Progress. Sustainability. Heritage. For years in St. John’s, when talking about development, it has seemed as though these three words are mutually exclusive and unable to work together.
It has seemed as though "progress" has meant “build now, before it’s too late.” "Sustainability" has been merely a fluffy term that gets in the way of making decisions. And "heritage" - well, that’s just the opposite of “progress,” isn’t it?
I completely disagree with the above thinking, and I believe that, in order to truly progress as a city, we have to harness our heritage in a sustainable way. The good news is that I am not the only one who believes this.
Groups who advocate for business have often clashed those who advocate for heritage. One group wanted new development; the other wanted to preserve the past.
Times are changing, however, and the groups’ views are beginning to merge.
As the former founding chair of the community group, Happy City, I recognized this changing landscape and brought together the St. John’s Board of Trade, The Newfoundland Historic Trust, and Downtown St. John’s to produce a document of shared values. We submitted it to the City of St. John’s Municipal Plan Review.
I am proud of this document because it contains realistic views and policies that can be agreed on by a broad base of people. They are broad principles, but having them outlined can help us to make specific decisions as a city.
I agree with what is outlined in the document, but, as a candidate for councillor at large, I’d like to tell you my personal views directly.
Development: We have to develop our city with new buildings, homes, and public spaces. This development should be well-planned and last for a long time (it should be “sustainable”).
To do this, we need a clear set of development guidelines that are enforced consistently. We cannot have continual “concessions” and zone changes because this leads to uncertainty and unfair situations for developers and residents alike.
Heritage: Our built heritage is a major asset to our entire city. City Hall should have a clear set of guidelines for the conservation of the heritage area that incentivizes developers to adapt, enhance, and maintain properties to maximize economic benefits.
We also have to celebrate developers and individuals who demonstrate effective design and use heritage properties in innovative, sustainable ways.
I love St. John’s, and I know so many others who want us to keep what is special about this place while we are growing and developing into a global city. The great news is that our historic properties can be the inspiration for modern, sustainable design.
It’s my hope as councillor at large to seize the opportunity and embrace the challenge!