Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mayor delivers message to residents. Guidelines were made to be broken.

May 29. CBC Radio Morning Show:
Council and The Battery. Some residents living in The Battery - a historic part of St. John's - are upset over a new house that's being built. They went to city council on Monday looking for support... but they didn't get it. We talk to St. John's Mayor Andy Wells to find out why. Listen to this audio feature (Runs 6:25)

No spark to Battery development complaint: mayor
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 12:50 PM NT
CBC News
St. John's Mayor Andy Wells has little sympathy for a group of residents in the Battery neighbourhood who want city hall to halt construction of a house that could block views of the harbour.

"I don't think there's a single thing wrong with this application," Wells told CBC News on Tuesday, after opponents of the project unsuccessfully appealed to city council at its regular meeting on Monday evening.

"It meets all our requirements. The owner of this property is entitled to develop the property pursuant to the rules."

While the proposal on Signal Hill may meet city requirements, residents say it flies in the face of non-binding guidelines drafted three years ago for development of the historic neighbourhood.
A former fishing village along the lower reaches of Signal Hill, the Battery has over the years become a magnet for property-hunters eager to obtain one of the best views in the city.

Resident Alison Dyer said the house planned for the backyard of 24 Battery Road is set farther back from the street than it should be.

"One of the main reasons, again, to have Battery guidelines [is] so that it would keep the integrity and look of the Battery," Dyer said.

Lisa Porter, who fears that property values will drop for the surrounding homes, said residents didn't know about the plans until a few days ago, when an excavator started work on the foundation.

"It was a big shock to us when this started on Saturday," she said.

Wayne Howell, who owns the land where the controversal house is being constructed, declined an interview but said he is within his rights and has obtained appropriate permits.

Dyer said the group of residents does not yet know whether it will appeal the city's approval for the development.

Wells said an appeal would be a waste of time and money, as no rules have been broken.

In 2006, amid strong resident opposition, city council shelved a proposal that would have seen a new hotel and condominium complex built at the site of the current Battery Hotel.


Michael said...

Well, well, Wells. Where the exception is the rule! Here you folks go again...

Alison Dyer said...

You've no idea how heartbreaking this is. My home is completely changed. It no longer feels like home.

Kieran said...

It is very hard to comment on cases like this without knowing more information. In one way I feel sorry that you are so distressed about this but on another it strikes me as fairly straightforward - someone is building a house next to you. It's not a casino or hotel or anything outrageous.

In the UK right to views are not protected. I'm surprise that its is different there. I'm also surprise that you weren't informed when the application for permits were made.

Please remember that when the house is finished you will be neighbours with the person building the house.

Alison Dyer said...

Hi Kieran, thanks for thinking of us. Well, it isn't that straightforward. About 3 yrs ago, the City, using public monies, contracted a consulting firm to do a study & draw up very clear guidelines as to what people could build (# storeys/extensions etc). Because we live in super spot of city, overlooking harbour and some of the Battery looks out through the Narrows - in recent yrs very modest homes were being bought up, torn down & mega homes built. Since guidelines came out, City staff have enforced them - we have 3 development files, and there are probably more - that show a)neighbours had input into what did or didn't go up to spoil their view [guidelines say not more than 5% of viewplane should be lost], and b) city required either plans be modified or just simply turned them down.
Had city staff issued a notice of variance (because of lack of sufficient frontage with the house that's going to block our view - and significantly reduce our property value) as is required in regulations, we wouuld have known about it before work actually started, and it would have helped all parties to be able to sit down & compromise. We will be going to Appeal hearing next week. As the cliff has now been gouged out, goodness knows what are chances are.
Bottom line: City enforced these publically-paid for guidelines in other cases, causing other residents thousands of dollars in architect fees in some cases - so they have de facto established a practise. They should apply them equally & justly across the board with all taxpayers.
The man building the house has a house (his mothers)-this is another one that will give him a great view by taking ours away.