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
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.