Battery residents wary of proposed bed and breakfast

Daniel MacEachern
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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.”

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Future Group

Geographic location: Cabot Avenue, Ireland

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Recent comments

  • Vince "The Dynamo" Rousse
    November 15, 2013 - 10:20

    HA! This issue is dead as far as I'm concerned. Listen up people, it's 2013 now. While we do need to remember our important heritage, I believe that is more important to be able to let go of the past and advance into the future. We can't keep holding onto the past, we can however keep the past in mind as we make our choices for the future. It's not like the Battery is the site of the great pyramids. Good on the developer for taking the residents into mind and resubmitting a new application. Lost in all the whining is that the company had the compassion to at least attempt to satisfy the crowd.

  • Paul Hussey
    November 14, 2013 - 16:46

    Can we see the bigger picture? Where will this be located. I have lived here for many years. This area of the City is congested. Leave it alone. Control the traffic first before adding to it.

  • Christopher Chafe
    November 14, 2013 - 13:25

    As an individual who is anti-Heritage and 100% pro-development I have to agree with the residents of this area and voice my concern over this B&B. My reasons have nothing to do with Heritage or this false sense of entitlement of line of sight, but rather with the road alignment of the area. The roads in the battery area were obviously made for Horse Drawn Carriages and nothing else and to put this B&B down there will only create traffic nightmares.

    • Steve
      November 14, 2013 - 14:18

      I thought you were 100% pro development? Must be 99% I guess. So, if you come up with a reason why a development shouldn't proceed, that's not anti-development, it's just common sense, but if someone else comes up with a reason, they're anti-development, they're a bunch of hippies, rubber booters, whatever.

  • Thomas
    November 14, 2013 - 11:54

    I feel the design fits the area and encourage the proposal. The Battery is far from what it once was. You can't buy a spot over there now for love nor money these days. You would be hard pressed to find a namesake original to the area. Nothing but a bizarre group of foreigners striving for a Bohemian existence with the benefits of downtown St. John's in walking distance. If they are not griping about development they are complaining about where to park the twin BMW's. Too bad. Move forward with it.

    • BatteryResident
      November 14, 2013 - 12:28

      Take a walk down in the battery some day. You'd be hard pressed to find a BMW and likely more than 1/2 or original residents.

    • Born and Raised
      November 14, 2013 - 12:53

      OMG a BMW, really !!!!! hahahaha my god we have LOADS of them out there b'y. Get real. Thank god you are not talking about my Hummer then :) Plus my two dodge RAMS that are parked on the street - REALLY lol.

    • joanne
      November 14, 2013 - 13:14

      Oh Thomas. You obviously are not familiar with the Battery. There are many original families there right now. I'm not sure how many BMWs are out there. I know of an Audi, a Toyota, a couple of Hondas and I have a Mitsubishi. Not all of us are bizarre and I'm not sure you won't find a bizarre mix in any neighbourhood. Not everyone is against development but rather the way in which each development is dealt with. Depending on who you are, the City will approve or reject a reno, add on, new home, etc. There have been a number of projects rejected by the city, in appropriate areas, that are far less complex than this one. If you knew the whole story behind this project you would not be so quick to make these comments.

  • BatteryResident
    November 14, 2013 - 11:08

    It's really easy for someone who doesn't live in or venture into the Battery to take shots at the griping residents... Under normal circumstances it would appear that there is too much stake being placed on view protection and protecting the area's character, but this place is a post card for St. John's and NL, which should be protected from big development. This is a large B&B (or condo?), with a faux St. John's rowhouse facade and a huge parking lot across the street. To build this parking lot, it will require bulldozing a large area of green-space and erecting a 20-30 (maybe 40) foot high retaining wall so land can be backfilled in to create the parking pad. Put in some overhead lights and railings... How's that going to look for tourism? The post card of the city? Lastly, from a resident's perspective, the area can't handle the volume. Traffic congestion is a major issue every day of the week during peak times, drainage is already a major issue and getting city services are already a challenge. Increasing traffic with the B&B and taking away street parking on both sides will worsen an already bad situation. Come on people, there are plenty of other places that would benefit from a B&B going in, don't let greed get in the way and ruin the Battery.

