Notes from the Rafters: This Week’s City Council Meeting Recap

Bike Lane News, Deputy Mayor Races, and More

Proclamations: Tiny Heroes and New Facades

It was packed solid today, and the council was back to its usual foo-fa-rah, hooplah, and all around good times. After covering the Snelgrove rape trial all morning, the Council crew were, again, a welcome antidote. It’s like watching an episode of Barney Miller right before bed, after binge watching The Fall all evening. 

There were wonderful children on hand to champion Anti-bullying day (let’s hope they stay gold and some grow up and join the police force). 

There was a multicultural bonanza of dudes in all shapes, sizes, and shades to celebrate International Mother Language day. 

But the biggest crowd (and the most posters on easel stands) were there for Heritage Day. Buildings and renovations around the city were honoured. From Architect Robert Mellin’s beautiful re-imagining (carried out by Sable building) of the small Newfoundland vernacular heritage building on Hayward Ave, to the modern but tasteful upgrade of 55 Duckworth (though personally I did love the defunct pink and white Les Moines Beauty School which looked like just the spot Pinky would have dropped out of).

“No” to Toppling Height Restrictions

The motion that was deferred last week, to double the height restriction in Commercial Regional zones from 15 to 30 metres, was brought forward. 

Cllr. Puddister moved it “for discussion purposes only” to which Cllr. Breen responded that he would be happy to simply move to reject. But Puddister’s distaste for the blanket city-wide change was not to be usurped, and he called “takes-backsies” and re-moved-it for rejection his own self. Seconded by Breen and then agreed upon ad nauseam and in detail by every single councillor until the completely un-suspenseful vote to unanimously reject. 

They were not reacting to the original proposal of one building off of Hebron Way going all rogue tall, but to having to change the rule city wide. That old Policy vs Development issue horse chestnut. The proposed building would have been six stories “plus a mechanical penthouse.” If you love me at all, you will never tell me what that means because I have some serious James Bond imagery in my head right now.

Affordable Housing: Big Brainstorming and Public-private Shipping

  • The City Council supports making a new Affordable Housing Plan as the old one expires in September.

So far so good. But it is important to note the kind of language used in this decision. Key phrases such as “launched,” “multiple stakeholder engagement initiative,” “culminate in Capstone Event,” “launched [again],” and “recommendation brought forth” can mean only one thing…. The Harris Centre! That big brain of policy development and engagement up at MUN will be the agent “assisting with brainstorming” (which is also the three word profile of my dream job).

  • The City is waiving development fees for  Brookside Development, and any other developer going forward who is building affordable housing units. They must already have Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) funds from the province. Cllr O’Leary confirmed with Deputy Mayor Ellsworth that there would be procedural oversight in place to make sure the city was not waiving development fees in vain.
  • The city wants to work with any developer, and is open to all bright ideas on partnering for more affordable housing.

Bicycle Task Force Final Report (Finally);
Spoiler: there shall be more commit-ment from the city AND more Commit-tees funded by the city
 

Dear Cllr. Lane,

While we appreciate your efforts on this, I remain a little sad that you never went the extra mile and made posters of yourself in a red hoodie flying your bike across a moonlit sky. Whose head would be peeking from that bundle of blankets in your bicycle basket? Perhaps an out-dated Cllr. Tilley? Ooops, I mean an out-raged Cllr Tilley, just looking for his home on a distant planet where bicycles are pleasant pastimes for “boys and girls”* but not serious means of transportation in a city clawing its way into the now.

[*Cllr Tilley actually said this at Monday’s meeting]

Sincerely,

@bigETfan (who huffed and puked her way through bicycle commutes up and down the hill to city hall all fall)

Bike Report (found here in the council agenda) 

  • The City shall henceforth stop dragging its heels and marry this nerdy bitch named bicycling.
  • There shall be an eternal Bicycle Advisory Committee until the end of days (or until hoverboards)
  • $125,000 must move from coffers to pockets of consultant for Super Duper Awesome Comprehensive Bicycle Strategy and Master Plan (90k already allocated, 35k from 2018 budget).
  • Another $50,000 in 2017 budget to: Upgrade T’railway, put on two events (Car Free Sunday and Cycling education), bike rack design competition.

This last item, the bike rack design competition will be an unholy marriage between bicycle enthusiasts and the local arts community and could be amazing, or a huge hipster dumpster fire. Either way, you can lock your bike to it.

But Can You Park in It? 

After much debate on whether people could park in bike lanes until the final-final real plan was figured out, all of the above recommendations from the final report carried as did an amendment to leave the parking ban in place (which will go back into effect April 1). Cllrs. Puddister and Tilley voted against the whole she-bang because their constituents still complain to them on the regular about not being able to park over all and sundry of the earth, dammit.

Still No Current Connectivity or E-W Corridor 

And, yes, there was unanimous acknowledgement that the current bike lanes are utter nonsense and look, on a map, like a monkey threw its bowl of spaghetti on the floor because she didn’t like how the zoo-keeper cut it all up into tiny pieces. 

I don’t want you to think that Cllr. Lane let this opportunity pass to celebrate his task force’s work. He definitely did a verbal hat dance all over council and said things like “extremely successful published online poll” and “this is a really great report.” Which would sound ridiculous but for how hard a time everyone (***cough cough***) has given him about this all year. Is it great? There is no way to know. It’s a committee report. But Lane deserves a bit of smug and a beer tonight.

Miscellany

  • Sheilagh O’leary announced this week that she will be running for Deputy Mayor.
  • Cllr Tilley actually yelled “EIGHT YEARS” while another councillor was talking, referring to how long the city has been working on a bike plan. Ironically, he sounded like this kid.
  • Galgay wants a municipal finger in the plans to develop an underpass into Galway which is technically solely the province’s jurisdiction. headline: Galgay on Galway
  • Mayor O’Keefe: Pitts Memorial is still the worst. Clarified that the darkened street lamps are 100% purview of the province and not NL Power. So we know who to blame, but not when we will be able to drive out of town without breaking an axle.

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