The small parking lot in the Outer Battery area of St. John’s could soon be expanded to make it easier for vehicles to turn around at the end of the narrow lane.
But it’s the city’s intention that the bigger lot not be used as a public turnaround for sightseers.
On Monday, the city’s public works committee recommended the parking lot be expanded by 18 feet to make it easier for snowplows, emergency vehicles and local residents to get back out of the area.
But there was a debate at the committee meeting about the proposed expansion of the lot. Couns. Frank Galgay and Sheilagh O’Leary and Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff said some residents have expressed concerns, most notably over an increase in traffic.
The city’s director of engineering, Walt Mills, said the expansion will not add additional parking spaces, nor will it be meant for vehicles other than local residents, emergency or city vehicles.
But it wasn’t clear at the meeting how the city planned to enforce that rule.
He said the lot needs work because of damage caused by hurricane Igor last fall.
The councillors who had concerns seemed to accept that, but O’Leary also asked that signs be posted saying the road was for local traffic only.
O’Leary also asked if there was some way to make a new retaining wall more attractive when viewed from the harbour. Mills said the tidal action means it’s unlikely anything beyond the concrete wall will stay. But he said his department would see if they could colour the concrete to blend in better with the area.
But Chris Brookes, the chairman of the Outer Battery Neighbourhood Association, says he’s perplexed that a committee of council voted to expand the parking lot on Monday, when at a meeting with his group on Friday, he was led to believe the parking lot and all other construction and demolition in the area was still on hold.
Earlier this year, the city implemented a moratorium on development in the area until a report could be done by a historical engineer. The engineer presented some interim findings at Friday’s meeting and the city said the final report should be done by the end of this month.
But Brookes said at that meeting the issue of the moratorium was raised and it was his impression that nothing would change until another meeting was held in mid-August.
“The city said categorically that no, there were no plans to do anything,” he told The Telegram Tuesday.
“I’m just personally kind of dismayed because, obviously this must have been in the works, because the very next business day they brought this in.”
Brookes said the association discussed expanding the parking area at a meeting in April, and while some people had no problem with making the lot a little bigger, he said many were opposed to essentially doubling its size.
“The general feeling was a few feet would be fine and might help turn long pickup trucks, but nobody wanted 18 feet,” Brookes said.
He acknowledged that one family in the area has since written the city supporting the expansion.
As for the idea of providing more space for larger vehicles such as ambulances, snowplows and fire trucks to turn around, Brookes said that argument doesn’t hold water because the road to the turnaround is too narrow to allow large vehicles to pass.
“The turn up by No. 15 Outer Battery (Road) is a very narrow road and a very narrow turn,” he said.
“We know we can’t get a building supply truck down here. It might be a bit mistaken to spend taxpayers’ money on doubling the size of a parking lot for vehicles that can’t get to it.”
Council is expected to vote on whether to expand the parking lot at next week’s council meeting.