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

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Sorry Guys, This One Was Tickety-boo

The remnants of storms raging south of us wash over the city and we get a breath from the frenzy of sucking the last out of our summer. We hole up for moments at a time. And council, too, seemed to take a collective breath and step back and get through this week’s meeting relatively subdued and with signs of cooperation. Or at least less signs of battle than of late. 

The lights in the chamber were dim. Mayor O’Keefe joked that they didn’t pay the light bill but it is nice, like when the kindergarten teacher dims the lights at “Quiet time,” or as if a quick thinking flight attendant turned down the oxygen just a nip and the rowdy cabin becomes tame and sleepy. 

The proclamation this week was for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The support group, Women of Hope, were the guests. I am pretty sure I recognized Debbie Hanlon (candidate for at-Large) there representing the colours of the organization in some wicked turquoise doc martins.

Text Amendment Acts
as Sandbag Against the Tsunami of Seniors

Cllr. Breen recapped the public meeting of August 28 to allow a 100-resident personal care home to be built at 11 L’Anse Aux Meadows Crescent:

  1. A text amendment to the current development regulations to add “personal care home” as acceptable under the “Apartment Low Density” zoning
  2. Rezoning of the address from “Commercial” to “apartment low density.”
  3. Parking relief of 40 for a total of 117. Normally 157 spaces would be required, but as “judged by practice” according to Cllr Breen, this type of facility does not need that many spaces since many of the residents do not drive, and excess parking is a waste of green space and worsens run-off.

Cllr Tilley, the ward councillor (who is not running again) said, “I only have a couple weeks left so you can give me an hour I guess…” [Mayor O’Keefe laughs nervously]. The retiring councillor reiterated that the residents are pleased and this fits in better than an office building would.

Cllr O’Leary asked Cllr Breen how the water run-off issue would be addressed, “with a retention pond or…”

Deputy Mayor Ellsworth pointed out that, as was pointed out when Breen asked Lane a question for clarification at the meeting last week, the councillors cannot ask each other questions during debate of a motion, but must direct their question to staff.

O’Leary re-directed her question to staff and Deputy City Manager Sinyard explained that it could be in the form of a retention pond or underground water retention as long as run-off rates maintain pre and post development.

Cllr. Hann, who consistently speaks on not just senior’s issues but the issue of the growing senior population in the region, said he was, “Glad to see this project come to fruition, especially in light of the projected population changes released by the Harris Centre last week. The North East Avalon’s population is projected to grow by 15%, at the expense of rural communities, and much of that growth will be in “this demographic” of seniors.

Hann reiterated one of his common themes that “we are not ready for the explosion of this demographic.” He suggested the City Manager “take note” to “see what is going to be needed down the road” as it “will change the whole picture in terms of services and transportation.” He called for “opener dialogue and opener minds” and did not think the province was answering this question satisfactorily.

Mayor O’Keefe confirmed that he too had read the study and is also concerned about the provincial population decline and, using the term Cllr Hann coined at previous meetings, re-warned of the “tsunami of seniors.” Which phrase is not only accurately descriptive, but visually horrific, funny, and poetic all at once.

Totally unrelated, later in the meeting Cllr Collins tried to read from his notes and bemoaned the dim lighting to which mayor O’Keefe, here representing the pot, said to Collins – the kettle, “you’re getting old.” I am afraid the tsunami has hit City Hall well before the entire North East Avalon is submerged.

 South Beach Building Astir?

Things may be finally happening in the “South Beach” building at 221 Duckworth Street (formerly Word Play). Council approved a discretionary Use application, filed by Beaton Sheppard, Architect, to convert part of the main floor of the iconic white, pink and aqua stucco building “from Commercial Use into a Dwelling Unit.”

I want Nate from 90210 to live there and work in the remaining space which I dream would be a diner and we could all hang out, looking like middle-aged humans but dressing like teenagers, laughing together and facing life’s challenges.

Gas Release at Robin Hood Bay

Cllr Breen was very happy to point out that one of the tenders awarded this week ($1,230,850 to Weirs Constructions Limited) was for the completion/expansion of the “Landfill Gas Collection System” in Robin Hood Bay. He said this was one of the first issues he got involved with when he came on the council. He said the total cost will be 1.7 million once completed.

