Light House Project will leave neighbours in the dark, critics say

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Josh Pennell
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Development should go heritage — not highrise, says business owner

It was tough to find anybody who was thrilled Tuesday about the approval of the Light House Project in the area of 83 and 90 Duckworth St. in St. John’s, where the hotel and residential property will be built.

Stephane Delisle’s business, Hempware, is in the immediate vicinity of the Light House Project on the east end of Duckworth Street. He wonders why the heritage rules are so malleable for large developers and so rigid for small business owners like himself.

The project, the idea of Republic Properties Inc., was given approval during Monday’s city council meeting.

Brenda McClellan, who owns Red Ochre Gallery, has been voicing her concerns about the development for the two years it’s been on the table. She says her main concern is with the City of St. John’s.

“The guidelines say four storeys, and how can they just at random allow these rules to be broken?” she asks.

The development is actually going to be six storeys.

McClellan has the same concerns of many people: the design won’t suit the heritage area, and the tall building will cause shading and perhaps create a wind tunnel.

 

Breaking bylaws

The sting of watching another development be able to break so many of council’s bylaws is all the more infuriating considering Mc­Clellan applied to raise the roof on her building when she was doing renovations last year.

“I was not allowed to raise my roof one foot,” she says.

The fact that she’ll now sit in the shadow of a six-storey stone wall hotel begs a certain question.

“Why does one person get so much privilege when other citizens do not?” she asks.

Mere metres away, that sentiment is echoed by another area business owner.

Stephane Delisle owns Hempware, on the other side of Wood Street from Red Ochre Gallery.

“When we bought the building here, we couldn’t change the size of the window,” he says.

The same heritage restrictions that kept McClellan from rasing her roof kept Delisle from increasing his window size or even putting one in that opened differently than the one there during the time of purchase.

Delisle figures if you have lots of money, council will bow to you. Otherwise, you do the bowing to them. He points out that they’re tearing down an old fire station that is part of the heritage area, as well letting the developers break many heritage rules.

Delisle is in favour of development and knows a hotel in the area can mean more business.

“If there’s more tourists in town, it’s good for me,” he says.

He questions the look of the development in an artist’s drawing, though.

“It would be nice if they put something more downtown colourful.”

When he went to Ste-Pierre, Delisle says, he saw a concrete hospital that was the colour of a bunch of row houses.

“It looks great. And that’s a hospital.”

Residents, too, were feeling defeat at council’s approval of the development.

Roy Hoogstraten lives at 10 Wood St. He said his property is the only house in the area that survived the 1892 fire. The residential section of the development that will be built on the site of the old fire station can be built within 10 inches of his property.

“The council is straight as a boomerang,” he says.

The fire station property should have been available for anybody to bid on, he says. It’s been appraised specifically for Republic Properties Inc.

Hoogstraten says this would have been an ideal development for council to make an example out of — to show how the city can have developers follow heritage rules and bylaws.

Instead, he says, it shows just the opposite — that council members bend the rules when it suits them.

He also says the estimate that the project will take two years to complete once ground is broken is preposterous and drastically lower than how long it will actually take.

Two years of construction is enough for McClellan to wonder if her gallery can survive 24 months as a business in a construction zone.

Development should go heritage and not highrise, she says.

 

josh.pennell@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Red Ochre Gallery, Light House

Geographic location: Wood Street

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Recent comments

  • Saucy Face
    October 24, 2013 - 14:44

    Well Josh, I'm thrilled as I'm sure many who have grown tired of the anti-development NIMBY's . As for this statement 'The fact that she’ll now sit in the shadow of a six-storey stone wall hotel begs a certain question. “Why does one person get so much privilege when other citizens do not?” she asks. I answer her question with a similar directed at her: “Why should she expect to get so much privilege when other citizens do not?” I ask her.

  • seanoairborne
    October 23, 2013 - 14:15

    Six stories!A HIGHRISE!LOL

  • Christopher Chafe
    October 23, 2013 - 13:58

    This project shows that the antiquated heritage guildelines that were made over 30 years ago, need to be revamped, because like it or not people Downtown is Changing! By the just so you know in the protected area of Paris the minimum height is 7 storeys and they are currently in the process of revamping that for the changing times!

  • Right_Decision
    October 23, 2013 - 13:24

    A run-down firehouse and an abandoned strip-club are not heritage sites. Not only will this add a much needed hotel to the downtown area, but it will provide MORE residences and parking. Good job St. John's city council and good job Republic Properties! While, I agree - the council should take another look at allowing a 1ft roof height increase and allow Hempware to change a window, I suspect Hempware and Red Ochre Gallery will be very happy with the increase in foot traffic and business once people are living and staying here.

