The problem with mixed neighbourhoods can be summed up in an easy way. Sometimes, people move to a subdivision in Kilbride and start complaining about the smell. Well, folks, you have to understand that the smell of manure’s been around for years — it’s part of the rural nature of the area that attracted the subdivisions in the first place.
But it’s not always that simple.
There are, for example, neighbourhoods like Boncloddy Street in St. John’s, where residents are trying to stop the re-opening of a small bar that had made their lives miserable in years past. The Sports Bar had been around for ages, but its closing brought a welcome respite. The vomiting on the sidewalk, the outside drug deals, the urinating on the sides of houses, the fistfights — all of that ended when the bar closed its doors. Neighbours say they were enjoying being part of a neighbourhood again, rather than simply staying behind closed doors once the dark came and the regular nightly action started up.
Now, there’s an application for a liquor licence to reopen the bar.
Many of the residents don’t want it back — they just want it gone.
At this point, gone is perhaps exactly what it should be.
Mixed uses in neighbourhoods have to be a compromise.
Homeowners have to tolerate some issues that businesses bring, and businesses have to be understanding about the fact that they’re not operating in a commercial area and go out of their way to accommodate the concerns of surrounding homeowners. If your coffee shop’s patrons perpetually park illegally and block driveways, there’s going to be neighbourhood pushback.
If your operation is noisy, there are going to be complaints and municipal politicians will take note.
It’s one thing to move in and start complaining about an agricultural operation that’s been in place for years. It’s another if the farmer decides to build a brand new manure lagoon close to the centre of town.
An honest attempt to put a cap on the problems years ago might have made Boncloddy Street residents more likely to welcome the return of their commercial neighbour. Municipal politicians are now suggesting the location might be better for a coffee shop or a bakery. Once, a quiet neighbourhood pub might have fit the bill as well, as long as its patrons were kept somewhat in line.
But that ship has clearly sailed. At this point, it’s the neighbourhood that has been there longer, and the bar is really the new entrant.
It shouldn’t be a hard decision for the province’s liquor licence authority to make. They might not have been right if they had come in and closed the bar, but they’re certainly able to keep the problems from starting all over again.