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Businessman Mark Dobbin wins court battle with city, but work remains halted

Businessman Mark Dobbin: “I will think long and hard before I invest in infrastructure in this city until there’s a change in the application of the rules.”
Businessman Mark Dobbin: “I will think long and hard before I invest in infrastructure in this city until there’s a change in the application of the rules.” - SaltWire File Photo
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Businessman Mark Dobbin calls a recent decision by the provincial Supreme Court “a hollow victory.”

His company, Long Harbour Holdings, was in the middle of construction work to redevelop the former Flake House restaurant property — a waterfront location overlooking the historic Quidi Vidi Gut — when a group concerned with the development appealed the work permit.

The appeal was denied by the city appeal board, but the appellant filed another appeal with the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court on June 28, resulting in another stop-work order issued by the city on July 3.

In all, three stop-work orders were issued on the Quidi Vidi development since last fall.

City regulations say a development may not proceed where an appeal is made, pending a decision of the appeal and the subsequent issue of all required permits.

Long Harbour Holdings took the city to court to set aside the stop-work order issued by the city on July 3. It was determined the word "appeal" in the city’s development regulations apply only to an appeal to the St. John’s Board of Appeal. 

Long Harbour Holdings was entitled to court costs.

Work to redevelop the former Flake House property in Quidi Vidi Village has been halted several times since last fall. - SaltWire File Photo
Work to redevelop the former Flake House property in Quidi Vidi Village has been halted several times since last fall.
- SaltWire File Photo

Still, Dobbin said the work remains halted, with a pile of lumber and debris creating an eyesore all summer in a prime tourist location. 

“Entirely independent of the stop-work order, we decided that we needed to fix up the north end of the property adjacent to the slipway – it’s in very bad shape, and so we applied to add an extra crib to the existing design. And the city took the view that we would need a development permit and a building permit all over again. So, they sent us right back to square one notwithstanding that we’ve been at it for over a year and a half.”

Despite the court victory, Dobbin said reapplying for the permits gave those concerned with the development a chance to appeal the work with the city yet again, which they did. 

An appeal against a decision of council approving the additional crib for the wharf development will be heard Sept. 18.

“I’m very annoyed,” said Dobbin. 

He said the development now has to go through “the same old foolish process.”

“I’m worried about the fact that any time some crank files a spurious appeal, the city orders you to down tools and takes the most narrow, pro-squeaky wheel view of the regulations and applies them in a way that’s very detrimental to try to get any work done.”

Dobbin said the city is taking “a very unusual stance on this.”

The Telegram requested an interview with Mayor Danny Breen after the regular Monday meeting of council. He said he hasn’t yet reviewed the information, and he should speak with the city’s legal division before commenting on the matter.

Dobbin said the city claims to be pro-development and supportive of their particular project, but he called the process “unbelievably frustrating.” 

Still, he’s determined to complete the development.

“But I will think long and hard before I invest in infrastructure in this city until there’s a change in the application of the rules.”

Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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