  • Anna
    October 23, 2013 - 12:59

    Here we go again, the 2013 council is changing the rules whenever they feel like. How is someone allowed to build a six story building where four is supposed to be the norm? Why can't any council abide by the rules and stop treating its taxpayers differently?

  • Lloyd
    October 23, 2013 - 11:51

    I am sick and tired of listening to people in the downtown area talking about I don't want development in my back yard. Oh, my view will be gone, or it is Heritage. Piss the view! The city don't guarantee a view when you buy a house in the downtown area. Get real, and out of your fantasy world. We are not in Disney Land. I say get a life. If City Council had to listen to all of the nay sayers, we would be still be back in the days of Queen Victoria, and cobblestone walkways, and NO development. If people don't want development, then your own personal taxes will go up. How do you expect City Council to proceed with all the work that has to be done in the city on streets, new pipes, (some are 100 years old) and on and on it goes. It is 2013....wake up and smell the roses.

  • Chris Palmer
    October 23, 2013 - 11:22

    Well, here we go. As predicted, without the calming and rational influence on Council of Sheelagh O'Leary and Shannie Duff, the new Council (which is led by the same old tired geezers of the past Council) will run amock with the development of the City of St. John's. The first real decision Council makes is to approve a proposal for a 6-storey, muti-million dollar building on Water Street adjacent to Wood Street when the City's, own regulations specify a maximum of 4 storeys. I guess money, and the developers who reap it in, are to be paramount What a four-year term the City is in for without anyone on Council having a vision for a vibrant City that respects and promotes its architectural heritage and culture.

  • citizen12
    October 23, 2013 - 09:27

    in a city our size a 6 story building is very reasonable. developments like this bring life to our downtown, especially this area which doesnt have as much foot traffic as the downtown core. if you dont develop these areas you really risk the area becoming runned down and vacant and just plain boring. developments like this will offer economic boosts for all surrounding buisnessesand potentially bring in new buisnesses. people need to stop complaining all the time for silly reasons, like "shadows" and "wind tunnels". c'mon! 5-6 story buildings creating a wind tunnel?! you could have came up with a better excuse than that

  • Max Vere-Holloway
    October 23, 2013 - 09:03

    What these people need is someway to recall the offenders and put them out of office. There has to be a counter measure to the economic power of Business, otherwise decisions will always favor the money. My impression, which admittedly may be incorrect is that the members of Council were swayed by the money, which is a poor basis for most decisions, especially those of a supposedly democratically elected body. If anybody knows of any recall feature in Councils governing constitution, they should make the facts known. If there is no way to affect the decisions of this newly elected council there should be, and this is where all energies should be focused. If you disagree with the decision of Council, don't turn away, but direct your energies to see they are removed from office and measures put in place to give the electorate more control of their (Council's) decisions.

  • Glen
    October 23, 2013 - 08:10

    No development should be allowed to break bylaws. If council wants to approve a development that breaks a current bylaw, the bylaw should have to be changed so that everyone gets to play by the same rules.

  • Eastender.
    October 23, 2013 - 08:05

    I agree why wasn't this property put up forvthe residents in that area to bid on.How can the owed of the crazy horse building get a piece of city property across the street when the surrounding are residents should have gotten dibs on that land for no other reason then for parking.My mother who lived on Prescott street all her life wasn't a loud to purchase a piece of city owned property because she wasn't one of the adjoining home owners to this land, because she lived directly across the street from it.After getting in touch with her councillor he did nothing to help her and all she wanted a share of that vacant land was so her family could at least have a place to park.Makes me wonder how a home owner don't have the same rights as a developler.You said it right here on this letter money talks.Your last councilor did nothing for the little person don't think his nephew is going to.

  • Robb
    October 23, 2013 - 07:40

    These heritage people are just creepy....what do they expect?...they want no development and leave these rat holes intact..??...a sore point for me is still how that great corporate citizen Fortis was treated when they wanted to put up a fantastic development on Water street......but no, the creepy heritage people got their way, and now what do we still have down there...??..a big ugly white building, and a bunch of 3 - 4 story rat holes. Heritage is taken way too far, so I am absolutely glad to see the council has some vision. And all the construction dollars and tax dollars....this would not be if the heritage crew had their way...