What Odds at City Hall: 3 October 2022

Council signed on a letter supporting Guaranteed Basic Income—but it was the controversial Parish Lane Development that dominated the meeting.
St. John's City Hall on New Gower Street.
St. John’s City Hall. Photo by Elizabeth Whitten.

It was a (nearly) full house at City Hall this afternoon, with only Cllr Ian Froude absent.

To start things off, there were a few proclamations made today by Mayor Danny Breen: National Seniors Day and United Nations International Day of Older Persons. Mayor Breen also said that the City of St. John’s was successful in its bid to become a member of the World Health’s global network of age-friendly cities.

This week was also dubbed Seniors’ Week.

Next week is Fire Prevention Week October, and the whole month is Circular Economy Month.

And Guaranteed Basic Income—which has been deferred for the last two weeks—was once again before Council. This time, they voted to write a letter supporting this with what Cllr Jamie Korab called a “friendly amendment” to clarify the language further.

He read out: “therefore it be resolved that the City of St. John’s write a letter to the prime minister of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Parliament, Newfoundland and Labrador Senators and the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador confirming Council’s  support for the concept of Guaranteed Liveable Basic Income. Furthermore we call upon the province to establish the all-party committee, as approved in November, 2021, to thoroughly review the concept of Guaranteed Livable Basic Income.”

They first voted on an amendment, which passed with Cllr Ophelia Ravencroft being the dissenting vote. Then they voted unanimously on a resolution to pass the amendment.

Council approved the Discretionary Use application at 147 LeMarchant Road to allow an Apartment Building with five Dwelling Units. 

The building already has four residential units and one commercial unit.

147 Lemarchant Road. (Source: City Agenda, 3 October 2022.)

Tender Talks

Council awarded a contract to Saunders Equipment—for $962,665 (HST included)—as part of the City’s regular fleet replacement.

The delivery date is by November 2023, said Cllr Sandy Hickman.

Capital Ready Mix—a division of Newcrete Investments Limited Partnership—secured a contract valued at $1,181,078.03 (HST included) to produce rock cover material on site to be used for covering of waste at Robin Hood Bay.

The work is to be done by January 2023, said Hickman, “so about four months.”

The other bidders were Weirs Construction Limited ($1,426,000), Farrell’s Excavating Ltd. ($1,463,145) and Modern Paving Limited ($3,093,500).

Kemira Water Solutions Canada Inc. got the contract to supply and deliver water treatment chemicals essential to operations at the Bay Bulls Big Pond (BBBP) and Petty Harbour Long Pond Water Treatment Plants. The work is valued at $652,902.50 (HST included).

The contract is for one year, plus the possibility of two one-year extensions, said Cllr Hickman. The other bid was from Camin Cargo Control Canada ($904,580).

Off to the Races

Council signed off on the road closures for the CLB Anniversary Parade on October 16 and the Cape to Cabot Road Race on October 23. 

The CLB Anniversary Parade will start at the CLB Armory on Harvey Roadd at 1:30pm, go down Long’s Hill, turn left onto Queen’s Road, onto Church Hill to enter the Anglican Cathedral. After a church service, the parade will reform in Veteran’s Square and head north on Church Hill to Queen’s Road, east on Queen’s Road to Rawlins Cross. Then they will turn left onto Military Road, to Harvey Road returning to the CLB Armory.

CLB Anniversary Parade Route. (Source: City Agenda, 3 October 2022.)

The Cape to Cabot Road Race will take place on October 23 from 8:00 am to 11:00 am. The following roads will be closed:

Blackhead Road – Warford Road to Cape Spear
Closed Both Directions 7:45 am – 10:00 am

Blackhead Road – Warford Road to Linegar Avenue (lower intersection)
Northbound Lane (downhill)
Closed 8:30 am – 10:00 am

Southside Road – Leslie Street to 245 Southside Road
Single Lane Traffic (Running Lanes on both sides marked with cones. Traffic controlled by marshals at both ends, with radios.)
8:45 am – 10:15 am

Water Street West – Leslie Street to Harbour Drive
Curb Lane Eastbound Closed Marked with Cones
8:45 am – 10:30 am

Exit Ramp – Pitts Memorial to Water Street West
Closed 8:45 am – 10:30 am

Harbour Drive – Water Street to Prescott Street
Eastbound Lane Closed
9:00 am – 10:45 am

Water Street East – Prescott Street to Hill o’Chips
Eastbound Lane Closed
9:00 am – 10:45 am

