Battery development rules debated

Dave Bartlett
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Lots of opinions on what should and shouldn’t be allowed in historic area

A meeting about a draft report on development of non-residential properties in the Battery area of St. John’s was held at city hall Wednesday night. The report concerns structures such as wharves and stages. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

What type of development should and shouldn’t be allowed in the Battery was the question the City of St. John’s wanted to ask the public Wednesday night.

About 40 people turned out to a public meeting at St. John’s City Hall to have their say on proposed guidelines for the development of current non-residential properties in the historic area, such as wharves, twine stores and stages.

But at several points, the discussion drifted to other related topics — traffic in the area, the size of former buildings that are no longer there and a controversial parking area the city built last year.

The city asked architect Philip Pratt to write a report and make recommendations on what should be included in the new development guidelines.

Pratt said his recommendations closely follow residential development guidelines for the Battery already adopted by council.

He said the original study aimed to simplify the approval process, encourage development in the area, preserve existing private views and the iconic image of the area.

Pratt looked at 16 properties — some of which have been destroyed or removed and some which still exist but have been deemed unstable by the city.

He recommended repairs, infill developments or replacement buildings be based on historical uses and that building exteriors match the traditional style of the Battery.

After Pratt presented his report, people lined up at the microphone, starting with Glen Critch.

Critch said he’s been trying to develop three of the 16 lots in question— which have been in his family for generations — for a number of years.

He’s frustrated that one deal, to build a million-dollar home, fell through while he waited for the city to tell him what was acceptable or not.

“I’m here to (find out) what we can do and what we cannot do because I was told by people in this building that I could never rebuild out there,” said Critch. “I’ve had a bitter taste when it comes to the Battery. And I’ve been treated very, very unfair.”

Critch also said the city forced him to tear down at least one old store which used to be on one of the sites.

A real estate agent who accompanied Critch said if people build on the land, they won’t be rebuilding sheds or stores, but putting up homes.

That prompted Angela Drake to ask what impact 16 potential new homes would have on increased traffic on the narrow roadways of the Battery, not to mention parking.

“That’s like doubling the … number of residences down in the Outer Battery. These days everybody (has) a car. And that’s a concern because we’ve got a small road,” she said.

Later in the evening, Charlie Pearcey asked if he needed a permit, and an architect’s design, for a slipway connected to his twine store to tie up his two small boats.

Pearcey’s store was one of the properties reviewed by Pratt.

Pearcey said for five generations, his family has put out a slipway and taken it in when adverse weather is forecast.

When he was told he would have to have city approval, Piercy was incensed and called that ridiculous.

“I’m not going to make an application. I’m going to put it out,” Pearcey said.

He said if the city forces him to take it down, he’ll hit the open-line shows in protest.

The comments collected at the meeting will be part of a report council will get before it votes on the proposed development regulations.

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Recent comments

  • seanoairborne
    February 16, 2012 - 15:59

    I've come to the conclusion that there is nowhere to build anything in St.John's.The whole damn place is an historic area.Just build a whole new city and get on with it.I've never ever seen anything like it.Whenever you go to build a building in downtown St.John's and provide much needed jobs and taxes a MINORITY OF ARTSY FARTSIES come out of the woodwork and start whining and hollaring about taking their view of the harbor away,or,calling a ghetto like area with rundown buildings an Historical area.But the thing that gets me is that the minority always seems to win out!What gives with the twits that are on counsel?The tyranny of the minority at work in spades.Untill the majority of the citizens of St.John's get some balls and start to hollar like the progressives,the meatheads at city hall and on city counsel will continue to take the city down the tubes and St.John's will become ,more and more,a backwords city!

  • CheerBear
    February 16, 2012 - 11:57

    Anon, you're saying that low income people don't deserve to have a nice view? I suppose they should have to live in cruddy basement apartmemts in the center-city, somewhere out sight, eh? The land there has been passed down within families for decades and decades; it's not exactly fodder for 'bulldozing' because some elitist snob decides that the area is 'too good' for the people who live there.

  • David Wilson
    February 16, 2012 - 11:32

    Don II, well that was a long winded spiel on land ownership and expropriation. Let me remind you that the Beothuk's were the first settlers in Newfoundland and their land was stolen from them by the westerners. Taking land from others is as old as time and will continue to happen well into the future. While you were at it I'm surprised you didn't blame it all on on Joey or Danny.

