Developer modifies plans to resubmit to St. John’s city council
Battery residents fear a proposed bed and breakfast will increase traffic and destroy the character of the neighbourhood, but the developer hopes to win them over with a historically relevant plan.
An artist’s rendering of the bed and breakfast Future Group hopes to build in the Battery. — Submitted photo
In October, St. John’s city council received so much opposition to the developer’s application for the parking lot for the bed and breakfast — never mind the B&B itself — that the developer withdrew the application, with plans to redesign and resubmit it. Council received more than 20 submissions from residents objecting to the parking lot and bed and breakfast, which would be located where Cabot Avenue meets Battery Road.
But residents interviewed by The Telegram suggested that it doesn’t matter how the bed and breakfast and parking lot are designed — they don’t want it.
“It would not be the best thing,” said Cabot Avenue resident Olga Volkonskaia. “Traffic is bad. Sometimes there’s a big traffic jam here when there’s a cruise ship in the harbour, or if it’s just a beautiful day and people are walking around.”
On Battery Road, 35-year Battery resident Linda Olmstead said she wants things to stay the same — but said she doesn’t think protesting it will do any good.
“(St. John’s Mayor) Dennis O’Keefe is just building everything up around us,” she said. “We’ve got no say in nothing down here no more.”
Standing on her deck, Olmstead said it’s harder for residents to get work done on their homes than it is for developers.
“Took me eight years to get this deck approved. I was mortified. Eight years fighting the city. I finally got the deck two years ago. For anything like a house, you can’t do nothing, but anything like (the bed and breakfast) it will go ahead. It’s the money.”
Debbie Sullivan, who grew up in the Battery, says there’s not enough room in the Battery now.
“Sometimes you can barely get a car out there,” she said. “God forbid if anybody needs an ambulance — you’ll never get one out there.”
She said, though, she’s open to a redesigned proposal.
“It would really depend on the whole layout of the whole thing. It’s not just the limited space out there, but it’s keeping it in context with what’s already out there. It’s probably one of the biggest tourist attractions we have here in St. John’s. We continue to ruin those places. Soon we won’t have any tourists.”
Residents have the support of Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Galgay, who — along with Ward 4 Coun. Bernard Davis and Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth — voted against deferring the parking lot application.
“There’s a whole host of concerns — obviously there’s been some developments that have occurred in the past that residents feel they weren’t properly consulted on,” he said. “I think that has led the way for some skepticism in terms of future development in the area.”
Ultimately, “The property there, it looks relatively small. The development itself obviously will fit in there, but it’s quite invasive for the landscape — there’s no question about it,” said Galgay, who has spoken both to residents and the developer, and hopes to foster better communications between residents and future developers.
Craig Williams, president and CEO of the St. John’s Future Group of Cos. and the developer of the proposed bed and breakfast, said the eight-room bed and breakfast fit development regulations for the area without the parking lot across the street.
“We just thought it made more sense to have the parking across the street,” he said. “From a regulatory standpoint, we never needed to do it.” The revised plans, which the company is almost ready to resubmit, will have less parking on the same side of the street, he said.
Williams said he wasn’t surprised by the resistance — which he said is more concern than outright opposition — to the project.
“You’re never surprised by that when you do what I do,” he said. “The reality is is that people’s homes are very personal, and people get nervous about this stuff. You can tell by the look of that project, though, it’s not a project that you should get nervous about.”
The bed and breakfast will have a historical theme, said Future vice-president Steve Saunders.
“What we’re going to do there is theme the bed and breakfast around (John) Alcock and (Arthur) Brown, who made the first nonstop transatlantic flight from St. John’s to Ireland, back in 1919,” he said.
The exterior design of the bed and breakfast already features elements to incorporate the area’s heritage, he said. “Now, we want to bring something to the inside of the project that reflects some of the history of St. John’s. When you look around St. John’s, you see all sorts of other things that reflect certain parts of history. I know the Battery isn’t really related to aviation, but Alcock and Brown were an important part of history to St. John’s, and there’s really nothing in St. John’s that commemorates that.”