City can’t infringe on citizens’ right to appeal decisions: Breen
St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen responded Thursday to criticism from businessman Mark Dobbin earlier this week.
Dobbin was critical of what he called a “frustrating” process in completing a waterfront development in Quidi Vidi Village.
Dobbin’s company, Long Harbour Holdings, got approval for work to redevelop the former Flake House property in September 2018.
In April 2019, the city approved storm sewer and wharf structure work for a specific part of the property, which was appealed by St. John’s resident Randy Walsh – chair of the Quidi Vidi Village Slipway Committee and Quidi Vidi Village Property Owners – prompting a stop-work order.
When the local board of appeal sided with the city’s approval of the project, Walsh filed another appeal with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The city, in its interpretation of the development regulations, then issued another stop-work order. Dobbin went to court over that decision, where the judge ruled the word "appeal" in the city’s development regulations means an appeal filed with the local board of appeal.
Prior to the judge’s decision, the city took a broader view, to include appeals filed with the courts. The city was ordered to reinstate work permits.
Breen said the city was pleased with the judge’s decision because it clarified when stop-work orders are required.
Dobbin called the decision “a hollow victory” because he since added an addition to the Quidi Vidi Village development, which required another application and approval from the city, giving Walsh another opportunity to appeal the work.
That appeal will be heard by the St. John’s Board of Appeal on Sept. 18.
“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,” Dobbin told The Telegram on Monday.
However, Breen said the city operates under provincial legislation, and there’s a requirement for an appeal process.
“The city doesn’t have the ability or the authority to decide on who can appeal, or what grounds people can appeal,” he said.
He said issuing stop-work orders when appeals are filed actually protects developers because if an appellant is successful, but the city didn’t issue a stop-work order, the developer might incur costs reversing or mitigating any work done after the appeal was filed.
“Every resident has a right to appeal, and I don’t feel we can take any steps that can infringe upon that right of appeal.” — Danny Breen
However, Breen said the city is always looking for ways to improve the development process in terms of speeding up applications, and offering to meet with developers to help them with the process.
“We don’t want to see developments impeded. We understand that these things cost money, and they cost opportunity.
“We want to be able to encourage development in the city, but we also have a requirement to the residents of the city that those developments are done in an orderly fashion and meet our regulations.”
Breen said he doesn’t see anything more the city could do with the appeal process.
“Every resident has a right to appeal, and I don’t feel we can take any steps that can infringe upon that right of appeal.”