I am just delighted to have my burning question answered from Saturday afternoon of “what is that smell?!” Cllr Breen confirmed that this was the cause, and that it is “becoming a more common occurrence especially in this weather.”

The new system should be completed by the end of this year, and it should not only stem the stench but allow us to measure the flow to see if it is economically viable to produce energy from this landfill gas. I can’t wait to tell my daughter that her love of “inventing machines” and her love of fart jokes do, sometimes, go hand-in-hand.

BREAKING:
Cllr Galgay Gives Fellow Councillors Credit for Something

Cllr. Galgay says a plan to make non-profit housing (Riverhead Towers, 49-51 Cochrane Street, 174 Campbell Avenue and Rawlins Cross) non-smoking buildings will phase in for January, 2018. He also completely broke character to point out that Cllr Hickman “was advocating” for this in the past and that Deputy Mayor Ellsworth had been working on it too.

Maybe he just had a really good day, maybe this is a new leaf, or maybe he is placing his bets on who will win at-large and figures he will need some good will even for a half a term on council.

DewCor Isn’t Getting What it Wants,
But it is Getting Irritated.

As reported recently, Danny Williams of DewCor and the city (and Basil Dobbin of Cabot Development Corp) are bizarro pen-pals. Accusations are flying ‘round about as DewCor levels that age old appeal of “it’s not fair” that the city expects DewCor to pay for all the west end infrastructure upgrades that the city says are made necessary solely due to DewCor’s own Galway development.

The city maintains that it used public money in the east end around Stavanger Drive and Dobbin’s developments because they were needed anyway.

This week at council, Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth asked the City Manager “where we are” and “what actions can we take to mitigate exposure?” to a developer whose letters, Ellsworth says, threaten legal action against the city.

The City Manager says where it stands right now, is that the city will not release a building permit for the new Costco in the Galway development until “conditions are met with respect to infrastructure, traffic, and underground infrastructure” but “the developer” (Danny Williams/Dewcor) is asking the city to “reconsider.” The City Manager and the mayor both indicated that allowing building (by issuing a permit) to happen “parallel” to the infrastructure upgrades, as opposed to issuing it only after the upgrades, would be what would open the city up to liability.

Our City Manager can be circumspect on the best of days, and in keeping with his general modus mysterani he is “hesitant to talk about legal action, but we feel comfortable in our position.” He did confirm that, as of Monday, the city has not responded to DewCor’s latest letter.

Heavy Tree Road and Dogs in Ward 5

Cllr Collins has asked for a deferment on the decision to close Heavy Tree Rd to public access. He says a couple of farmers there have trouble making the turn at commonwealth when coming up Brookfield Rd into the single turn lane with large equipment. Collins wants staff to look at whether it can be a “farmers only” or “at your own risk” road instead of “closed.”

If we are just making up road designations now, how about the city stop petitioning the province to fix the shreds of highway ramps coming into downtown and instead just re-categorize them as “jk lololol.” 

Collins also says his people have spoken in The Southlands, and they don’t like where staff designated the new dog park (that the people had requested) so, he wants staff to do it again. 

Good News Tidbits:
Bulk Garbage and Affordable Housing

Curbside bulk garbage and metal recycling will be offered this fall for 5 days per collection area. You must make an appointment and space is limited. Appointments are first come first served. Call 311 to schedule. 

The City is accepting applications for its housing catalyst fund. You can get up to $10,000 towards your project that helps find realistic solutions to affordable housing. If you applied last year, you can still apply again this year for a new project. The deadline is October 20th.

Not So Fast: Applies to Adjournment and our Economy

Mayor O’keefe: Well, that’s our agenda.

Cllr Lane: Nope. Economic Development Report.

Mayor O’Keefe: Sorry about that.

And we all are sorry. Because it’s not a great one. But after the tsunami of seniors it is no surprise that the economic outlook is “uncertain” and the labour force is down.

But the year-to-date value of permitted building in the city is up 8% over last year. Guess that 15% population bump the NE Avalon is getting (as the rural Newfoundland that we sell abroad for tourism is drained) has some short term positives for the city coffers.

 And, Mayor O’Keefe says, “Also a good news item: meeting adjourned”

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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.

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