning from the Residential 1 Zone to the Residential 2 Cluster Zone at 188 New Pennywell Road, and approved the draft terms of reference for a Land Use Report.

After receiving a satisfactory Land Use Report, Council will refer the application to a public meeting chaired by an independent facilitator for public input and feedback.

This stems from an application from Nidus Development Inc.—directed by Gregory Hanley—who wants to rezone property at 188 New Pennywell Road in order for a townhouse cluster development. The company is proposing four townhouse buildings for a total of between 40 and 52 units, said Cllr Ian Froude.

188 New Pennywell Road. (Source: City Agenda, 25 July 2022.)

Council also voted to consider a rezoning to allow two apartment buildings at 4 Merrymeeting Road—one is the heritage building-designated Mount St. Francis Monastery property. The City has gotten two applications from Brookfield Plains Inc. for two apartment buildings that would make up 22 dwelling units.

Quick note: Brookfield Plains Ltd. recently changed its name to Emerald Atlantic Group Inc. and is directed by James Murray and Madonna Hunt.

It’s currently in the Institutional District and Zone, Heritage Area 1, of the St. John’s Ecclesiastical District—and moreover, the Mount St. Francis Monastery is designated as a heritage building by both the City and Province. The developer would want it rezoned to the Apartment 1 Zone.

The company would like to renovate the building for six residential units and build a second four-storey apartment building.

This land came up at the March 28 council meeting, where Council approved the land swap between the City and the property owners so they could develop it better.

Mayor Breen said it’s a great reuse of that historical building “and it also speaks to the fact that when you’re repurposing these buildings, it has to make economic sense to do so. And that’s why the additional project on the side is important. Because without that the ability to preserve the Mount St Francis building would certainly be limited, I think.”

4 Merrymeeting Road. (Source: City Agenda, 25 July 2022.)
Mount St. Francis Monastery. (Source: City Agenda, 25 July 2022.)
Artist’s conception of proposed development at 4 Merrymeeting Road from different vantage points. (Source: City Agenda, 25 July 2022.)

Council agreed to consider a text amendment to revise Section 3 of the Residential Reduced Lot Zone to allow consideration of driveways wider than 3.6 metres, subject to a snow storage plan. As well, they’ll advertise the text amendment for public comment. 

This stems from a previous application to rezone land at 670 Kenmount Road from the Residential 2 Zone to the Residential Reduced Lot Zone for a 60-lot residential development of single detached dwellings.

And Now More Tenders

Chudworth Manor Holdings got the contract—valued at $28,968.50 per year (HST included)—for alarm monitoring services to protect City assets as well as the safety of staff and the public.

The value is for one year of services but the contract is for two years, with the possibility of two one-year extensions.

Strongco got the contract to supply and deliver two new rock trucks for Robin Hood Bay $1,827,810 (HST included). This contract had previously been awarded to Wajax Equipment, but has since been disqualified. At that time it was also the sole bidder.

This time around there were other bidders: SMS Equipment Inc ($1,829,982.12), Toromont Industries Limited (that came with two bids for $1,850,791.14  and $1,853,202), and Brandt Tractor Ltd. ($2,115,706.98).

James R. Eales Equipment Rentals Ltd.—for $223,100 for a two year period (HST included)—will be snow clearing and doing ice control at the Bay Bulls Big Pond Water Treatment Plant and Pump Stations at Ruby Line, Galway, and Kenmount.

The other bid came from JAT Excavating Inc ($322,000).

WLH Contracting Limited got the bid valued at $322,680.80 (HST included) for the fabrication and installation of wayfinding and signage program.

The project completion date is October 31—spooky! I also appreciate any reminder that one day this heat wave will pass and it will be Halloween.

The other bids—coming from Pyramid Construction Limited, Infinity Construction and Dexter Construction Company Limited—were all disqualified.

And for $2,610,720 (plus HST), SMS Equipment Inc will supply and deliver two new landfill compactors. The contract is for four years. The other bids were from Saunders Equipment and Toromont Industries Limited but no value was mentioned in the agenda.

City Sells Land

Council signed off on the sale of City land at 30 Penetanguishene Road.

The owner of the neighbouring property at 28 Penetanguishene Road reached out to the City about buying the parcel of land adjacent to it. The purchase price is $8.50 per square foot plus HST and administrative fees, which takes into account the property is in Zone R1. The buyer will also have to provide a survey with the exact square footage. The owner will also have to consolidate this land with his existing property, said Cllr Bruce.

