Shannie Duff loses bid to protect 165-year-old structure
Wrightland Development is trying to go back on its word and St. John’s council doesn’t have the guts to stand up to it, St. John’s Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff charged Monday following council’s meeting.
The proposed refurbishment of Richmond Cottage on the corner of Old Topsail Road and Shaw Street in St. John’s is shown in this artist rendition on a sign that says McLea Park Townhomes. The 165-year-old cottage is seen in the background. — Photo by Bonnie Belec/The Telegram
“Shame. Shame. Shame,” she said when a motion that would prevent one of the city’s oldest structures from being demolished was deferred and will be dealt with by a new council after today’s municipal election.
“I think this developer has been very much in the forefront of lobbying and I think we will receive another application to demolish. I don’t think council wanted to be on record as voting for demolition on the eve of an election, but I think it puts the whole thing at risk and it was unnecessary and would be far more preferable to put its money where its mouth is in terms of support for heritage. I think this is very unnecessary and very disappointing,” Duff told reporters after the meeting.
Built after the fire of 1846, Richmond Cottage, on the corner of Old Topsail Road and Shaw Street, is recognized as one of the oldest buildings in the city. According to council documents, an application was filed by Wrightland to subdivide the 3.2-acre parcel of land in 2011 and while council gave the developer the go ahead, it did so under the condition that the 165-year-old cottage be restored.
Duff, chairwoman of council’s heritage advisory committee, said a couple of homes were built on the site. Nothing was done with the original homestead, and earlier this year, the developer filed another application to demolish it because there had been water damage inside the building caused by a leak.
She said when the developer found out the committee was recommending the application be rejected, it was subsequently withdrawn. Since then the developer invited the committee to take a tour of the site which it did Sept. 9.
Duff said the committee and staff from the city’s department of building and property management share the same opinion — “that there is no good reason to demolish the building from a structural perspective as it appears to be in reasonably sound condition.”
The building department stated, “most, if not all the work outlined in the rationale for demolition would need to be completed to facilitate the work that was outlined and presented in their original application for sub-division and renovations from Aug. 23, 2013.”
Duff said as a result of the visit, the heritage advisory committee wanted to protect the building and have this council deal with the issue as it was familiar with it since 2011.
“Coun. (Tom) Hann has recommended that it be deferred. There’s absolutely no need for that. It’s not a planning committee issue. In my opinion it is a stalling tactic because we’re going to have a lot of new faces on council and it’s going to put this building at risk which will be a great shame and a very bad precedent to be established,” she said.
Hann, chairman of the planning and housing committee, said he agreed Richmond Cottage is an important structure and needs to be protected.
But he said it’s a complicated issue and given Duff also recommended the regulatory process be reviewed it should go before a full planning committee meeting.
Six councillors voted to defer Duff’s recommendation until the next planning and housing committee, which will probably be after a new council is sworn in.
“I think that’s a cute little device to defer this until after the election,” Duff said.
Given this is her second last meeting, she isn’t seeking re-election for the first time in
20 years, she said this will be her last rant as a councillor.
“I will have a sway and have a voice, but I won’t have a vote,” Duff said.