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Christmas in the Harbour

Right from the start of the council meeting there were a few minutes of drama when the video started to stream but there was no audio. So I was at home, basically having a heart attack and frantically tweeting and emailing the city—all the while I could see the meeting happening but couldn’t hear a word.

Still, I could tell the Council signed off on some road closures for upcoming holiday events:

For the Downtown St. John’s Christmas Parade on Nov. 28, Factory Lane, Plymouth Road, Duckworth Street, Prescott Street, and Water Street will be closed.

Christmas on Cochrane—a weekly tree lighting/holiday celebration in front of Cochrane Street United Church—is taking place on November 28, December 5, December 12, and December 19. The sections of Cochrane Street from Military Road to Bond Street from 3:00pm – 5:00pm on each of the four dates noted will be closed.

Finally, the Goulds Lions Club Christmas Parade (December 5 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm) will have Lake View Drive and Main Road closed, as well as access from side roads to Main Road restricted during the parade.

Finally, the sound came back and I could hear the next order of business and my heart returned to it’s normal—caffeinated—beat.

As part of the Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Warrants and Sergeants Memorial there will be a number of road closures on November 11 between 9:30am – 10:30am. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Canadian Armed Forces requested these roads be closed off: Queens Road from Church Hill to Victoria Street as well as Garrison Hill. The Canadian Armed Forces soldiers will man the barricades.

However it’s unclear if the ceremony will be open to the public, as they weren’t last year due to the pandemic.

Securing the Dump, and Other Concerns

Neptune Security Services Inc secured a contract—valued at $409,256.25—to provide security services to Robin Hood Bay Waste Management Facility. The company will also provide an on-site security guard to monitor the site during non-operational hours. The contract is for two years with a one year extension, said Cllr Sandy Hickman.

According to the agenda, the other two bids were Spectrum Investigation & Security (1998) Limited ($480,119.25) and Eastern Ventures Inc ($621,920.00).

eSolutions Group also got a contract for a website redevelopment plan and implementation as well as a vendor hosting and support. The work is valued at $105,900.00 plus HST over five years.

The other bids—listed on the agenda—came from Blu Creative Digital Technologies, Brickworks Communications, Digital Echidna, Evolving Web Inc., Mobikasa LLC, OPIN Digital, Inc, Triware Technologies Inc., Vision33 Canada Inc. and Yellow Pencil Inc. The values were not disclosed.

There was also a notice of motion to amend the St. John’s Taxi By-Law.

Cllr Maggie Burton was not present, so Cllr Ron Ellsworth spoke about this on her behalf. He said at the next regular meeting of the St. John’s Municipal Council he will move to amend Schedule A – “Tariff of Fares of the St. John’s Taxi By-Law” so as to increase the flag rates for the first kilometer, each additional kilometer, and for waiting time and to provide for travelling rates to be applicable for each 0.1 of a kilometer.

Let’s Sell Some Land

The City also sold a number of patches of land.

First one to be approved was a parcel of land at the front of 3 Dartmouth Place. Cllr Ian Froude said there will be a buffer (the width of the existing sidewalk with an additional 0.5 meters) should the City want to install a sidewalk in the future.

According to the agenda, the price has been established at a rate of $5 per square foot, plus HST, and a $300 administrative fee. As the area is approximately 160 square feet, the price is $800.

Next on the agenda was another sale of some city land, this time at the rear of 7 Exeter Avenue.

The agenda explains the owner of the property wanted a Letter of Tolerance from the City on the encroachment of the fence at the rear of their property onto open space. The fence has been in this location for years. In discussion with the Parks and Open Spaces, it was determined that the best route to proceed would be to sell this land to the property owner. So the Letter of Tolerance wouldn’t be appropriate in this situation because it would leave the City open to liability. Another option would be to lease it, but the agenda explained that would be difficult because most insurance companies for private property charge a substantial amount of money to provide Commercial General Liability Insurance in the amount of $2,000,000—the City’s minimum requirement. So the purchase price will be for fair market value per square foot, plus HST, and administrative fees.

Now, all that wasn’t mentioned in the meeting. But Cllr Froude did ask to amend the motion so the sale is contingent on a path of land being maintained with enough room, with the potential of it becoming accessible in the future.

And another chunk of City land is going-going-SOLD for a lot adjacent to 5 Mooney Crescent.

The agenda again goes into the backstory. The owner of 5 Mooney Crescent approached the City a few years ago to buy the property that he was encroaching upon, plus an additional few feet .It was approved and the property owner relocated his fence in line with the new survey. However, due to an error in the survey, the fence was erected outside of the new boundary so the owner is back asking if he can purchase the additional land between his new boundary and the recently erected fence.

