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

"Treeson" in Kenmount Terrace, cleaning up the Kingsbridge traffic mess, Margaret Place demolition, and more.

Proclamations: aka things no one will ever disagree with

Pancreatic cancer is bad. Entrepreneurship and philanthropy are good. Car crashes are bad.

 The Plastic Bag Ban:

To reiterate, the city did not vote to ban plastic bags, though the mayor and councillors made clear that they would if they could. But they can’t. The city, as per Deputy Mayor O’Leary’s motion, is writing a letter to the province in support of a resolution from Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) advocating that the province ban retailers from providing “free” single use plastic bags. 

The city has voted on this, according to Deputy Mayor O’Leary and Mayor Breen, at least three times and everyone sounds fed up. 

Cllr Hanlon, who spoke in support of the letter for a ban (referring to it as a “no-brainer”), emphasized how many people have been contacting the councillors in support. She is encouraging all those people to write to their MHAs. Cllr Froude added he was in support of a transition period for small businesses, but no longer than half a year or so. 

Mayor Breen summed up the council’s annoyance with the province and the Department of Municipal Affairs and the Environment, “I really don’t want to vote on this a fourth time. I’m pretty sure if it was in the legal capacity of this council, we would do it. I call upon the province to deal with this issue.”

Reports Out of the First Committee of the Whole (COTW):

2017 New Year’s Eve Celebrations

The festivities will move back to the lake this year. Hickman asked to see a report on how it went last year when held downtown as he would like to see Downtown remain a “focal point.” Staff will get that to the council, but Mayor Breen pointed out that last year’s NYE was financed by a one-time-only Federal contribution of ~$100,000. Without that sweet, sweet CA150 money, we have to take our regularly allocated $20,000 from the city budget back to lakeside. Guess it’s just cheaper out there.

More Quidi Vidi Re-zoning

Council advanced a proposal to rezone 30 and 36 Barrows Rd in Quidi Vidi Village from “open space” to “residential” for two single, detached dwellings to be built. This is not rezoned yet. There are still public hearings. 

Planning and Development

Cllr. Burton spoke to Planning and Development recommendations from the COTW. There was a text amendment for 55 Charter Ave, and also something about exemptions for agriculture and farm related buildings (I can’t check the details yet because the minutes are not up (as of this writing) from the COTW). The city clerk mentioned that those will not go up until they are approved, so they should be up today, which is too late for media outlets writing about the council meeting. Fingers crossed they will, in future, publish at least a “Draft” of the COTW meeting minutes the day after the COTW convenes so we can go into Council meetings with all available information before us.

Burton also referenced a recent post from Happy City St John’s about the new Development Regulations, currently in draft form. Check it out here! #draftdevregbookclub! She said later she would be requesting an update on the timeline for public engagement on the new regulations.

 Actual Bicycle Commuting is so Much More Efficient than Committee Work

Cllr Hanlon brought forward the Terms of Reference for the Bicycle Advisory Committee (yes they are still spinning those wheels). Hanlon emphasized the importance of the committee as she is a “a cyclist [her]self,” and most times on the road is “frightened to death.”

Cllr Lane will remain the council representative on the committee. 

Mayor Breen brought forward a bit of the old council’s skepticism about the expediency of this committee when he cut right to, “how long do you anticipate this process will take […] You’ve been doing this for a long time … How long until we get recommendations?”

I was almost nostalgic as Cllr Lane went into the proposed “public consultations” explanations which will leverage “takeaways” and “quick wins” leading up to the “Master Bike Plan.” Soooo … maybe another year.

 Rennies River East Traffic Fuckerole Review

The city is now taking a look at the entire insane traffic pattern from the lake and the “Stadium Dominion” area of Kingsbridge through Empire and Winter Ave and Circular Rd to Carpasian and Rennies Mill Rd. That will include non-motorized traffic (pedestrians and bicycles) and accessibility as emphasized by Cllrs Froude and Burton.

Cllr Hanlon says there will be as much public engagement as possible and encourages anyone with questions or concerns or suggestions regarding traffic flow in this area to email her. As my mom would say, “I have a thought; would you like to hear it?”

Cllr Hanlon emphasizes that the council will be working on reviewing the traffic patterns of the entire city as a whole, but that examination of this specific area will enhance that. The message seems to be that traffic “fixes” will no longer be a piecemeal/patchwork approach. “Of the Whole” is turning into a silent mantra for this council.

