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

Who Wants the Perennially Championed “Mixed Use” Neighbourhoods? Not Neighbours.

The Anticlimax: This is Not the Last Meeting of this Council. One. More. Week. 

Casual mention was made near the end of the meeting that this council will actually meet again next Monday. A week after the election. So that’s weird. And unexpected. But I truly pray that any losing incumbents take that time to make a stand for their own personal dreams for the city. I further hope that it is nothing like what we would imagine from them.

I hope that Tilley proposes that the noise bylaw be thrown out, and then pledges to devote his remaining years to salsa dancing.

I hope Puddister moves that special parking spots be allocated for mobile homes along Harbour drive, because everyone deserves a spot by the ocean.

I hope Doc comes dressed up as a circus high-wire aerialist in a teal sequin body suit with peacock feathers, and declares that nostalgia has no place in the modern man’s mind, and exhorts the city he loves to look ever forward. That is definitely going to happen. You should come watch with me.

Proclamation Highlights 

“Insulation never goes out of style,” says Stephanie Daley of Take Charge NL. To celebrate the 25th year of Energy Efficiency week there will be sales on insulation at Kent. With Muskrat Falls raising future energy rates, might as well blow ‘er in soon as you can. 

Mayor O’Keefe asks Ms Daley to “talk to [his two grown daughters] about saving energy … I’ve tried but…” Quick! someone tell Andy Wells the mayor is trying to abuse his power by asking special favours during a council meeting. 

Metrobus-VOCM Cares Thanksgiving Food Drive Week is here, so look for donation bins at Sobey’s 

For National Tree Day I’m going to quote O’Keefe again, “They are a source of recreational fun for thousands of children who grow up climbing trees and picking crabapples … just nothin’ like it.” I cannot argue with that. Throwing crabapples is the best.

Who Wants the Perennially Championed “Mixed Use” Neighbourhoods? Not Neighbours

 Neighbours All Hate Healthcare: 118 University Ave.

118 university avenue, will not be officially granted “Home Occupation as a Clinic.” But, it can still operate as proposed. As the Deputy City Manager explained, the business “does not actually require approval from the city.” It is equivalent to “a doctor doing house calls.” But, if the city approves calling it a “clinic,” it could “open this [site] up for a larger business.” Neighbours, to no one’s surprise, objected to the clinic.

Neighbours All Hate Cake: 5 Osbourne St.

Neighbours also objected, to no avail, to a home bakery at 5 Osbourne street that will focus on french pastries and fancy cakes. The series of lengthy, high energy emails to city hall about the “insidious creep and infusion of even small scale commercial use of property” were largely ignored by council since, as Cllr Lane pointed out, the application process itself was to blame for making the business sound more intrusive than it actually would be. He explains, “the city asks for ‘hours of operation’ and they have to give this, but it is misleading. No one will even be coming to pick up there.”

Cllr O’Leary emphasized that parking is “not an issue here,” and pointed out that since our economy sucks now, we should probably let people make a damn living. Not in those exact words. Also, cake.

Neighbours all Love Beer: 90 Duckworth St.

The old East End Fire Station was approved for re-zoning from Residential  Downtown (RD) to Commercial Mixed-Use (CCM). Which raises the question, how was a fire station residential to begin with? But at least it’s not a hotel, amirite? Maybe it’s because you guys really hated that proposed “lighthouse” development a while back that this microbrewery and cafe was met with little objection. Also could be because microbreweries and cafes are awesome.

So if you want to start a business, start a shell corporation, and first propose some super off-point mega project that is not being built by any councillor’s friends, then swoop in a year later with a super cute thing that makes people drunk … but only until a reasonable hour of the evening.

Cllr. Hann commended the applicants for proposing solutions to all objections raised at the public meeting.

And as O’Leary pointed out, it is Duckworth Street. “If anyone has any false ideas that something residential is going to be there, then that is not in the cards.”

Everyone Loves Rec? 

Crown land granted across from current Mews Centre on Blackmarsh Road for future Municipal recreation facility.

Neighbours Nervy about Safety of “Eyesore” Burnt up Heritage: Demolition of Waterford Manor at 185 Water Street 

Waterford Manor, an iconic heritage home that is over a hundred and ten years old, is slated for demolition.

Last summer, there was a suspicious fire along with explosions, followed by a sustained fire fighting effort leaving the property burnt and soaked. One of the co-owners has since been charged with arson. Now Cllr Tilley says that neighbours are “very concerned” about it being a “potential safety concern” and “an eyesore.” 

The city is condemning the building as unsafe, and resolves that the owner needs to demolish it. If the owner does not comply, then it comes back to the city and they will take the demolition upon themselves. 

Lane explained that a heritage grant had been applied for before the fire, but that it was not enough to repair the damage after the fire. Galgay asked whether the city could appropriate the building if there were taxes owed, and cover the cost of demolition. City Solicitor says “no.” Probably because of basic property rights. But the city could recoup at the time of sale. 

Hann responded to various public inquiries about moving forward as a “deconstruction” rather than a pure “demolition,” and asked whether it would be possible to allow local companies a chance to salvage various architectural elements.

Breen also asked if they could make salvage a part of the tender document. 

There followed an almost robust discussion of the creative possibilities posed by a half destroyed heritage property, but it was hampered by council rules that don’t allow any back and forth public discussion by councillors. One turn each! Not a question more!

Finally all brainstorming and hashing out was summarily quashed when Doc and Puddister both agreed that everyone was “making this more complicated than it needs to be. It’s just a demolition order.” 

To O’Keefe’s credit, he did point out that this was not a city tender yet, so the city has no legal say in the matter of how the owner carries out the demolition. But it may come to a city tender, and it is an interesting question. Maybe the answer is that salvage isn’t worth the cost, but maybe it is. Thinking things through is not “over[ly] complicat[ed].” 

Since there is no current policy on anything like this, O’Leary suggested the idea of de-construction vs demolition vs salvage etc be brought to the staff in the Planning Department to develop a policy regarding demolition of heritage structures.

Roundabouts: Do You “Feel” That They’re Round?

Cllr Hickman asks council to approve a further $13,800 dollars towards the big ol’ traffic study/redesign of the intersection at Allendale and the Prince Phillip Parkway. This money will go to study possibility of a pedestrian/bicycle underpass to complement the future roundabout.

It will be cost-shared with Provincial Government and The University. And everyone agreed it’s a dangerous intersection with lots of people in all weather heading to Long Pond or across the parkway from Rennie’s River trail, or kids going to the sliding hill in Pippy Park.

Only Cllr Collins “can’t support it” because he “can’t support the whole design of the roundabout.” He very rationally explained that to him a roundabout design “looks” more dangerous than a regular intersection, and that he ”feels” there will be more accidents.

5 Stars for 5 Cannon Salute 

Mayor O’Keefe closed the meeting with words of praise for Parks Canada’s newly revamped salute to cruise ships leaving the harbour. They used to simply give a musket salute but now, with refurbished cannons, there will be a 5 cannon salute to thank each and every cruise ship for docking here.

Apparently passengers on the cruise ship Sapphire were caught unaware by this virile hospitality and, from The Battery and Signal Hill, you could see them ducking on deck. “So,” concludes Doc, “It really made an impression on them.”

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