  • Anonymous
    February 16, 2012 - 10:55

    Cheerbear... Shea Heights is a heritage area? It has character? It's just a low-income suburb. In any other city mansions would have been put up there a long time ago, what with that amazing view of the city. I say bulldoze it all and start over! It's an embarrassment. It makes our city planners look like a bunch of clueless slack-jawed bumpkins. Foghorn Leghorn is exactly right, this is called progress.

  • lyly
    February 16, 2012 - 10:53

    Leave the Battery alone!!! Progress does not mean that we have to become a boring generic city ! We need some creative minds around here. Have a look at the TV show "waterfront cities of the world" and get inspired and I mean REALLY inspired. We could also be one of those amazingly progressive and innovative cities with a clear vision. We can do much better

  • BG
    February 16, 2012 - 10:42

    I think there are too many trees obstructing veiws in the battery. Most of which were not there 80-100 years ago. How come no one is complaing about the trees. They are out of character for the area and it is starting to look like a forest in some places. Also, given the price of some of the smaller homes current for sale down there, I'd hardly call a $1m home a mansion. I live in the battery and the issue with parking is that every home has 2-3 cars. Mostly larger cars or trucks and SUV at that!

  • Barrelman
    February 16, 2012 - 09:51

    Seems it's the beginning of the end for the Battery. Construction of humungous houses is destroying the character of our communities and their unique beauty. R.I.P. Battery. Go down and experience it and take your pitcures now while it's still there. It won't be much longer.

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    February 16, 2012 - 09:39

    @Cheerbear - In some places they would have a word for that - Progress!

  • Don II
    February 16, 2012 - 08:42

    Does the City of St. John's intend to compensate private land owners for the development value of their property when the City denies permission to develop the land? Not likely! In Newfoundland, the right to own and develop your private property is seriously infringed and obstructed by Government legislation and City by-laws. Many of these laws are nonsense, improperly implemented and designed to obstruct people from developing their land for no rational reason. In Newfoundland, Government and Town Councils can improperly zone or expropriate land for trumped up reasons, take it away from the rightful owner for a pittance and later, remove restrictive zoning and transfer the expropriated land to a Government pal who can then develop the expropriated land for a big windfall profit. This is unjust, unethical and despite legislation fiction to the contrary, unlawful! The Government has in the past declared watershed protection areas around public water supply areas or view plane protected areas that adversely affected private property. These actions have rendered hundreds or thousands of privately owned land incapable of being developed. The Government did not compensate the private land owners for this form of expropriation. People in Newfoundland who could have greatly improved their financial position or obtained enough money for their future retirement have been deprived of the right to maximize the development value of their land. Government caters to heritage groups, environmental groups, Town Councils and well connected people who just want to do some harm to their neighbors by obstructing or denying the right to develop their own property. In Newfoundland, no compensation or inadequate compensation being paid by Government is the norm! Development, zoning and expropriation laws in Newfoundland are designed to legalize Government theft of private property. If Government or the City won't allow you to develop your land for some trumped up reason or even for a good reason, the Government or City should be required to fully compensate you for the losses you sustain from such obstruction and impingement on your property rights. I know of one case in a small town around the bay where the Town tried to expropriate peoples land for a pittance so the Town could build a multi million dollar Marina. Why should Government or Town Councils dictate what development can be stopped on private land when it is their intention, well hidden, to take the land and develop it for Government or City pals? A lot of skullduggery goes on in Newfoundland regarding the abuse of private property rights and Government gets away with it, because it has legislated laws to allow it to do so. President George Bush issued a Presidential Order which prohibited Government or Municipalities in the USA from expropriating or zoning privately owned land so it could be taken from the rightful owners for a pittance and given to developers and Government pals to develop for their unjust enrichment. The time for a similar order is long overdue in Newfoundland!

  • Eli
    February 16, 2012 - 08:07

    The boo-birds (aka the "develop at all costs" crowd) will be on YOUR tail for sure. Money buys you whatever you want around here.

  • CheerBear
    February 16, 2012 - 07:29

    Can you imagine a giant million dollar McMansion down there amongst all those little houses? It's a shame, any place that has got either bit of character, or nice view of the ocean is being taken over by rich people. It's already happening up in Shea Heights, in torbay, in downtown, and in quidi vidi village. If you want a big ugly mansion that's completly out of character with the rest of the neighborhood, then stay out of heritige areas.