What Odds at City Hall: 29 November 2021

Council signs off on another Christmas Parade, Hudson & Rex gets permission to make some noise, and the City tackles parking woes.

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Even though I’m on vacation in Canada’s seat of power, physical distance and a different timezone couldn’t keep me from reporting on the comings and goings at St. John’s City Hall.

First off, Mayor Danny Breen proclaimed November 26 as Economic Abuse Awareness Day— though that was a few days ago. Nevertheless, he pointed out this is something felt more deeply by women. This issue will also be delved into to a greater extent later on in the council meeting.

Council then approved an Accessory Building in the Commercial Neighbourhood Zone at 2 Hunt’s Lane.

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“An application was submitted to place a 36.6 m2 Accessory Building or modular trailer, at 2 Hunt’s Lane,” said Cllr Jamie Korab. “This application is being processed under the 1994 Development Regulations due to the submission date. The property is zoned (Commercial Neighbourhood), where an Accessory Building is neither a Permitted nor Discretionary Use.”

But he noted Council has the discretionary power to allow an Accessory Building related to an existing Use.

The Councillors also unanimously signed off an Discretionary Use application for 101-103 Long’s Hill, the longtime home of Long’s Convenience Store and more recently—but briefly—The Long’s Hill Café​​ & Bookshelf.

The owners are looking to turn the main floor’s unit from a commercial building into a one-bedroom Dwelling Unit, said Cllr Korab. The site is currently zoned Commercial Mixed Use, whereas a Dwelling Unit is a Discretionary Use. This site is within the Downtown Parking Area, so no parking is required.

Gilberto Manuyama and Stephanie Stoker only opened The Long’s Hill Café​​ & Bookshelf in 2019, their second location.

According to this real estate listing, the building is for sale and the asking price is $325,000. Their Georgestown Cafe and Bookshelf at 73 Hayward Avenue is still open but it’s also listed on the market for $360,000.

Moving on, a request for a 10 percent Variance on the Accessory Building Height at 4 Paddington Place was approved.

Cllr Korab explained the City received an application to build an Accessory Building on the property. However, residential accessory buildings can be a maximum of 5 metres height whereas the proposed height for this building is 5.43 metres, so it needed a 10 percent variance.

Council also signed off on its City of St. John’s Emergency Management Plan 2021. Mayor Breen opened it up for comments but no one spoke up, and the motion was unanimously carried.

According to the online agenda, under the Provincial Emergency Services Act the City is required to update its Emergency Management Plan and submit it to Fire and Emergency Services, Province of Newfoundland and Labrador every five years.

Tackling Gender-Based Violence

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said it’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, as well as 16 Days of Activism.

“So this resolution whereas November 25 is recognized as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and has launched 16 Days of Activism to urge action on the disproportionate and devastating social and economic impacts of gender-based violence on women and girls.”

She added the St. John’s Status of Women Council has released a report that showed “startling” statistics that indicated this province has higher rates of domestic violence than the national average.

So the City “supports the Province in the formation of an all-party, interdepartmental task force by writing all three-party leaders to work collaboratively to address judicial and educational reform regarding gender-based violence,” said Deputy Mayor O’Leary.

Another initiative the City supports is mandatory training for judges, lawyers, and police on the law of sexual assault and the psychological and neurobiological impacts of trauma (a recently passed federal bill requires training for new Supreme Court of N.L. judges, but this training is not mandatory for judges who are provincially appointed). The City also supports: forming a law setting out acceptable behaviour on how lawyers can interact with witnesses to prevent further trauma; expanding the ‘Journey Project’, a project offering legal support and navigation to individuals who have experienced sexual violence (a partnership between Public Legal Information Association of NL and the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre); and updating the curriculum in schools to include feminism and consent. 

Finally, the City also supports expanding the Domestic Violence Court to include all forms of gender-based violence.

“Currently, an intimate relationship must exist before the parties can access the court,” O’Leary explained. “This means that all date rape or stranger assault situations are not eligible. Child sexual assault, by someone known to the child, is not eligible.“

On a lighter note, the Shea Heights Christmas Parade also got a mark of approval from the council. The parade will happen on December 19 and run 1:00pm – 2:00pm, with an RNC escort.

“Carried unanimously, of course. Who would vote against Santa Claus?” opined Mayor Breen.

Cllr Korab asked for a deferral on the decision over an expropriation of an easement at the front of 133 Blackmarsh Road, which is for the installation of a pole and guy-wire as part of the development of the new Mews Centre.

He explained that he spoke with the homeowner a few hours ago, who’d been out of the province for the past few weeks so they wanted more time to look into this.

He added during the election he’d spoken with the homeowner and there were survey pegs on their land; long before they were notified of the intended work. So Cllr Korab wanted to know how the City notified residents that there’s something happening with their land?

A City Manager said he couldn’t say but will relay the question when Deputy City Manager of Planning, Engineering & Regulatory Services Jason Sinyard is back.

Although this easement question has to do with the new Mews Centre, Cllr Korab said this deferral won’t delay work.

