Only one person who spoke at a public hearing in St. John’s Tuesday night voiced opposition to allowing development above the 190-metre contour.
The city wants to rezone two large areas of land above that elevation — one that stretches from Southlands to Cochrane Pond and another which straddles the top of Kenmount Road — from rural or reserve to urban development.
The province had imposed a ban on development above the 190-metre contour, as water has to be pumped up to supply homes and businesses at that height.
Chris Sharpe was appointed commissioner by the city and province to oversee the hearing and write a report on what people think of the amendments.
Sharpe noted the city has yet to receive any formal proposals to develop the areas, and that the meeting was only to gather concerns or comments on the rezoning.
The city’s director of planning, Cliff Johnston, told the meeting an engineering study gave no technical reasons not to develop above the 190-metre contour, and that was verified by a 2009 report commissioned jointly by the City of Mount Pearl and the Town of Paradise.
Johnston said the Kenmount Road area being considered for rezoning is 381 hectares, while the area near Southlands is another 877 hectares.
But he said even if council passes the amendments, no development would be given approval until city engineers determine for certain the areas can be serviced by municipal water.
Johnston also said no land would be removed from the city‘s watershed area and that waterways and wetlands in the two areas would be protected.
About 100 people attended the meeting, but only a handful spoke.
Stephen Jewczyk, the director of planning with the City of Mount Pearl, said his city had no objection to the proposed amendment changes. But he said Mount Pearl is interested to see the specifics of the developments which may end up in the areas.
Several development companies represented at the meeting already had submitted written submissions to Sharpe and declined further comment, while developer Kevin King called the amendments “positive news for St. John’s.”
The St. John’s Board of Trade also likes the idea and wants the ban on development above the 190-metre contour lifted.
“We believe it will result in a significant benefit to the city and to the region,” said board chairman Steve Power.
Power said there’s already a demand for well-planned commercial and industrial development areas.
The only person who spoke out against the amendments was Sam Bromley, who represented a group of people who live in the Kenmount Terrace area.
“While hilltop vistas certainly demand top dollar and profit for developers and real estate proponents, the consequence of building a structure (from) where you can see the whole city is the whole city can see you,” he said.
Bromley asked the city to reject the amendments and instead preserve the character and beauty of the green spaces on the city’s hilltops.
He also noted there’s an online petition against the rezoning, which can be found at www.protectstjohns.com.
As of Tuesday night, 33 people had signed that petition.
Affordable housing advocate Kimberly Yetman Dawson of the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Homelessness Network also spoke up.
She asked the city to consider making one in every 10 residences built in the areas affordable, which she defined as having a mortgage costing no more than one-third of an average person’s salary.
Sharpe expects to file his report with the city and province within 30 days. City council will then vote on whether or not to pass the amendments.