What Odds at City Hall: 7 February 2021

Lots of watershed talk, some land gets subdivided and—ugh—the East End is getting a payday loan business. Thanks, I hate it.

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Fun little technical side note to start off with: while I could hear the entire meeting the City-streamed video was a total blank for the whole meeting. So it was a bit like staring into the void for 40 minutes.

Also as a headcount, only Cllr Debbie Hanlon wasn’t present for this virtual meeting.

Right at the top, Cllr Maggie Burton read out a by-law amendment; “Take note that pursuant to the powers vested in it under the City of St. John’s Act, we enact the following By-Law that the 2021 Canadian Electrical Code of the Canadian Standards Association and all amendments thereto adopted by the said Association are hereby declared to be and shall be taken as part and parcel of this By-Law as if same were repeated herein, in full, and all provisions of the said code shall apply to all electrical work and installations.”

To sum it up, she said the City is updating its Electrical By-Law to be in line with the standards.

Council moved to reject a proposed Crown Land License for 1028 hectares of land near Pasture Land Road for an Agricultural Use that would have included pastureland and livestock, with Cllr Jamie Korab explaining it isn’t an appropriate use within a protected Watershed. (Maybe they should change the name of the road?)

Cllr Carl Ridgeley asked Deputy City Manager of Planning and Engineering Jason Sinyard where the land is exactly and then asked this decision to be deferred for a week, which is where Cllr Ron Ellsworth jumped in to defend the sanctity of the watershed and the meeting got very interesting.

“As we all know, this is in the watershed area and we don’t remove land from the watershed area,” said Ellsworth, adding they’ve worked very hard to protect these areas. He explained any development in the watershed could potentially contaminate waters that directly or indirectly flow into our water supply.

While Ellsworth said he could appreciate Cllr Ridgeley’s concern, we need to protect watersheds.

Both Cllrs Ian Froude and Burton chimed in to stress that you don’t mess with watersheds.

Then, it was Cllr Ridgeley turn to ask another question, this time for clarification around what portion of the Crown land was in the watershed?

Chief Municipal Planner Ken O’Brien said that the entire 1028 hectares of land were in the Thomas Pond Watershed.

Anyway, ultimately the motion was unanimous to reject the application.

Map of rejected proposal in the Thomas Pond Watershed. Source: 7 February 2022 City Agenda.

Council did, however, approve the subdivision of land at 731 Thorburn Road to create an additional parcel of land and set the Zone Standards for both properties with a Lot Frontage of 51.6 metres and a Lot Area of 2.35 hectares

While the property is zoned in the watershed, the application is just to subdivide the land and not for any work, which is why it’s different from the application above.

Map of subdivided lot at 731 Thorburn Road. Source: Source: 7 February 2022 City Agenda.

Moving on to tenders, Harvey & Company Ltd., secured a $268,450.80 (plus HST) bid for part of the City’s fleet regular replacement plan. There’s also an option to purchase the truck at the end of the 60-month lease with a $50,000 residual.

The other bid was from Reefer Repair Services Ltd for $317,700. Cllr Sandy Hickman noted that the bid from Western Star and Freightliner Trucks of Newfoundland was disqualified for unspecified reasons.

Wetlands Get Tweaked

Next up, Council voted to exclude wetlands classified as Wetland, Open Water from a previous decision to defer all planning and development applications located within a wetland buffer until the Wetland Study Phase 2 has wrapped up.

“Wetlands Delineation Study Phase 1 used high resolution satellite imagery to define and classify wetlands in the City larger than 100m². The wetlands were classified per the Canadian Wetlands Classification System as: Bog, Fen, Marsh, Swamp, or Open Water. The Open Water classification includes shallow bodies of water that have a depth of less than 2m. The technique used to identify the wetlands in the Phase 1 study could not distinguish shallow water from deep water. This is where the decision note is coming from,” said Cllr Korab.

