Regulations, guidelines and penalties

Paul Malone
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Let me say from the start, I’m not anti-development when it’s done rationally.

But why does council continue to allow excessive buildings to crowd the narrow streets of our downtown core?

I know that urban sprawl is equally undesirable, but why can’t higher density developments take place away from the Water Street-Duckworth Street zone?

The new hotels on Kenmount Road, in close proximity to the Team Gushue Highway and commanding views over the city, are a good example of more thoughtful planning.

Once again our council is preparing to sacrifice our building regulations to satisfy the demands of another property developer.

A plan has been submitted to the city to construct a building extension at the corner of George Street-Springdale Street-Water Street with a request to allow the developer to exceed the building height regulations by an additional two storeys above the four-storey limit.

I guess I shouldn’t really refer to them as height regulations, as they seem to be treated more like height guidelines by council, which routinely modifies them to appease developers’ demands.

But in addition to allowing the height restrictions to be ignored, council has also agreed to allow this same developer to skirt the requirements for the minimum number of parking spaces the building will require.

Anyone who has ever taken a car into our downtown area knows that parking is already a nightmare.

Yet the city feels they have struck a terrific deal because this developer will be required to pay a one-time penalty of $18,000 for each of the 16 missing parking spaces, to the tune of $288,000.

But let’s look at the math on that “penalty.”

A conservative estimate of office space rent in downtown St. John’s is $18 a square foot.

An average parking space is 150 square feet. Council is agreeing that those 16 parking spaces will now become office space.

One hundred and 50 square feet of office space will generate $2,700 a month, which is $32,400 a year.

Subtract the one-time “penalty” of $18,000 and the building owner pockets $14,400 in the first year for each converted parking space.

So, in the first year, the developer grosses $518,400 in office space rent for those 16 spaces and pays the city $288,000, for a net profit of $230,400.

But after the first year the building owner pockets the full $518,400 every year with no further penalty being paid to the city! More than half a million bucks a year in extra rent.

What a horrendous “penalty” that is.

It is also interesting that in the same issue of The Telegram on June 14 there was much back-patting on the deal to permit a 150 room, three-storey hotel on top of the Atlantic Place parking garage.

The development will “only” require the loss of 50 of the 720 parking spots in the parking garage structure, which is presumably the top level of the current parking garage.

But that parking structure is often filled to capacity on weekdays with just the current users.

If you add a 150-room hotel to the top, where are the hotel guests and staff supposed to park?

They’ll be jockeying for the 670 spots that will remain, along with all the current users of the parking garage.

Maybe the deal will include a proviso that all hotel guests will have to get their cars out of the garage by 8 a.m. weekdays to accommodate the daytime users?

Yeah, that should work.


Paul Malone writes from St. John’s

Geographic location: Water Street, Duckworth Street, Kenmount Road George Street Springdale Street

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Recent comments

  • Jay
    June 20, 2013 - 11:45

    City Council is completely oblivious to the concept of planning. The mayor constantly talks about planning, but clearly has no idea what it means. It was only a month or so ago that I received a notice about water rationing. It's clear that we don't have enough water for existing homes and businesses. However, council is still begging developers to build more without any plans to provide the new infrastructure with water. Just wait until we get the bill for that one.