Both sides came armed with documents and presentations, ready to do battle.
But judging by the applause at a public meeting at St. John’s City Hall Thursday night, the majority of the 100 or so in attendance were against a seniors’ assisted-living complex for the Richmond Hill area of Kilbride.
Seanic Canada Inc. has proposed a three-storey, 69 bed complex between Carondale Drive, Doresy’s Lane and Old Petty Harbour Road.
Project appealed in court
Council turned down the proposal in November 2010, but Seanic went to court arguing it didn’t give sufficient planning reasons, nor did it let the company complete a traffic study before the vote.
Lawyer Michael Crosbie represented Seanic in court and spoke on its behalf Thursday.
His presentation lasted about a half hour and many in the room seemed to be impatient, some murmering disapprovals.
Room called to order
Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff, who presided over the meeting, did have to ask Crosbie to speed things up.
But she also had to ask people to let Crosbie finish as the chatter in the room drowned him out at times.
Crosbie contended seniors’ facilities generate small amounts of traffic and that the city’s municipal plan endorses flexible zoning and encourage more density in residential zones.
He also pointed to the dire need for seniors’ housing.
“If it can’t be put here, where can it be put?” he asked.
Crosbie said seniors’ housing should be in residential neighbourhoods and that the elderly shouldn’t be religated to “institutional ghettos.”
Some in the crowd called that comment “low” and “dirty.”
Letters of support tabled
Crosbie also tabled 125 letters of support for the project.
Once Crosbie finished, Dwayne Mills had a Powerpoint presentation on behalf of residents.
Site not suitable, says opponent
He outlined a plethora of concerns from traffic and a lack of parking, to noise from emergency and commercial vehicles, safety due to a dangerous intersection nearby and a lack of sidewalks.
He also said the site simply isn’t suitable for a seniors complex.
But Mills also asked about the time it will take to build.
“Should the residents ... have to endure two plus years of dirt and dust — impacting air quality — blasting, excavation and construction noise?” he asked. “During the construction period are we citizens or are we hostages?”
Sarah Colborne-Penney also spoke on behalf on neighbours and received loud applause.
“When you can’t rely on logic you rely on emotion. The introduction of seniors to this matter is a red herring,” she said.
Colbourne-Penney said her concerns included safety and increased runoff — as the current green space acts as a sponge for rainwater.
She ended by asking council to put a freeze on development in the area until Old Petty Harbour Road can be properly realigned to address the dangerous intersection.
Colborne-Penney noted a pedestrian has already been killed there.
A number of others also spoke out against the plan, but Seanic had some support.
Two woman — Jane Morgan and Cathy Sheehan — said they work with seniors and pleaded with the neighbours to reconsider their opposition.
“St. John’s needs more projects like this and I see it daily,” said Morgan.
“Open your eyes people, please do, and don’t say not in my backyard,” added Sheehan.
Ward 5 Coun. Wally Collins, who represents the area, stood to say he won’t support the project.
“You’d have to hate your grandmother to put her up on that hill, as far as I’m concerned,” he said to more applause.
City traffic engineer Robin King did tell the meeting that regardless if council approved the development or not, a new traffic light will be installed in the area to address existing concerns.
Council will likely vote on Seanic’s proposal March 5.