“Development along these bodies of water would also be subject to a floodplain and floodplain buffer, which would extend farther than wetland boundary as identified in the Phase 1 study. Furthermore, floodplains have the same development restrictions as wetlands as per Section 4.10 of the Envision St. John’s (Development Regulations).”

Previously, Council decided to defer all planning and development applications on sites located within a wetland buffer delineated under the Phase 1 study until the 2021 Wetlands Study Phase 2 was completed and implemented, he said.

“There was no distinction in the decision between the classifications of wetlands, meaning it includes deferral of any application within the buffer of an open body of water. This was not the intention in the Council recommendation. There is currently at least one development file on hold due to this issue.”

He added that these open water wetlands are protected by both the floodplain and floodplain buffer, so staff recommended that the Council defer all applications on sites in Wetland Buffers be revised and remove the classification Open Water so that these applications can happen in a timely manner.

Signs Signs Everywhere A Sign

The Council then approved a request to install the four roof signs at 330 Torbay Road that will advertise the business “CashMoney.”

The building was once a Pizza Hut, My Brother’s Place and more recently Lasik MD clinic (all of which are better uses than a payday loan business, in my opinion). At least the name is pretty direct; there is no ambiguity in the name CashMoney.

“A review was conducted, all other requirements of the Sign By-Law have been satisfied. They’ve been stamped by a professional engineer and they will also be certifying the installation of the sign,” said Cllr Burton.

The final box on this week’s agenda to tick off was a Notice of Motion – which was also wetland related.

Cllr Korab said “Take note that I will at a future Regular Meeting of Council, move a motion to rescind the following motion approved at the October 4, 2021, Regular Meeting of Council:  this is the Deferral of Planning and Development Applications in Wetland Buffers. And that Council defer all planning and development applications on sites located within a wetland buffer as delineated under the City’s 2019 Wetlands Delineation Study, Phase 1, until the 2021 Wetlands Study Phase 2A is completed and implemented, in accordance with Section 5.1.3(4) “Planning Studies – Deferral of Applications”.”

The Go Round

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary said she’s heard from residents who live around the former Belvedere Convent and she asked Chief Municipal Planner Ken O’Brien if anything new was going on with the building. However he said there are currently no applications or work for the spot, adding it’s also a City designated heritage building.

O’Leary also asked if there’s any inspections going on. O’Brien said he’s not aware of anything scheduled and would check in on that, adding that he was there three years ago and the building had been “gutted.”

Next up, O’Leary said the Churchill Square’s south-east stair access has been gated off, causing a standoff. She explained there is a mix of private and city space here and she’s heard from a lot of people who are concerned over this. She suggested the City and other stakeholders meet so that the access issue can be resolved.

Her final item was to remind people that ChillFest kicks off on February 11 and runs to the 14th.

Cllr Burton had two upcoming deadlines to remind people about: today is the last day to have your two cents on the traffic-calming policy revision on the Engage St. John’s website, adding if people miss the deadline they can always email her with their concerns. As well, they’re still looking for people to participate in the Youth Engagement Working Group.

Cllr Hickman expressed his interest in the situation going on at Churchill Square and said he’d like to be involved in the meeting.

Cllr Opehlia Ravencroft also threw her support behind ChillFest and said she’d get out there and enjoy some of the activities, adding that—in a sudden unexpected twist—her favourite holiday is actually Valentine’s Day and not Halloween.

Cllr Korab gave a shout out to the Newfoundland and Labrador Tankard, the provincial championship for men’s curling that gets underway in St. John’s tomorrow. He said people will be able to watch via a video stream.

He added Team Gushue will not be there because they’re in Beijing for the Winter Olympics, adding their first game is Wednesday against Denmark. He also predicted Team Gushue will bring home another gold medal and we’ll need to name something else after them.

Cllr Froude had two provincial-related items that he encouraged people to get involved in: the City has a project in front of the environmental system process at Long Pond Flow Control Structure, which is aimed at reducing flooding impacts downstream of Long Pond. It’s now open for public comment until February 28.

The second item is the provincial budget consultation process, as it impacts the municipality and City residents. The process is open until February 18.

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