Price is right

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You could, if you’re being blunt, say that it’s just another example of ad hoc decisions coming from St. John’s city council. The question is, at what point do examples become a way of life?

Monday, council approved the installation of a 33-foot-high propane tank next to the new large-scale restaurants being built near the

harbour apron’s Keg restaurant franchise. The giant tank is needed to replace a dozen or more smaller tanks, and that’s understandable. What’s not so clear is why it is that the giant tank wasn’t on the radar when the proposal for the new restaurants was first before council, or why the need for the tank wasn’t clear before the rest of the building was already substantially up.

The restaurants are being built by people with a long and established history in the restaurant business; the idea that they would not be aware of the sheer volume of their own propane needs until the building was mostly complete seems more than a little far-fetched.

It’s disconcerting in that it put council in the unenviable position of having to cave in, or, in council’s view at least, threaten the whole

project.

What’s a little more disconcerting are the comments coming from councillors about the need to move ahead with the plan as is, councillors who seem to suggest that the sheer size of the investment in the project dictates that the tank should be accepted: “At the end of the day this is a working port employing thousands and thousands of people. This project is $11 million private money,” Coun. Art Puddister pointed out.

Why is the dollar value a concern?

Because it would make the opposite true: that if the business involved was only making a small investment, approval wouldn’t come as easily.

The size of the dollar amount involved in the project shouldn’t matter here. What should matter is that everyone gets fair treatment — and, for that matter, the same treatment, whether they are building six-storey condos or they’re a small business asking to raise the level of their roof by a foot. (That exact situation happened, by the way, and recently, too. The six-storey

condo is set to go up on Duckworth Street at the site of the old East End Fire Station, much larger than development rules allow, while the immediate neighbour to the development, an art gallery, was refused permission for a one-foot increase in roof height.)

The size of the project shouldn’t dictate whether or not rules are going to be bent or outright ignored — yet more and more often, the price of a project seems to be integral to how council looks at an application.

Just think back about how often the dollar value of a project comes up in debate in council, and how often it’s used to justify the need for approval.

You can’t have one set of rules for big money, and another, different set for those who don’t have the cash.

In the end, that’s just caving in and admitting that money talks, and principles walk.

Organizations: East End Fire Station

Geographic location: Duckworth Street

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Recent comments

  • Brandon
    December 06, 2013 - 09:55

    The number of times in a week I read reactions to development and shake my head is sad. I'm not going to go into the propane tank, but I want to explain something very clearly about the Red Ochre Gallery. The gallery is currently sitting in a HERITAGE building. The gallery was denied not because the extra foot was too high, but because they would be ALTERING THE FRAMEWORK OF A HERITAGE STRUCTURE. The condos, on the other hand, are a brand new construction which will be replacing an abandoned strip club, an asphalt parking lot, and an abandoned mid-century fire house. I could... maybe... understand arguments made about the fire house (although I really don't see it being any sort of important heritage structure) but I'm tired of the comparison between the gallery and the lighthouse. Two completely different situations, and I would bet boat loads of money that if the tables were turned and a developer was attempting to alter the roof height of a heritage structure, the exact same people here would be crying foul. Condos are needed downtown, the Lighthouse project looks great and has attempted to create a heritage look. Young people want to live in the core, in condos. Sorry folks, but this is the direction we are heading, and it is not a bad one.

  • JMAP
    December 05, 2013 - 23:46

    Great job on this editorial....please keep rubbing their noses in it, council may at some point realize they voted for the wrong reasons....oh but then they would need to have a conscience and have the interest of the City and its taxpayers at heart. Time for the old boys club to use the grey matter between their ears.

  • Joe
    December 05, 2013 - 14:22

    We need a Charboneau Inquiry here.

  • Denis
    December 05, 2013 - 13:33

    Most councillors are probably swayed by the pretty pictures that accompany the development proposal. My granddaughter is transfixed by pretty pictures, but one day she, and council, will learn there's always more to the story. Nuff said

  • original townie
    December 05, 2013 - 13:12

    Funny....be interesting to see how many bloggers who are against this propane tank issue will eventually dine at the Keg and the other two restaurants. Just like the ORR and Sunday shopping....against them too but you can see them driving on the very highway they opposed and in the very malls on Sunday they said should never be allowed. You got to shake your head at their stand on progress. Strange people!

    • Dave
      December 05, 2013 - 15:47

      What the hell does one have to do with the other? So people who criticize Eastern Health or Air Canada are hypocrites if they use their services? If you opposed the ORR, you're barred from driving on it? What kind of mental midget are you? My guess is you wrote this piece of crap while sitting in the Keg. Only the well-off can afford to eat there. As one of the other posters commented, this whole damn project stunk from the get-go. And as the editorial correctly points out, it's how much money you have in your pocket that determines how you're treated when you walk into City Hall. I'd say give your own head a shake, but clearly you brain is already rattled.

  • Concerned
    December 05, 2013 - 10:32

    You have just hit the nail on the head.

  • Walter
    December 05, 2013 - 10:28

    They put a dollar value on these developments the same way there is a dollar value put on the cruise ships that come here (which according to a select few is the "main reason" for keeping dt looking so dickensville. As for the condos, what people need to realize is one of the main factors in adding to the red orchre art gallery had to do with the age of the building and nothing more.

  • What Heritage
    December 05, 2013 - 09:07

    If the current city development laws and regulations were a movie it would be called "Show Me The Money"

  • Virginia Waters
    December 05, 2013 - 08:23

    'What should matter is that everyone gets fair treatment' ----Well, of course, the absence of fair treatment is at the very roots of this project. There was no transparency, no disclosure, no public accountability and no evidence that public value for public resources had been maximized when this deal was privately negotiated with the Port Authority and then rubber stamped by City Hall. It should surprise no one then that all of the subsequent issues including the size and scale of the building - and now the erection of a giant tank of explosive gas - should be death with in the same manner. 'In for a penny, in for a pound - can't stop now' seems to be the mantra of the new old crowd in the concrete bunker on Gower. Given what City Council and the St. John's Port Authority have done to the taxpayers of this city in the course of approving this horrendous over-sized eyesore on the waterfront, the erection of a giant phallus symbol alongside the monstrosity is perhaps fitting. As councillors struggle to convince the public of its modern art value, perhaps they will consider a final finishing touch on their creation - covering the tank with a giant latex prophylactic.

  • anna
    December 05, 2013 - 08:11

    we have four more years now to put up with this imcompent bunch so I think I have to give up reading the council news. Lane and Galway won't be able to do anything. I am so disappointed in Ron Elsworth.

  • Steve
    December 05, 2013 - 07:19

    The people voted Art Puddester back on council. Now they are going to get what they deserve. Every development proposal means jobs at some point. Therefore, from Puddester's perspective, get out the rubber stamp, because everything else is irrellevant.

    • Joe
      December 05, 2013 - 14:19

      I really thought that was Councillor Silly and not Art who made that comment about the $11 Million.