Plan? What plan?

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It must have sent at least one little group of developers scrambling.With all their ducks in a row with the St. John’s city council, they might have been watching council on Monday and seen, all of a sudden, a city councillor suggesting that a whole floor be lopped off their project like a sort of profit-decapitation.

The Light House Project is a two-building east end hotel and apartment project that would dramatically change the streetscape of the east end of Duckworth Street.

Taller than downtown rules allow, the project had managed to find support on council, right down to an agreement to see city-owned land transferred to underpin one of the project’s two buildings.

And there was Coun. Dave Lane, suggesting that the project be approved, but with one fewer floors than the developer was planning to build.

Imagine the recalculation, the redesign, the review necessary to make a building work at a different height: it was a wild suggestion.

And it was living proof for why the province’s largest city needs a municipal plan that extends beyond “How much is the project worth?” and “How many rules can we bend or ignore?”

The current system serves no one: it doesn’t serve developers, who seem to be taking the approach of pitching big so that council can hem and haw and settle on something close to what the developers might have asked for in the first place.

It doesn’t serve ordinary citizens, who are never clear on whether a bylaw is a rule, a law or just some kind of loosely held recommendation the first time someone offers the price of a building permit and the promise of future tax revenues.

And, most of all, it doesn’t serve the city council, either: bereft of established guidelines that they actually have to stick to, the councillors seem to lurch from project to project, approving things on a one-off basis.

“Pedway yes? Pedway no? OK, no pedway, but more storeys? Yes, indeed!”

At Monday’s meeting, the most frequent comment about the Light House Project seemed to be about the benefits of its multimillion-dollar construction price tag; certainly dollars are a factor, but if they’re the primary factor, then, well, you’re for sale to the highest bidder.

On Monday, Coun. Tom Hann made much of the fact that the city is working on a new municipal plan, and that it is getting plenty of input about how citizens see this city growing.

If that’s true, it’s impressive that so many citizens not only feel there’s a value in developing such a plan, but that so many citizens, despite evidence to the contrary, believe that a new municipal plan will be looked upon by council as something they are actually required to follow.

Make a plan — stick to it.

Let everyone know the rules, and don’t break them.

It means fewer headaches for everyone.

Organizations: Light House

Geographic location: Duckworth Street

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Recent comments

  • David Benson
    October 25, 2013 - 09:32

    The developer submitted an illegal proposal and yet again, the corrupt St. John's City Council broke the law and approved an illegal development. Why? That is the story.

  • Lionel West
    October 24, 2013 - 09:14

    Discretion - that is the issue. Whenever council uses its discretion in planning decisions, confusion follows. The council's discretion has to have restrictions placed on it or taken away all together. A new municipal plan with the same application of council's discretion will not be the solution. Confusion and inconsistency will continue.

  • Joe
    October 24, 2013 - 07:44

    We all know the problems Montreal and its fellow towns have had. Is it possible St. John's will go the same way? After all the City Internal Auditor had to be fired for being a little too inquisitive.