Council votes down public meeting

Dave Bartlett
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Harbourfront development will proceed to public notification

St. John's city Coun. Debbie Hanlon stands to discuss a $10-million development on the St. John's waterfront. Hanlon wanted a public meeting on the project, but her motion was voted down.

St. John’s City Council defeated a motion Monday to hold a public meeting about a restaurant development on the waterfront.

Council opted to advertise the development instead.

When the proposed development — for one building housing two restaurants next to The Keg on Harbour Drive — came before the planning committee a couple of weeks ago, councillors voted to proceed to public notification.

But at the time, some councillors, including Ward 4 Coun. Debbie Hanlon, preferred a public meeting.

At Monday’s council meeting, Hanlon asked that be reconsidered.

“I’m 100 per cent in favour of this development. I think it’s a welcome addition to the waterfront,” she said. “(But) I’d like to see it go to a public hearing, not just be advertised in the paper.”

Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff seconded the motion.

Hanlon said the development is valued at about $10 million, will create 200 jobs and doesn’t jeopardize public access to the harbourfront, nor will it lead to further development as the rest of the harbourfront is over water.

But she said people have concerns and a public meeting could address some of those.

“This is like a public area. I walk down there. It’s like a park,” said Hanlon.

Except for Duff and Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay, Hanlon didn’t get any support for a public meeting.

“Does a vote by council, or members of council at the committee level mean nothing?” asked Coun. Tom Hann. “This was thoroughly discussed (at the) planning (committee meeting) and a decision was made to properly advertise the project.”

But Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said it’s completely within the purview of council to hold a full vote on any recommendations of committees.

Hann said the project is a good one and will enhance the west end of Harbour Drive.

He also said a public advertisement on the project is sufficient to collect any concerns from people.

Most of the other councillors echoed that.

But Duff said she would support Hanlon’s motion.

“There’s huge public interest in anything that happens on our harbour,” she said.

Duff also agreed the project is a good one, but wanted more public involvement in the discussion.

As she closed debate, Hanlon said public notification “is an unfair way to make such a drastic change in our city.”

“I do believe there’s a disconnect between (council) and the people,” she continued.

In other council news:

‰ Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen will chair a subcommittee of council to review the way the city approves grants and subsidies to community groups and festivals. That was welcome news for Hann.

“I’m a  happy man tonight,” said Hann. “For four years I’ve been asking for a review of all our (public) grant systems so we can make sure the money is getting to the right people at the right time on an equitable and fair basis.”

Breen also noted the city will give $25,000 towards the Telus Cup hockey tournament in April.

As was already reported in The Telegram, the organizers originally asked the city for about $80,500.

Though Hanlon said she supports the city hosting the national hockey tournament, she took exception to the way the funding was granted.

The organizers only came to the city this fall, when the tournament has been in the works for a year.

Breen said part of his committee will look at time lines and deadlines for funding requests.

But he also said others looking for money from the city should do what the Telus Cup group did — present a good business plan which shows the direct benefits to the city.

‰ Council defered a vote on a proposal to turn the former Salvation Army training centre on Tiffany Lane into private office space.

A recommendation from city staff asked for the deferral until a traffic study of the area could be completed. Meanwhile, there were four letters of opposition to the development, three of which cited traffic concerns.

During the brief discussion on the issue, Hanlon asked if it would be possible to make the street in question one-way. Coun. Gerry Colbert also asked if that traffic study could be combined with another one for the nearby intersection of Portugal Cove and New Cove roads. It was decided both questions would go to the police and traffic committee.

‰ Ward 3 Coun. Bruce Tilley told council the city has already sent in a funding request to the province to help build an additional off-leash dog park. On Saturday, The Telegram reported the city is looking at another dog park, likely in the Munday Pond area.

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Telus, Salvation Army

Geographic location: Portugal, New Cove

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  • insight
    February 08, 2011 - 09:12

    THE FRATERNITY HAS SPOKEN LEO POWER HEAVY WEIGHT IN PC PARTY >SEAN HANNRAHAN PC PARTY > HOW DO YOU THINK HE GOT THE PORT JOB> A WINK AND A NOD> THATS THE SYSTEM>

  • robert
    February 08, 2011 - 08:50

    No money received from taxes should be given to arts, sports or any other special interest groups. These groups should be self sufficient. No wonder municipal taxes are continually being increased!

  • Tim E.
    February 08, 2011 - 08:49

    Thank you to those counsilors voting against a public meeting. I'm always happy to see the business and development lobby stand up against what could be an outpouring of democracy. The embattled lobbies have been repressed by citizens (tree-huggers, hippies, Shannie, people with a view of the harbour, etc.) too long. Power to the Corporations! Citizens, keep your grubby hands "off" our city!

  • Frank M
    February 08, 2011 - 07:40

    Another Tom Hann mistake. The issue here is not necessarily about a development, rather, it is about the way a public authority (St. John's harbour Authority) has enterred into an arrangement with a private interest without any other public input or disclosure. At a minimum, the Port Authority should have asked for Expressions of Interests from the public and business for what could be put on the site. This smells like Sean Hanrahan has overstepped his level of authority or has cooked himself a deal. Pardon the pun.

    • Blue Moon
      February 09, 2011 - 11:10

      I agree with Frank M. Did any other business interest know this land was available? The next thing we know they'll tear down the War Memorial on Duckworth Street and stick a high rise there.