St. John’s city council rejected a proposed rezoning that would have allowed a triplex at the corner of Rodney Street and Whiteway Street.
The decision came at the regular Monday council meeting after an outpouring of concern shown by area residents in several letters, in a petition to council and at a public meeting on May 8.
At issue was rezoning the historic Churchill Park area lot from a low density zone – which doesn’t allow townhouses – to medium density.
While city staff recommended approving the rezoning to make way for a developer’s plan to turn the home at 22 Whiteway St. into a triplex, council ultimately sided with area residents in a narrow vote.
Councillors Ian Froude, Debbie Hanlon, Deanne Stapleton, Maggie Burton and Hope Jamieson voted in favour of the rezoning.
Councillors Sandy Hickman, Dave Lane, Jamie Korab, Wally Collins and Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary and Mayor Danny Breen all voted against.
In favour of the rezoning, Froude said it’s important that there be affordable properties in a safe, central neighbourhood.
Jamieson said increased population density improves walkability.
Burton said the original design of Churchill Park included mixed uses and a mix of designs.
Voting against the rezoning, O’Leary said the area residents “en masse have been very concerned” and that despite the city’s density mandate, the municipal plan is “not a black and white document.”
Hickman said council has a responsibility to increase density “where it’s feasible and appropriate,” but it also needs to be sensitive to residents’ concerns.
City staff perspective
City staff’s direction note to council said the amendment, if approved, would allow more housing options in the neighbourhood, which aligns with the draft municipal plan that encourages a range of housing to create diverse neighbourhoods.
Staff noted there were no development or engineering concerns with the proposed development, and it would “gently increase density in an appropriate manner.”
Increasing density in the city’s core areas has been a frequent topic of discussion for council as a means to reduce costly urban sprawl.
However, Churchill Park area residents worried the application would set a precedent for future rezoning, to which city staff wrote that every rezoning application is evaluated individually.
Other concerns expressed by residents included that the development might impair safety at the intersection, hinder snowclearing and house renters, and won’t meet the historic characteristics of the neighbourhood.
City staff wrote that engineers saw no safety concerns for the street if the development was approved, and that the city does not regulate whether a development will be rented or owner-occupied. Staff also wrote that Churchill Park is not a designated heritage area.