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

City Council
If the owner does not comply with the Springdale Street demolition order, the city will send out a tender and do it themselves and then bill the owner.

Froude and Jamieson were absent. Mayor Dan was amiably poetic as he opened by embracing this “nice and balmy [day] as Cllr. Korab would say.”

Down Syndrome Society was in attendance for Canadian Down Syndrome Week. Deputy Mayor O’Leary holds up a black and white photographic portrait she did 10 years ago as part of a whole series for an awareness campaign (More Than Meets the Eye) to celebrate children with Down syndrome in the community. “I just plucked this off my wall…”

Now, I have been known in this column to tease the Deputy Mayor for always having words – many many words – to add to every single thing (she is not unknown to run out her 5 minutes in the go-round) whether anything needs be said or not. BUT. It is astounding how often she has already been active in some community effort that council brings up. Seriously astounding. She talks a lot, but she may actually do as much as she says.

The poppies are coming. The poppies are here. I won’t make jokes about the poppies. Some things are sacred. I support the poppy campaign. I support it bigger and better than anyone.

Mayor Dan reads the Land Acknowledgement. Halloween is not even over yet and most councillors and staff have their poppies on already.

Wee Customers; Wee Variances
Council approved discretionary use for 61 Pippy Place to house “Whee Indoor Playground.” The play space will be open 7 days a week, 11am-7pm with 3-4 staff on site. Cllr Burton says she will likely be found there once it opens. #councillorswithkids.

A frontage variance of 9.5% is approved for 3 alder place to allow for one new building lot on the cul de sac. No neighbours objected. All hail Airport Heights!

A 6 metre set back for a garage was approved for 99 Old petty Harbour road in Kilbride.

 Committee of the Whole Report (COTW): Recreation Fees Reviewed and Raised

(For the hyper-detail on all COTW discussions see my @EDonkeyote twitter feed #sjcotw)

Council approved changes to recreational program fees. Most went up, some stayed the same, a couple went down. This is in line with council’s current directive (from a previous council) to review all recreation program fees every 3 years.

Mayor Dan explains the city has“to balance fees.” He says these are “good programs, well delivered” which require lots of training for the recreation staff and every few years the city sees an “increase in the overall costs of providing the programs.”

He says the programs are priced “fairly and competitively” compared to “other municipalities and the private sector.”

The changes will bring an estimated 116k to city revenue (which sounds like they are saying it is intended to balance the increased costs but the decision note didn’t give a specific number for cost increases.)

Cllr Burton objects to some of the increases. She says that people need the after-school and summer camp programs (among others), and that demand from working parents for these programs are up, and she wants to see those programs filled.

Cllr Korab rebuts Cllr Burton’s implication that fees keep people from signing up for the programs by asking staff if “most of the programs are fairly full?”

Staff responds they (day camp, after school, swimming lessons) are about 90% full.

Deputy Mayor O’Leary tries to add something, but since Korab (who introduced the motion) has already spoken again, debate is now closed.

The motion carries with Burton voting against it.

It is worth noting that, though absent on Monday, Cllr Froude would likely have voted against this too. He expressed disapproval of the timing and process of the council voting on these 3 year changes when the public engagement process for the upcoming 3 year budget cycle has not yet concluded.

The mayor and staff said the timing is to make sure all fees can be posted in the 2019 city guide. Froude seemed unimpressed with that logic, and suggested timing/schedule could be re-jigged on all of it to make sure all these piecemeal budget decisions align with the overall 3 year budget cycle.

Boom Sis! Special Events! Rah Rah!

Cllr Korab presented a noise bylaw extension request from a film crew for “A Fire in the Cold Season.” I love that the Special Events Committee covers parties, road races, parades and Movie/TV industry requests. It is a perfecta of cool things that I avoid-in-person/watch-from-home. It is Korab country. It is the least nerdy committee. Its so un-nerdy it should be called a “Special Events Team” instead of a “committee.”

Cannabis Is An Annual; Our Danny Is Perennial; Collins Keeps On Trucking

Permit approved for “Redevelopment of Building for Plant Growth & Research Facility” at 148 East White Hills Drive. Maybe a solution to the empty cannabis shelves is in sight.

“The Shoppes at Galway Phase 1 (Parcel B)” on “Danny Drive” are moving along. No matter how messed up local and international politics get, and no matter how much idolatry of leaders is ridiculous and dangerous, I can’t wholly hate any folly that led to a man, just a mortal man, naming his commercial district in a new subdivision “Shoppes” and naming the main street after himself. It is such a muppet movie villain move.

The lowest bid of ~290k from Weirs construction was approved for the Shoal Bay Rd force main replacement tender. Cllr Collins says after four years, “hopefully this is the last time we have to do anything for Shoal Bay.”

Cllr Collins is all about the infrastructure (bridges/roads). His representation has a basic practicality to it. He is on top of construction projects and pro-actively engaged concerning effects any developments may have on his constituents (potential drainage/run-off etc). But he seems indifferent to anything political or ideological.

It is a good foil for a predominantly young enthusiastic-idealistic council, but it is still weird that he provides a sort of tactical diversity on council now as opposed to being the unmovable embodiment of a long established status quo. He remained the same, and as everything changed around him the last two election cycles, it made him stand out. Sort of like his ward.

Demolitions on Springdale

The City is ordering the demolition of 22-28 Springdale street. These are the buildings next to the new Salvation Army building which broke ground in March.

The three wooden structures have been unoccupied since a fire in 2010. The city says the owner applied for a demolition permit at that time, but the buildings were never demolished. With people breaking into the vacant buildings and subsequent fires, Council agreed with Staff there is a public safety hazard.

If the owner does not comply with the demolition order, the city will send out a tender and do it themselves and then bill the owner.

If the owner cannot/will not pay, the city intends on recovering the cost of demolition “with the sale” of the building. I’m not sure exactly how that part works. Do they appropriate it and sell it at auction? At risk of sounding as mercenary as CBC’s business news Twitter feed, it is a sweet piece of land and this council is heavy into approving large/high developments in the immediate area. If you want to some day name a street something super stupid (like your own first name), here is your chance to start an empire.

Big City and Its Big Property

Council approved funds for Mayor Dan to travel to “Big City Mayors’ Caucus” in Ottawa in January. Councillors laughed with the Mayor that they just “want [him] gone.” But that isn’t what is funny. What is funny is St John’s is considered a “Big City” and how beaming with Big City pride the mayor was on our behalf.

It is so adorable I can barely stand it. We may end up starving on our soggy, aging, isolated, food desert during these fascist-resurgent/climate-apocalypse end times but at least we will do it in our Big City pants.

The city renewed its umbrella liability insurance policy (auto, building etc) with a slight increase due to a rise in the value of city owned property by 15 million. I never thought about this before. Holy shit. The city owns properties currently valued at over one billion dollars. Not to be all Dr Evil but … one billlllion dollars. Let’s sell it all and move to a warmer island.

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