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

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Municipal election season has bloomed all over us. Signs and promises spread like an itchy mantle of pollen upon the sward. On Monday’s meeting, the councillors acknowledged it by prefacing each and every question/vote/speech with, “Whoever is on the next council will have to…” as if they aren’t assuming it will be them.

Those modest souls. Wards 1, 3, and 4 are wide open with the venerable (here meaning old) Cllr Tilley (Ward 3) stepping down and Cllr O’Leary and Cllr. Breen taking a shot at Deputy mayor and mayor, respectively.

People were waiting for Andy Wells’ mayoral declaration to declare this election “entertaining,” but, Since Hope Jamieson entered the Ward 2 (downtown) race this week against Galgay, there is no position, other than deputy mayor so far, going uncontested. 

All political races are inherently entertaining. If anything, Wells’ theatric flair will upstage the smaller and more telling humours of the plebian races below him. Which is too bad, because finding humour always trumps getting slapped across the face with it and told to laugh. But here we are.

And the regular council dramas do go on regardless.

Special Events:

Council voted on the recommendation by Breen’s Special Events Advisory Committee to “reject” an application for a “Best Kind BBQ Concert” at the Shrine Club on Topsail Rd. The committee said there is not enough parking for the four to five hundred predicted attendees (ages twenty to thirty) and the Shrine Club abuts residential properties.

But council all stumbled over each other to qualify it as more of a “helping and working with the Shrine Club to find a new more suitable event venue because we love this organization omigosh do we ever love them so much! Best guys! Yes, just wonderful! We aren’t saying ‘no’ we are saying ‘Yes!’…to something even better that we can make happen I promise.”

Agri-Development in the Sticks and Road Work Downtown

450 pipeline Rd and 290 Backline Rd were both approved for agricultural use/purpose as long as there is the required 50 m buffer zone around any streams.

The Goulds is our breadbasket. Yes, that is what breadbaskets smell like. 

The “re-alignment” of the intersection on Kenmount Rd heading to the Babylon Mall will be postponed until early next year because it first needs a storm sewer replacement. I am impressed that they realized it would be inefficient to tear up the intersection to replace the storm sewer after spending time and money re-making the intersection. And now I am saddened that that impressed me. 

Grind and Patch operations (our scab-picking solution to traffic infrastructure) are now authorized to proceed overnight in the downtown core on Water, Duckworth and New Gower streets. Pyramid Construction has told the city it will not cost more money to work overnight and the city agrees it will help limit traffic. And sure it’s no worse than snow clearing or George Street fest or that couple that is always brawling beneath your window anyway.

All of their work downtown should be completed in 2-4 days. The dates are not yet set. But probably they will be that week you have your super big presentation early in the morning.

The People Speak and (during election season)
the Council Listens:

There were three issues that dominated the meeting this week and all were made important by residents getting vocal.

First, Galgay read a letter from residents of Signal Hill.

Though “read” is a tad strong here since he actually didn’t read it verbatim but sort of edited it in minor and bizarre ways off-the-cuff as he stood with it in front of him and words coming out of his mouth. Oh my god. I was going to tease him about this, but I just realized that maybe he can’t read.

Maybe he got his phone to “read” it to him out loud a bunch of times so he could memorize it. The stress and shame of having to cover up illiteracy isn’t funny. So … good for you Galgay! You did a really really good job. Don’t worry about it. No one but me noticed, I am sure.

The gist of letter is that the people who live on Signal Hill are fed up with speeding and noise. They are concerned for themselves, but, also (here is where they got crafty) for the future students who will occupy the new MUN battery facility and for the tourists. Who can argue with protecting our youth and tourism? They want the public meeting Galgay promised them to address the issue.

Second, Connie Parsons School of Dance is not making neighbour friends.