30 Penetanguishene Road. (Source: City Agenda, 25 July 2022.)

Sizzling Summer Events

Cllr Debbie Hanlon started off by saying updates on the Tely 10 and Pride Parade are coming soon as they’re working with the organizers—they were both postponed due the heat this past weekend.

Council then approved the road closures and lane reductions for some upcoming events.

The George Street Festival is happening July 28 – August 3 and the George Street Association is asking that Duckworth Street, eastbound, from New Gower Street to Bates Hill be closed 6:00 pm – 3:00 am. There will be security at barricades.

George Street Fest closures. (Source: City Agenda, 25 July 2022.)

The Royal St. John’s Regatta is from August 3 – 4 so they’re asking for the day before the regatta has some road closures. On Tuesday, from 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm (with times subject to change based on the level of pedestrian activity) Carnell Drive, Lakeview Avenue, Lake Avenue, and Clancey Drive will be closed.

Regatta Eve closures. (Source: City Agenda, 25 July 2022.)

Then on the big day, from 7:00 am to 30 minutes after the last race—or until the level of pedestrian activity allows safe vehicular access—these roads will be closed:

  • Carnell Drive 
  • Circular Road – Bannerman Street to Empire Avenue
  • Clancey Drive
  • Empire Avenue – Rennies Mill Road to Forest Road
  • Forest Road
  • Kennas Hill
  • King’s Bridge Road
  • Lake Avenue
  • Quidi Vidi Village Road
  • Legion Road
  • Pleasantville Avenue – Taylor Place to The Boulevard
  • The Boulevard (access to the Legion will be permitted via East White Hills Road only)
  • Winter Avenue
  • New Cove Road – Bristol Street to Kings Bridge Road

If the weather is bad, the event is moved to the next day.

The St. John’s Triathlon is on August 7, from 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. The road closures and rolling lane reductions are:

  • Bennett’s Road – road closure from 7:30 am – 12:30 pm (not City jurisdiction)
  • Old Broad Cove Road – lane reduction (not City jurisdiction)
  • Portugal Cove Road – lane reduction
  • Outer Ring Road – lane reduction (not City jurisdiction)
  • Thorburn Road – lane reduction
St. John’s Triathlon closures. (Source: City Agenda, 25 July 2022.)

Bonaventure Community Garden Plows Ahead

Council agreed to adopt St. John’s Development Regulations Number 13, 2022, to add accessory building as permitted use in the Commercial Downtown Zone, Commercial Downtown Mixed Zone, Commercial Downtown Mixed 2 Zone, Industrial Special Zone, and as a discretionary use in the Open Space Zone.

This stems from the plan to build two accessory buildings at 65 Bonaventure Avenue—which is the green space between Holy Heart and Brother Rice—to be used by the community garden.

This proposal came up at the June 20 council meeting, when it was agreed that Council would advertise the discretionary use of two accessory buildings at 65 Bonaventure Avenue.

No submissions were received by the City.

The next step is for the documents to head to the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs for registration. There is no Municipal Plan amendment needed, so no commissioner’s public hearing is required, said Cllr Froude.

Proposed community garden site on Bonaventure Avenue. (Source: City Agenda, 20 June 2022.)

City Reports Budget Surplus

Council voted to adopt the Executive Summary Report on Revenues and Expenditures for the year ended December 31, 2021.

“The Audited Financial Statements are prepared using accrual based accounting, whereas the Executive Summary Report, while still based on audited information, is presented using cash-based accounting,” said Cllr Ellsworth.

“It is also worth noting, the budget presented in the Executive Summary Report is the City’s adjusted budget,” he explained. “The adjusted budget is the original approved budget, adjusted to reflect transfers and changes that occur throughout the year for items not known at the time the budget is approved.”

Cllr Ellsworth said they have an operating surplus of $3,940,658. “So at the end of ‘21 fiscal we have $21,334,949 cash surplus. So in summary, the City reports an operating cash surplus of $3,940,658, which equates to 1.16 (percent) variance in the budget.”

Mayor Breen said they have a healthy surplus moving forward that can be used to pay down debt and increase capital, as well as give the City further flexibility in that regard.

Landlord Survey Results

Next up was an information note on the What We Heard document through the 2022 Landlord Survey—which was announced back on May 9. The survey closed June 3.

They received 249 responses, which Cllr Ravencroft called significant.

But according to the agenda only three of 249 respondents had accessible units.

Most of the St. John’s landlords operate on a smaller scale of 1 to 5 units, and most are basement apartments and single detached homes, she said.