Water Street East – Hill o’Chips to Temperance Street
Eastbound Lane Closed
9:00 am – 11:00 am

Duckworth Street – Plymouth Road to Temperance Street
Eastbound Lane Closed (except to local residents of Duckworth St) 9:00 am – 11:00 am 

Temperance Street
Both Directions Closed 9:00 am – 11:00 am

Signal Hill Road – Battery Road to Cabot Avenue
Eastbound Lane (Uphill) Closed; Westbound Lane (Downhill) Closed from St. Joseph’s Ln to Battery Rd
9:00 am – 11:00 am

Access to Battery and Signal Hill Area
Local residents may access/leave Battery Rd via Quidi Vidi Rd. Residents below St. Joseph’s Lane on Signal Hill Rd may access Quidi Vidi Rd by descending Signal Hill Rd, all other descending traffic to exit via St. Joseph’s Lane. Local resident access to area controlled at Plymouth Rd and Quidi Vidi Rd.
9:00 am – 11:00 am

Parish Lane Development Inches Closer to Construction

And what all of us—or at least I—have been waiting for: 68 Queen’s Road was back before Council and Commissionaire Chantelle MacDonald Newhook’s report has been made public, which you can read here on the online agenda. It starts on page 78.

Back in July there were two public hearings on this proposed condo development and you can catch up with The Independents’ coverage here and here.

“This is a culmination of many, many years’ work and at least five City-run public meetings and hearings,” said Cllr Maggie Burton. “Since this project was first proposed I‘ve had two pregnancies, bought a new house, and ran for Council a second time.”

She said she wanted to emphasize that developments don’t typically take this long and when there’s a request for a rezoning or amendment, there’s a process to get an answer sooner than this. So she thanked the public and the proponent for their patience.

She added this is a sensitive site and deserved to have its due process, though she believes that due process has concluded and now it needs a decision.

The Commissionaire’s report has four recommendations to Council. The first one was that Council reconsider its direction given at its February 9, 2021 meeting that Staff prepare a site-specific zone for the upper portion of the property, using an adopted site plan instead to control the development of the proposed Apartment Building.

To that, City Staff replied, read by Cllr Burton: “Our direction to use a site-specific amendment at 68 Queen’s is to ensure that the proposed development is limited to exactly what’s proposed and cannot be built any taller or larger, even if the ground conditions are different from what is expected.”

“The Newfoundland and Labrador planning system does not enable Council to sign a development agreement with a developer that sets a specific site plan in place, so that’s where things the Commissionaire may have overlooked,” she said, explaining that the City uses a site specific amendment that achieves the same certainty in a different way.

The second point from the Commissionaire’s report was that they should apply the federal Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada to the proposed development because it’s in the St. John’s Ecclesiastical District National Historic Site.

Again, City Staff had a comment on that note as well: “When the Ecclesiastical District was put in place, the federal government recommended that we adopt the Standards and Guidelines but didn’t require it. Council has committed to examining the document further to see if it could be adopted and implemented here. But that document was not adopted by Council on the date that the application submitted their redevelopment proposal. So it is not fair, staff contend, to apply a document retroactively to an application, unless the applicant was agreeable to do so.”

Cllr Burton said she really agreed with that point, and said they treat every developer the same. So if they come to the City and the regulations say one thing, but the next week they decide to change that regulation and the entire project could have to change “that would not be a fair or appreciated process for the City to go through.”

Moving on, Cllr Burton brought up the third point in the report: that they direct Staff to assess the development application under the City of St. John’s Heritage Design Standards within the City’s Heritage By-Law. This would include requiring a Heritage Report to inform the scale and design of the proposed development by a nationally certified Heritage Conservation Specialist. The report would also have to meet the conditions set out in Section 5 of the By-law ensuring that the Development and the variance does not impact the heritage value of adjacent properties.

Again, Cllr Burton said staff pointed out: “The long-standing practice of the City is to apply standards that were in legal effect on the date of the application for rezoning or for development. So as I already stated, this is done in fairness to applicants whose projects may not be viable if standards change while an application is being reviewed.”

“To retroactively apply our new By-Law to the proposed rezoning, or to retroactively use the Standards and Guidelines is unfair,” Burton explained. “If the previous standards were so egregious as to pose a threat to public safety or to sound planning. But the previous standards were in place for many years with no threat to public safety or sound planning. And there’s nothing about the site itself that proposes a danger.”

