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Letter: Ask candidates where they stand on wetlands, development

A wetland in Torbay.
A wetland in Torbay.

We, in urban areas of the province, have been held hostage by councils and developers for almost three decades, and we should now be demanding — before new council elections — that the practices which have damaged and destroyed infrastructures and natural environments cease immediately. 

The reasons for this are economically practical, health-related and environmentally responsible.

In the 1980s council and city employees at the supervisory level vowed in meetings at which my husband was present, that no development would take place on Kenmount Road in the upper reaches of the city rivers, particularly tributaries feeding Rennie’s River. At that time, the city parks and recreation committee under Brian Wood was listening to the Natural History Society (now Nature NL). The reasons were many, and serious: devastating floods south in the Baird subdivision and the university/Health Sciences Centre area were predicted, and they occurred. Flood damage occurred throughout the older part of the city, and as development occurred along Topsail Road and in Mount Pearl, it threatened the lower-lying lands in those areas. The Waterford River has been given short shrift by developers. 

But promises made in the Brian Wood/Mayor John Murphy era were broken when then new Mayor Andy Wells managed to persuade council and city management that development meant dollars. So we saw short-term gain for some and long-term pain for the general public. Historic properties disappeared under similar pressures, devaluing authentic architecture and streetscapes. The scalping of the land and drainage systems continues.

Whose brilliant decision has planned to move the kidney dialysis unit to the windowless block once housing the Sobeys Square cinema? Province or city or Mount Pearl, or a consortium of idiots? Such fun (not) for nurses and doctors and patients to see nothing beautiful inside or out. Equally, the patients at the Waterford are in the way of developers, so “to hell with ’em” appears to be the message.

Provincial and federal guidelines and regulations are too-often ignored or rewritten for political expediency. Our neighbours to the south are finding out just how much business knows about governing: zilch.

Councillors and their mayors are meant to serve, not self-serve.

Anyone who follows the news has enough information to grasp what is at stake. Decisions made affect us all, in the pocketbook and in the safety of our neighbourhoods. Infrastructure, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals — lives and property are at stake but also our economy and quality of life. Last week, the news was predicting that families in the future will converse more with bots than with each other. Are you looking forward to the future?

With all due respect to Danny Williams, the Dobbins, and other successful Newfoundlanders in the business of development: their profession can help or harm the economy. The necessary “sponge areas” that give rise to rivers and lakes, marshes and bogs — which ensure the beauty of our environment, our quality of life and on which our communities depend — are in danger.

Historians will identify the poor decisions made in St. John’s which have been shortsighted, ignorant, unwise, and possibly even illegal. 

If councillors and city employees want to inform themselves on how things can be run efficiently and ethically, they should join and attend meetings of Nature NL. Would-be or present politicians ought be able to prove that they understand the ramifications of each decision on which they are asked to vote. 

Any candidates for mayor or council who show little or no interest in this side of urban and rural politics ought not to be supported. 

I intend to vote for Sheilagh O’Leary and Dave Lane. As for mayor, the two candidates who were offering themselves as of this writing have either blotted their copybooks or have leashes labelled "pro-development.”

 

Judy Gibson
St. John’s

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