    • seanoairborne
      November 16, 2013 - 16:50

      You're not even a Newf I'll bet!!Par for the course!!Hall a** back to the mainland,imposter!

  • Edmund
    November 14, 2013 - 10:49

    They should make an application for a day care centre that goes beyond the city by laws, like Elizabeth Ave. That will surely get approval no matter what the residents say. City Hall is run by a bunch of buffoons who do not even listen to their own staff. Maybe it nis time we invited Rob Ford to move from TO to solve our problems. Not a bad alternative to O'Keefe. At least Ford owns up to his mistakes.

  • whatever bud..
    November 14, 2013 - 10:48

    The guy who owns The Waterford Manor should really sue the City if this goes ahead. His application to convert his existing B&B dining room into a full service restaurant was turned down mostly based on parking issues (the property has 14 parking spots). Mallard Cottage ANtiques just got converted to a restaurant in Quidi Vidi gut with ZERO parking,in a culturally sensitive area that is prone to traffic congestion due to narrow streets. Follow the money...

    • joanne
      November 14, 2013 - 13:16

      Yes the City is well known for picking and choosing what goes ahead and what does not. They have no rules to go by and even when they do they can't make a decision based on rules they simply change them to suit the development.

  • TooMuch
    November 14, 2013 - 10:40

    I think people are starting to become sick and tired of the griping that has been going on in St. John's in recent years that has hampered many fine projects. Why do these people have such a say. If you left it to them, they would never see even a new house built. Come on people! It is a B&B, not a sky rise! The place is an eyesore anyway, a few new developments will only spruce it up. And to CheerBear, I think the "hippies" is what that area needs if it means getting the old run down crap shacks out of there!

  • TooMuch
    November 14, 2013 - 10:38

    I think people are starting to become sick and tired of the griping that has been going on in St. John's in recent years that has hampered many fine projects. Why do these people have such a say. If you left it to them, they would never see even a new house built. Come on people! It is a B&B, not a sky rise! The place is an eyesore anyway, a few new developments will only spruce it up. And to CheerBear, I think the "hippies" is what that area needs if it means getting the old run down crap shacks out of there!

  • CheerBear
    November 14, 2013 - 10:02

    The character of the battery is already destroyed, with huge houses built by rich hippies that completely do not go with the neighbourhood. The only difference is because the B&B is a business people think they have a say in whether it can be built there, whereas they know they can't do anything about a private home being built, no matter how ridiculous it looks.

  • seanoairborne
    November 14, 2013 - 09:50

    When I was a kid growing up on Barters Hill I used to go to the battery all the time and hang out in the old gun battery with my pals.We'd fill bottles with gasoline,put a cloth wick in them and throw them into the concrete bunkers and watch them explode.My brother and his pals all had 22 cal rifles sawed off into hand guns and would shoot at our feet to make us dance!True story!! It was great fun.Today you'd be arrested and charged with terrorism for doing such things.But people had more sense back then and the battery wasn't considered some upscale Rodeo Dr.It was a series of old houses owned by a lot of fishermen that would salt their fish and lay them on flakes outside their homes to dry.That was the Battery I remember.Since when did the residents become a bunch of dumb CFA bluenoses?The Battery???You've got to be kidding me?

  • brett
    November 14, 2013 - 09:18

    Slapping a name of alcock and brown on a new building for a b&b is a gimmick not a commemoration. It's not a building for the city, it's a private enterprise. Nice attempt at spin.

  • DK
    November 14, 2013 - 09:09

    I guess the heritage proponents would prefer a rotting frame balanced precariously on the rocks slowly getting chipped away by the waves? The company has accommodated parking concerns, by all account the building design fits like a glove from a heritage perspective. What else do you want? At the end of the day if you live in a tight corner of the downtown area in a capital city you have to come to terms with the fact that traffic congestion will exist.

  • battery resident
    November 14, 2013 - 08:48

    Do any of these commenting supporters live in the Battery? No, I'm assuming - meaning the the impact of such a project will be irrelevant to you. In my opinion, that's an awfully tight spot to be building such a project. The intersection is already congested most of the time. Let the residents of the area approve or disapprove of such developments, as it's our lives that are ultimately affected by it. Such reasoning could go a long way in planing our communities and their future developments.