The whole of Kent Place (which borders the Dance school’s Portugal Cove address) has rallied against her and ratted her out to the city. With “eleven established residential houses and nine children under the age of ten” they will no longer tolerate the wicked ways of the dance school. Which include “noise levels” and “increased volume of traffic” and one time where an “emergency vehicle was obstructed.”

According to these residents, she has begun demolition on a purchased lot next to her school to be used as extra parking but she has not filed a development plan with the city. This is like Footloose! But on a cul-de-sac, and with not cool dancing.

Third, and this is the big one, 809 residents signed a petition to protect the wetlands from a proposed development behind Penney Crescent.

Danny Breen presented the petition and declared it “one of the biggest ones I’ve ever seen.” The developer has now cancelled the public meeting that was scheduled for this week. The majority of the council meeting was spent going around and around again with every councillor trying to get more on record than the others about how not-into-this development they were from the beginning.

Cllr. Puddister brought forth a motion to “reconfirm the present zoning.” Once legal staff assured everyone that reconfirming this would do absolutely nothing, they all voted for it immediately.  Puddister, and the rest, all expressed frustration that this developer won’t take “no” for an answer and that they keep submitting applications to re-zone after each time they are turned down. Council asked legal what they could do to make a “no” somehow more final.

Legal explained that they can never stop someone applying for re-zoning. That there is no restriction on the number of times a person can apply. Everyone tried to figure out a more permanent solution and everyone remained flummoxed.

Though it was brought up at one point that the development committee can reject an application outright and then council can simply vote “no” on the application straight away, instead of what they seem to keep doing which is NOT voting “no” and allowing Land Use Reports and public meetings etc and then getting frustrated that this is still going on, suddenly, when a very large petition comes in.

Galgay decided he wasn’t on record loud enough and so took the classic child’s-school-yard stance of “well if he did it to us we can do it to him, nyah nyah” and suggested they all boycott the public meeting when it is rescheduled so “the proponent is the only one sitting in chamber.” And, oh my, wont he feel silly then.

Legal then calmly reminded Galgay, like a beleaguered nanny to her wiseass school boy charge, that Council cannot “act in bad faith,” like, for instance, by setting a public meeting and then all sneaking out together.

The city has budgeted for a new wetlands study in 2018 to update the last one which was done in 1993. But it was still not clear after all the discussion if that would change anything. The councillors are very excited to try to finally have this wetland dubbed a “significant” wetland (which did not happen in two previous studies) but it sounds like, even if that were the case, a developer can still at least apply for re-zoning, and council will still have to face their baffling inability to say “no” until they have at least 809 people watching.

Roundabouts Are Cool Now

Council accepted the MUN area traffic study which was started in 2014 and probably took three years to complete because everyone was waiting until Danny Williams made traffic circles “a thing here” before the University, the City, and the Province felt comfortable bringing it up to us. The study suggests at least three traffic circles will be needed along Prince Phillip Drive.

The longer term recommendations include “a new roadway link through Pippy Park” which Cllr. Hickman acknowledged would have “obvious other factors [to]consider.” He followed that with the understatement of the month as he “assum[ed]that the Pippy Park Commission would have something to say about that.” Now if only 809 voters had something to say about it as well…

 Coda

At the very end of the meeting, Deputy Mayor Ellsworth acknowledged “councillor wanna-be” (his words) Peter McDonald, who is running for Ward 3 (though he does not live there), and also Lou Puddister and Deanne Stapleton (both running for ward 1), all of whom attended the meeting up in the rafters this week.

They all hung around as we filed out, like kids not sure which lunch table they belonged at, but all sure it would look worse to leave and go eat alone by the lockers. Except Puddister. He and Other Puddister and Galgay bee-lined for a corner by the flags and had a special three-person legacy meeting which was totally not self-assured at all.

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Emily Deming

Emily Deming is involved in a love affair with St John's so deep it extends to attending plays, poetry readings, and dance festivals.

3 Comments

  1. Gotta say, I love Emily Deming’s coverage of Council meetings. Witty and hilarious, yet informative and insightful.

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