The purchase price will be for $3.50 per square foot, plus HST, and administrative fees. The exact area requested will be confirmed by a survey which will be provided by the owner.

The Council then approved the sale of City land adjacent to 55 Springdale Street—where the old City Superette Deli was.

The owner of 55 Springdale Street is in the process of completing renovations to the property and in order to meet building code requirements he has to install a window—which will require a window well. Back on Oct. 25 Council approved this request but the owner is now asking for additional land.

The agenda stated the Legal Department has discussed this matter with the Roads Department from a snow clearing perspective and they have no issue with the sale. So the City will retain 0.5 meters behind the sidewalk for future upgrades. The City also currently has a lease in place with this property owner for a shed. By selling this land, that lease will no longer be necessary.

The purchase price will be $15 per square foot for approximately 120 square feet., plus HST and administrative fees. The property owner will also be required to consolidate this land with his existing property.

Aberdeen Avenue Housing Development Inches Closer To Reality

The site at 130 Aberdeen Avenue. (Photo by Elizabeth Whitten.)

There was a good deal of chatter over this next issue—which The Indy has covered before.

Cllr Froude—who is lead on development—said the city has received an application to rezone land at 130 Aberdeen Avenue from Commercial Regional Zone to the A2 and R3 Zones for the purpose of a residential subdivision with a mix of housing types. A Municipal Plan amendment would also be required, he added.

The R3 Zone will have a mix of single detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, and townhouses. The A2 Zone will have five four-storey apartment buildings. The proposed design also doesn’t meet the City’s Stormwater Detention Policy and staff are working with the developer on how best to meet that policy. Froude said it’s recommended that council adopt in principle for the amendments now so it can proceed to provincial review. He carried on, stating the applicant is carrying out a floodplain analysis. As well, the applicant will have to prepare a Transportation Impact Study.

There were no concerns from the St. John’s International Airport Authority over the building heights, but Cllr Froude said it did express concern over noise. Should the amendment proceed, a detailed noise assessment should be covered at the development stage.

A commissioners public hearing will also be scheduled following the provincial review and release.

The Council did adopt-in-principle the resolutions for Envision St. John’s Municipal Plan Amendment Number 2, 2021 and St. John’s Development Regulations Amendment Number 3, 2021 for land at 130 Aberdeen Avenue. While Cllr Froude said he was making the motion, he said he was voting against it due to the issue around noise raised by the Airport Authority.

Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary also raised concern with the noise, pointing out while the buildings will have sound insulation, people also spend time outdoors.

Cllr Ellsworth, Korab and Hickman lauded the project, with Hickman saying: “This is a perfect utilization of this land. This is something that’s building close to services, close to Torbay Road.” He added the houses will be lower cost and that airplane jets are getting quieter all the time.

Ultimately it was approved eight to two—with Cllr Froude and Deputy Mayor O’Leary voting against it.

During the council meeting the name of the developer wasn’t mentioned, but the agenda makes clear it is Peter Bateson’s York Developments, which already has a development project across the street at Aberdeen Square—145 Aberdeen Avenue, a commercial condo building

The Go-Round

Deputy Mayor O’Leary announced that Nov. 20 is National Child Day and also spoke about the recent Municipal NL AGM and trade show that took place in Corner Brook—which Cllrs Bruce and Hickman attended.

She raised a few resolutions put forward and supported by the MNL membership, which were Municipal electoral reform, a code of conduct, implementing photo radar ticketing, paramedics and rural ambulance services, and childcare support for councillors—an issue O’Leary said pertains to families, not just women.

Cllr Hickman also threw his support behind the recent AGM, adding that as the capital city they should send more than two councillors to the next event, scheduled to take place in Gander next year.

Cllr Hanlon also touted upcoming services and programs for seniors.

As the new council lead for housing, Cllr Ravencroft sent out a “kudos” for the local housing division for a meeting last week and to the division for winning a Luminary Award from Take Charge NL in the leadership category.

Mayor Breen noted this week is Global Entrepreneurship Week, citing three local companies that have flourished: Verafin, BreatheSuite and Mysa.

He said this week they’re launching a new office hours pilot program to connect businesses to invaluable entrepreneur support agencies operating in St. John’s.

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Elizabeth Whitten is a St. John's-based journalist and The Independent's St. John's municipal politics reporter. She's previously worked for allNewfoundlandLabrador and Downhome Magazine, and her work has been published by CBC, The Overcast, and the Toronto Star. She's currently writing a book about how Dr. Cluny Macpherson invented the gas mask in World War One.