 Foran Room Rent Rates

Cllr Lane, Finance and Administration, referring to a COTW discussion/recommendation, moved that the city go back to providing the Foran Greene meeting room for free to non-profits. The idea is that these groups do work that benefits the city and many have very tight budgets and any rent for a conference room may be prohibitive.

Also, the city only made ~$1,200 – $1,300 over the last year after deciding to charge all groups.

Only Cllr Collins voted against.

Tender: Margaret’s Place Demolition

Percy Excavating (I think) is awarded the tender for demolition of 55 and 59 Margaret’s Place for their $450,000 bid. A while back, the city explained that the owner was not doing anything to demolish the burnt up buildings, and it was now a safety hazard. The city decided they would have to tender it out and then try to get the owner to pay later — an owner who never responded to the city’s call that they demo it to begin with. So that half million may be on us.

 RFP: Twice Tendered Still Shy

The cost of a new “Brush Truck” was twice tendered, but no bidder met “spec,” so the city put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) and awarded a contract of $123,800 to Action Trucks.

Cllr Hanlon asked if we had an old “brush truck?”Mayor Breen said we had an, “end of life truck,” which is evocative but not super elucidating. The City Manager clarified that the city had been using a “smaller vehicle” that was “cobbled together” but “not exactly the right fit for the job.” Whatever that job may be.

Tupper Wares

The city will sell some vacant land to the owner of 35 Tupper St to extend their yard at $3/square foot.

Economic Update

Deputy Mayor O’Leary has taken over from Cllr Lane in bringing us the economic updates. Our Immigrant population has risen from 4.3%, (who reported as “foreign born”) in 2011, to 6.1% in 2016.

The housing outlook, according to cmhc.ca is robust for homes under 300 large.

City building permits are up 22% overall from this time last year.

Treeson in Kenmount Terrace

Deputy Mayor O’Leary offered “criticism” that new building had taken place in Kenmount Terrace since May, but no new trees had been planted despite council’s adoption of Development regulations requiring at least one tree be “implemented” in every new residential lot. This is according to feedback from residents of Kenmount Terrace at a recent community meeting.

O’Leary insisted that staff explain why this new regulation was not being followed, and wants them to report back to make sure that this is indeed in the regulations since it was approved last spring. The City Manager said he would check into it and confirmed that the city does take a “landscaping security” from developers for this purpose.

Cllr Hanlon struck an odd note attempting to chastise O’Leary for bringing this up in public without first giving the staff a “heads up.” To which O’leary replied that there had been an “ongoing conversation.”

Go-Round

A play about Memorializing the War, “Dedication,” is playing at the LSPU Hall, but it is by Ed Riche so it may be worth seeing after all. O’Leary’s 12 year old son “loved it.” So bring the whole family. 

Cllr Burton requested that we not forget the loud streets of summer, and is referring the current noise by-laws to staff to get some feedback. She will also be putting together a “working group” with Ward 2 Cllr Jamieson and probably someone from RNC and the City Traffic Department to look more specifically at motorcycle and automobile noise issues. 

Cllr Lane says, “tourism is an experience to consume,” “more entrepreneurs makes a more resilient city.” 

Cllr Hanlon says that for immigrants, and those born here, navigating city hall for small businesses is still a “maze” and more should be done to help. 

Cllr Jamieson says we have a “cultural sector that punches above their weight” and reminded that sector that city grant applications are due November 30th. 

Cllr Korab said his Ward 3ers don’t seem to know you have to put leaves in paper bags for collection. He also praised the money raised for Kids Eat Smart program.

Cllr Collins is annoyed (as the city always is) that the street lights are perpetually out on Pitts Memorial. He also asks staff to look at how traffic enters the TransCanada Highway from Kilbride. And he wants the council, he means you Cllr Froude, to look at what went wrong when the city tried hybrid metrobuses in the past before getting all excited about hybrid vehicles again. 

Mayor Breen reminds everyone about the Bowring Park Festival of Lights on December 2nd, and also about the City’s annual food drive November 20-24th. He challenges other municipalities to join in. The gauntlet of caring has been thrown! What say you Mt Pearl? Clarenville? Elliston? Have you no access in those storied root cellars of thine?

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