The Commissionaire’s final point was that Council (if they do consider the proposed development) require a fresh Land Use Report for the development application and rescind the one which was already adopted by Council—or, alternately, require updated supporting documents from the developer to answer any questions or concerns arising from applying the City’s new heritage framework.

While Cllr Burton said she didn’t think this was the “world’s most perfect development application of all time,” she does think adding more housing units to the downtown is a good thing.

Many Councillors took the time to speak and explain their support for this development, highlighting the same issues as this has been before Council for many years—and rebuking the idea that they should retroactively apply a new standard to a proposed development.

Cllr Ravencroft started off her comment with a heavy sigh and that she’s been tearing her hair out over this proposed condo development for a year. She added she recognizes this is a very complicated position and a lot of good and bad in this. While she’d supported moving this development along on Council, she was also waiting for what the Commissionaire had to say.

Cllr Ravencroft recognized it could be seen as unfair to retroactively apply new standards, but she said the development of those new standards was seen as necessary for a reason. And in this case there could be merit in looking at this with a more stringent heritage framework, which would be inline with what a lot of people in the area of town have said.

She said the feedback she’s gotten on this proposed development has been mixed but not evenly mixed, as a lot of people were against it with a strong opposition.

She then listed the pros of the development: that it would increase housing in the downtown, refresh the tax base, and there would be other benefits. She also encouraged people who have been opposed to the project to consider those benefits.

Moreover she said she hopes it brings some good to the downtown, but that she would not be voting in support.

In the end, Council voted to approve the attached resolutions for Envision St. John’s Municipal Plan Amendment Number 1, 2022 and Envision St. John’s Development Regulations Amendment Number 1, 2022, as amended, regarding land at the rear of 68 Queen’s Road bordering Harvey Road.

As well, they voted to approve a variance of 10 percent on building height at Harvey Road, as per the attached document entitled Relative Heights with Variance, dated March 19, 2021.

The next move is to ask the Minister to register the amendments and to approve St. John’s Urban Region Regional Plan Amendment No. 1, 2020. 

It passed nine to one, with Cllr Ravencroft voting against it.

Council voting results for the Parish Lane Development on 3 October 2022.

For the final item on the agenda, and some light news, Council approved the costs associated with hosting the Urban Municipalities Conference coordinated by Municipalities NL. It’s being held from December 8 – 10.

The agenda gives a bit of backstory. Initially the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Phillips was going to host this year’s UMC Conference. But there was a booking conflict at their venue, so St. John’s is stepping in. It means covering the cost for food and a venue for the 25-30 attendees. To help offset venue costs, the Foran/Greene Room has been tentatively booked to host the conference. So the cost of this depends on registration numbers (plus catering and refreshment costs) but is estimated in the range of $3000-5000.

The Go Round

Cllr Carl Ridgeley wanted to let the residents of Kilbride know they haven’t been forgotten and he’s still looking to get provincial and federal government support for the devastation caused by Hurricane Earl.

Cllr Korab directed people to the City’s website for information on streets that are undergoing rehabilitation. As well, the Canadian Tire JumpStart playground is currently closed due to the work going on in the area, as there is heavy machinery about and it’s getting darker earlier in the day. So staff closed the park for safety reasons. It should open in the spring.

Cllr Ravencroft thanked shops that decided to close on last Friday (September 30) for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Day, which she said was a sign of people putting the day over profits.

She added tomorrow is Yom Kippur and wished those participating an easy fast.

Cllr Jill Bruce gave an update on the Youth Engagement Working Group, which has met four times since it formed earlier this year. She said people between the ages of 18 to 30 can sign up. The City’s first Youth Forum is also open for registration, with a cap at 50 people for attending in-person and a cap of 100 for virtual ateneedes.

Cllr Hickman brought up an upcoming open house at the Materials Repurpose Facility on October 16 at 2 pm so people can see the operation.

Cllr Burton drew attention to the upcoming pop-ups being held at community centres in town called Food on the Move. She also mentioned that tomorrow (October 4) at 10 am at the Alt Hotel, First Voice will be releasing the final Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls recommendations on Police Oversight.

Cllr Burton also had a question for Brian Head about the condition of Bidgood Park, who said the work is going on now and some parts need more work than others.

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said she recently attended a Nigerian summit webinar and a nod to the recent summer performances that took place. She also gave a shout out to the NL Folk Festival, particularly for the work it does in helping promote young artists.

Finally, she congratulated Neighbourhood Dance Works who are having its 31st annual Festival of New Dance, she said.

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