Hudson & Rex is looking to make a little bit of noise during filming. Council has given the crew approval for noise by-law extensions for the filming early next month.

On December 5 they’ll be filming outside 12B, 13, and 15 First Avenue until 12:00 am. On December 6 they’ll be outside 10 Roche Street until 12:00 am. Finally, on December 7, the crew will be filming at 1 Dover Place and 18 Roche Street until 1:30 am.

Pay-By-Phone Coming to Water Street

Cllr Maggie Burton explained that when the Downtown Pedestrian Mall was set up, its pay stations were removed and deployed to other spots in the City to offset the loss of revenue from the street closure. These stations are now located on Cathedral Street, Church Street, Cavendish Square, and Duckworth Street.

“In addition, from Ayres Cove to Cochrane Street, there are timed parking sections on Water Street. Construction work and vandalism have impacted signage in some of these areas.”

“Council is being asked to consider doing pay-by-phone only in those areas right now,” she continued. “The gist of what’s happening is we’re going to be converting … Water Street to a pay-by-phone only system at this time. And that goes down to Cochrane Street and that will be a big change so we’re basically putting out the decision note now on the maps and we’re going to implement it after Christmas time. So in January I’d say this will be in place, but we don’t have the exact date.”

People will get a notice to give them a chance to get familiar with the new system and for businesses to communicate it with their patrons, Burton said, so it’s not changing overnight.

Cllr Ophelia Ravencroft said she had no problem with paying by phone per se, but wanted to voice concerns from the Water Street businesses and an issue for people who use cash. She said in her opinion, not enough work had been done with this plan to consider the people who don’t have credit cards, who can’t use phones, and who have access only to cash. There are also some businesses who predominantly deal with cash.

She said she wasn’t able to support this decision right now, though she cited the possibility of a reloaded card system that could be used on the pay stations.

It carried nine to one, with Cllr Ravencroft being true to her word—and Cllr Ian Froude absent.

Interim parking option for Churchill Square

Cllr Burton followed up with more parking issues, saying Churchill Square businesses approached the City to ask for some help. Not far away, Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador is back in session and there’s more parking in the square, and “turnover is very low for businesses that need parking spaces.”

The square has 377 spaces in total, which breaks down to 92 free and 285 timed parking spaces which are two and four hour maximums. About 29 of these spaces have been taken by construction for the new apartment building, she said.

“It is recommended that timed parking in Churchill Square be updated to create more turnover in parking spaces, which includes converting the two-hour parking near business at the square side to 1-hour and the 4-hour parking in the middle of the square to two hours.”

She added this is an interim measure to alleviate the pressure and concerns of the businesses.

The Go-Round

Cllr Carl Ridgeley started off, saying last Wednesday he was at St. Kevin’s High School for the cap and gown ceremony and said he wanted to wish the graduates success in the future.

Cllr Korab said: “There was a little curling game on last night. It’s one of the reasons why I’m drinking coffee here today; it was on late. All jokes aside, I just want to send a sincere congrats to Team Gushue.”

They’ll be at the Winter Olympics 2022 in Beijing, China.

Cllr Ravencroft said Monday was the second night of Hanukkah and thanked those who helped pull off the public menorah lighting at the Viking Building over the weekend.

Cllr Jill Bruce gave a hats off to those involved at last weekend’s Downtown Holiday Shop and Stroll—which ends December 11, so there’s still time left for the rest of us to get downtown and enjoy it.

Cllr Debbie Hanlon listed off a number of seniors’ events coming up. December 21 is a social and bingo at Kenmount Terrace, there’ll be a Christmas brunch at Lester’s Farm Chalet on December 9, and a Christmas lights tour on Dec 16 at various locations.

Cllr Ron Ellsworth congratulated all those in Sunday’s Santa Claus Parade organization.

He then said there’s no surprise they’re still getting complaints about the GoBus situation. He said he now realizes the issue isn’t just around the app or the phone, there are other issues in the GoBus system. He’s heard there was a person left waiting outside of The Big’s restaurant sometime after the establishment closed before she was picked up. He said there’s a disconnect in the system between the GoBus and MVT—the taxi company that provides the service—and that overall, nobody is taking ownership over the problems. He said that is something that needs to change now.

Cllr Sandy Hickman said starting December 1 through March 31, parking is prohibited 24 hours a day on designated streets that are marked with signs.

As well, he wanted to remind people come January 1 we need to use clear garbage bags, so remember to buy them!

Cllr Burton noted it’s almost the end of November—which she said with some disbelief. (To which I say: same here!) On December 2 from 7 – 8:30 pm there is a virtual public session for the Resilient St. John’s Community Climate Plan. Registration is required, which can take place through the City’s website, email (engage@stjohns.ca), or using the City’s engage page.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary touted the 20th annual Music and Lights Celebration, taking place December 2 – January 6, where people can visit Bowring Park to view the lights display. Due to the pandemic, there isn’t a public event to switch on the lights, though there will be a holiday audio show with festive songs by local musicians.

She also mentioned December 1 is Voices for World AIDS Day.

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