St. John’s city council has rejected a commissioner’s recommendation to reduce the height of a proposed Duckworth Street boutique hotel and commercial building.
At Tuesday’s regular council meeting, council decided not to follow the recommendation of commissioner Marie Ryan.
Ryan’s report — required because the project needs rezoning, which council plans to do solely for the site of the proposal, 83 and 90 Duckworth — recommends reducing the height of the taller of the two-building project from six to five storeys, matching the second building.
Ryan “does not concur that there should be an allowance for six storeys in this new district and zone,” she wrote in her report, which included several submissions by residents opposed to the project, as well as several in support.
“This is completely out of scale in relation to the surrounding area. Creation of a gateway can become a towering tunnel if care is not taken to ensure reasonable scale.”
Council decided to proceed with the project as planned.
Coun. Jonathan Galgay called the report a waste of time and money.
“This has been back in the chamber about four times now,” he said following the meeting. “The commissioner’s process is bureaucratic red tape and a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. They get paid by the hour, when in fact we as council have been elected to best represent the interests of the people.”
City staff have done good work in making sure the project will fit in downtown, said Galgay, who rejected the idea six storeys is too tall for the area.
“When you look around, you see the Sheraton and you see all kinds of other buildings in the area which have exceeded (the Light House project’s height),” he said.
Galgay said commissioner reports in general duplicate work already done on an application and slow down the process.
City studies have identified ways to mitigate concerns area residents have about parking and traffic, he added.
“You’re not going to please everybody. I recognize that,” he said. “But we went through the process. Many of the people in the public hearings were from outside of the downtown, and we had equal support for the project as we had people who were against it, and all that was taken into consideration.”
Coun. Dave Lane said the project is a good one, but supported reducing the height to five storeys — and was more supportive of the commissioner process than Galgay was.
“I have nothing against commissioners’ reports being conducted. I think it’s part of the system that we follow, and it involves the public,” Lane said. “I think what the commissioner came up with was representative of not only the facts and the greater concerns of the building, but also those of the residents. I thought it was a good compromise.”