    • Born and Raised
      November 14, 2013 - 12:47

      I agree with you Battery Resident. People can make sure "harse" comments. But when it's in THEIR backyards or neighbourhoods - well look out then. Regardless of if its a B&B, SkyRise, or a new home, this particular place is NOT THE RIGHT SPOT for it.

  • Chris
    November 14, 2013 - 08:26

    It's articles like this, and the 1000's like it over the past few years, that make me embarrassed to be a Newfoundlander and a resident of St. John's. Complaint after complaint about every single project and development that gets proposed because it's "destroying the view", "Creating a wind tunnel effect" or "taking away the heritage". In 95% of the cases, these buildings getting replaced are about to blow over anyway and a significant upgrade on some of the run down structures is required. It's like we view every improvement as a negative and can't just look at the positives these developments will have. If we want this city's economy to strive and prosper for the next generations, we have to let this organic growth take place, otherwise, housing prices are too high, urban sprawl takes over, and those with the brightest future will leave for better opportunity.

    • Robb
      November 14, 2013 - 09:02 have hit it right on the head!!!...This crap about "hey, now I won't be able to look over there" is just mind boggling. Where is the world can you buy property that has a guarantee that nobody can buy property next to you and build something that may block your view. It's just plain stupid. The one that really boiled the blood was when Fortis wanted to put up a wonderful building on Water Street, fix up the other old tall white building, and tear down those rat holes (adjacent to the present Fortis Building). But, no, apparently the rat hole invested buildings are heritage...??? they have to stay rat holes forever??...what a load. We need a council that can recognize that times change, and buildings get old and decrepit. So, Fortis being the good corporate still stayed in St. John's and are putting up a wonderful looking building not far from Water Street, but they could have easily took there building and business elsewhere.

    • Jack
      November 14, 2013 - 09:12

      As a Newfoundland and Labrador resident for over five years, I agree with you 100%. This province has received a terrible reputation as most of their people are becoming a bunch of whiners, complainers, and NIMBYers, and that kind of negative attitude is hurting their province's ability to grow. In fact, Massey Drive, a suburban town just outside Corner Brook, is already paying the price for their complaining and whining attitude as a result of denying an aspiring entrepreneur, Nicole Marsden, a permit to operate her Animal Grooming business. If that wasn't bad enough, Massey Drive Town Council and their Mayor who is also a business person, Gord Davis, are acting like poor sports as well as showing no respect for the rule of law as they won't adhere to the legal and municipal appeal decisions. If Newfoundlander and Labradorians don't learn to stop complaining and whining, and don't stop using one excuse after another to reject aspiring entrepreneurs, this province will end up becoming the "Greece of Canada" with St. John's becoming Athens and Corner Brook becoming Thessaloniki, and this province will become bankrupt like Greece. Only way to stop complaining and whining are for Newfoundland and Labrador's politicians and power decision makers do the right thing and residents start embracing aspiring entrepreneurs as your city and town is nothing without them.

    • Chantal
      November 14, 2013 - 09:39

      Each project has its benefits and problems. Each should be examined and openly discussed by the community before accepting or rejecting each proposal. Growth is good, but it must be positive, not only economically, but on the many other aspects, including the social and environmental.

  • Jack
    November 14, 2013 - 06:18

    When will Newfoundlanders and Labradorians stop complaining about proposed new businesses operating in their area? Its no wonder why this province is getting a terrible reputation for being a bunch of complainers. Obviously, they didn't learn from Massey Drive's mistakes when unsportsmanlike residents and council put a stop to Nicole Marsden's dream to start a business in their town. Massey Drive area residents are so hateful that they won't even respect the rule of law, especially their Mayor whom is also a business owner, Gord Davis. Gord Davis is also a part owner of Corner Brook Centre Bowl, the city's main 5 Pin Bowling alley. Let's not turn St. John's into another Massey Drive and let the person operate a "Bed and Breakfast". In the meantime, stop complaining or keep it to a minimum.

  • Bill T
    November 14, 2013 - 05:29

    ha ha ha too funny. The battery needs a major clean up.