A prominent businessman has strong words about City of St. John’s regulations after several stop-work orders were slapped on his Quidi Vidi development.
“I think this is a broken system that badly needs to be fixed,” said Mark Dobbin of Long Harbour Holdings, the group behind a project to redevelop the former Flake House restaurant property, a waterfront location overlooking the historic Quidi Vidi Gut.
Dobbin expressed his concerns on Thursday after the wharf development – the first part of the larger project – was issued a third stop-work order since last fall.
The wharf was supposed to be completed this past spring, and now it may be delayed another six to nine months.
It’s being held up because some people in Quidi Vidi expressed concerns with various aspects of the development and appealed the work permit issued for the wharf.
The appeal was denied by the appeal board after a city hearing on June 20, but the appellant, Randy Walsh, then filed another appeal – this time with Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court on June 28.
The appeal with the court resulted in the city issuing a third stop-work order on the wharf development this week, according to Dobbin.
Walsh is chair of both the Quidi Vidi Village Slipway Committee and Quidi Vidi Village Property Owners. He claims storm sewer upgrades to be done as part of the development will affect another property on Barrows Road.
Walsh claims the city designed a storm sewer intake to be installed on the residential property without consulting the property owners, and he says there’s already concerns with water build-up on the property.
“I will be heard, and we will be heard down there (at Supreme Court),” said Walsh.
However, Dobbin said Long Harbour Holdings has been through a Supreme Court judgement with Walsh just last year and believes Walsh is “working the system to fulfill or pursue his personal agenda, which is anti-development.”
“People haven’t been aware of this, or used it in such a callous manner, but now the cat’s out of the bag.” — Mark Dobbin
Dobbin said Walsh’s complaints will be addressed in court, but right now his main concern is that the city’s third stop-work order uncovered a structural flaw in the regulatory environment.
“The city is allowing people to exploit that flaw for their own personal agendas.
“If I didn’t like the fact that they were going to dig up outside my restaurant downtown, I could have gone and appealed the work permit and I could have worked the system and delayed that (Water Street) dig by nine months.
“If I don’t like the fact that my neighbour is going to put up a shed, I can delay that by nine months. You don’t even have to be an interested party. So, if you’re doing something and I just don’t like you, I can delay you and cost you a lot of money.”
Dobbin said any work permit issued by the city can be objected, noting the objection “can be completely spurious, as long as the paperwork is properly completed, and you have to go through the time and expense of an independent commission reviewing the work order.”
“People haven’t been aware of this, or used it in such a callous manner, but now the cat’s out of the bag.”
He said such a situation causes uncertainty with developments when any work permit issued in the city can be “delayed frivolously” by up to nine months to a year.
In an email to The Telegram, city spokespeople said the city is following the process outlined in its development regulations, and “cannot choose which regulatory and legislative provisions it wishes to comply with.”
Dobbin said what the city needs is “somebody to show a bit of conviction” and apply the rules “properly rather than just following the path of least resistance.”
Walsh also takes issue with the city. He claims the city breached its own development regulations by not contacting the Barrow’s Road property owner, the slipway committee, or property owners near the wharf development.
A city spokesperson said no further comments could be made because the matter is before the courts.