“This survey was one prong of a multi-pronged approach and I think ultimately, given that landlords are at the moment responsible for providing a great deal of housing in St. John’s, this is a necessary approach,” said Cllr Ravencroft.

“I’m happy that we did this,” she said. “I’m glad that we were able to identify some patterns or issues that might be cropping up here. And that we can hopefully use the information included in this to combat some of the biases and stigma that we face and to try and increase accessibility and affordability and create a better housing market for the future.”

These findings will be presented to the Affordable Housing Working Group.

If you go on the agenda you can flip through the findings, starting on page 162. I found page 183 interesting, where 53 percent of survey participants said they weren’t interested in providing affordable rentals. Many listed “Lack of security regarding recouping costs of missed rent payments, damages, etc” as barriers to offering affordable rentals.

Another reason given was the use of multiple rent payments for tenants who are low income, like those who use Income Support and NL Housing.

When it came to ideas that would make landlords more open to affordable rentals, the most popular answers they were interested in were a landlord mitigation fund to help with recouping lost rent and damage expenses, as well as tax exemptions and top ups.

At the bottom—which got a number of votes and made me laugh—was the idea of some public recognition for landlords like “Friendly or Ethical Landlord Awards”

The Go Round

Mayor Breen started things off with a number of reminders. First, he said there is now a ban on outdoor fires. The ban will be monitored, and it can be relaxed or lifted.

In addition, last week a reminder was issued about the water conservation order and he asked the public to check the City’s website to find out when you can water your lawn.

He said the last few days have been quite hot and the emergency preparedness team is monitoring the issue. There has been some discussion on cooling centres too and he said if necessary, staff will put a plan in place and will act if need be.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary had a question for Deputy City Manager Planning, Engineering and Regulatory Services Jason Sinyard on the Livingstone Street stairs that are cordoned off and need repair work.

This issue was originally brought up on June 28.

Mr. Sinyard said the work will go out to tender in the first week of August and construction will probably start in early September.

She also said tomorrow is exciting because the St. John’s Public Library board is launching its mobile library. The event is happening at 11 am at Bannerman Park—rain or shine, she said.

The City’s fall registration for recreation events will open August 11 at 7 am (and August 16 at 7 am for residents of other municipalities). She said it’s good for people to be aware of the opening dates so they can register as soon as possible.

She also floated the idea of the City communicating with the public where they can and cannot go swimming in public, pointing out we have plenty of ponds and rivers but it’d be best if they didn’t take a dip in our drinking reservoirs.

Cllr Hickman said that effective tonight, public washrooms will be closing at 8 pm due to ongoing vandalism.

Cllr Hanlon brought up an announcement that came out early this month to tell people who get the 2022 senior citizens tax reduction program that the discount will be automatically extended to 2023.

Cllr Hanlon also wanted to thank the City clerks. When they used to do decision notes they’d get the direction note from staff with key considerations and implications. Now the issues of accessibility and inclusion are one of the things they see on the form for any kind of development.

Cllr Bruce brought up trail etiquette on shared trails, adding that she’s gotten emails regarding dogs not on leashes, as well as seeing it herself. She asked people to “please, please” keep their dogs on leashes.

In addition, she asked people cycling on these trails to also give people a heads up they’re coming by, like with a bell or calling out, as runners do.

She also wished Cllr Ravencroft a Happy Birthday.

Mayor Breen added he is a dog owner and said even if your dog is well behaved, some people are afraid of dogs, so please keep dogs on a leash.

Cllr Ravencroft said she’s turning 30 and “I’m sure I’ll be far more conservative now.” (To which Mayor Breen wheedled that Cllr Hickman has shirts older than that.)

First off, she thanked members of the community who celebrated Pride last weeks at the various events, especially in light of what she described as “homophobic weather.”

“This is not ideal for drag queens, people with spectacular clothes, people who wear too much makeup, goths—but that’s obvious.”

She also thanked Cllr Hanlon for mentioning earlier that they’re in discussions for rescheduling the Pride Parade.

“Because the parade hasn’t happened it means Pride isn’t over so the next few weeks we’ve all got to be extra spectacular to compensate.”

Cllr Korab was the final person to speak, bringing up the Seniors in the Park event that happened on Wednesday in Bowring Park—which had resumed after a two year hiatus. He saw a number of his colleagues there as well.

He also potentially put his foot in his mouth when he alluded to his fellow Councillors being seniors, but, he amended, they do get discounts.

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