“Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same…” A folk song made famous by Pete Segeer in 1963 protested conformity. Rules for houses to look the same ripped communities of their unique identity. Some residents in an historic fishing village in St. John’s worry that could soon happen here.
After a 2-year ban on new construction, St.John’s City Council will lift a freeze on development in Quidi Vidi and impose strict guidelines for new builds. It’s a decision that angered residents and caused one city councilor to contact police over harassment because he supported the regulations at a council meeting last month.
Old fishing stages, sheds, workshops and wharves mark Quidi Vidi. A handful of commercial properties are designed to retain its historic charm. New regulations will ensure that any new development fits in with the look and feel of a traditional fishing village. But the regulations are tight and set strict limitations for current and new property owners.
Over the years, new builds and renovations have diverged from the traditional look and are criticized in the plan for looking too modern. The new guidelines will force everything to look ‘in period’ focusing on simple salt-box-style homes.
If council sticks to the design regulations, future Quidi Vidi will look much like the old. New constructions will be pre 1949 Newfoundland domestic style buildings with simple rectangular shape and flat or steep gable roofs.
You won’t see mansions or big office buildings popping up. Homes are restricted to 1000 square feet, sheds and stages will max out at 600 square feet and commercial properties can be as large as 2000 square feet. Structures must be in scale and not stand out from the other buildings. In other words, they all have to look the same.
Styles have to be simple with few decorations, no Victorian or Tudor style houses. So, if you’re looking to build a large family home with fancy trims and a manicured lawn, Quidi Vidi is not for you. Curb appeal is a big part of the plan. Siding must be wood clapboard, no vinyl or metal. Only double hung windows will be allowed and doors must be wood panel with elaborate trims. And don’t even think about painting your home a funky colour…according to the regulations, houses should all be white and the sheds and stages, red. Landscaping must be natural and wild. No pressure treated wood, shaped trees or formal gardens. Mowing the lawn is not recommended.
While the regulations are tight for residential and commercial, it seems the city is easing up on harbour restrictions. The area known as the gut will offer attractions for tourists and residents who want to walk along the harbour front. The design includes plans for walking trails, shopping, crafts, food and beverages.
Design regulations can be seen here on the city’s website: www.stjohns.ca.