The Town of Harbour Grace council chamber was abuzz with chatter during a meeting last night that included open dialogue between councillors, locals and town planner Arvo MacMillan.
With proposed changes to the town plan underway, councillors decided a forum was the best way to keep the public up-to-date and get feedback from residents.
But what began as a list of concerns about rezoning certain areas became an honest and productive discussion.
A dozen people showed up to hear what the new plans would be, and hoped their opinions would be taken into consideration.
“We’ve gotten to this point where we’ve identified four or five areas we want to look at possible changes,” chair of the housing and zoning committee Coun. Tony McCarthy told the group. “I guess it’s fair to say we want to open the town up for some development.”
McCarthy explained one of the reasons for rezoning certain areas of town where individual businesses operate in a predominantly residential neighbourhood is to prevent extra costs for future property owners.
“Right now we have some areas of town that are strictly residential, but there might be one commercial property in the middle of it,” he said. “If, for example, you decided you wanted to buy that commercial property and turn it into residential, which is more suited to the area, the town plan right now makes that fairly difficult in terms of a financial (obligation) on your part.”
He was referring to the amount it could cost to rezone an area at the expense of the owner, which can carry a hefty price tag.
Resident Paul Snow spoke to MacMillan, McCarthy, councillors Pat Haire, Gord Stone and Hayward Blake and the town’s chief administrative officer Lisa Pike, who were all in attendance, about his concern for rezoning a lot next door to his home on Water Street.
The lot was formerly the home of Gulf Oil. It is zoned industrial, but the ground is contaminated.
The amended town plan would change the industrial zone to town zoning, allowing anything that council deems fit for the area to be approved, albeit without public consultation. This could be anything from a grocery store to a restaurant to a home.
Paul and his wife Maureen, as well as neighbour Matt Drover, attended the meeting to get clarification on what town zoning is. Drover lives a few houses down, next to a lot that was formerly Esso.
The area from Noad Street to Cathedral Street between Harvey Street and Water Street is proposed to get zoned under town.
The proposed changes could make industrial development on these pieces of land easier.
Meanwhile, Maureen would like to see the lot turned into a green space.
MacMillan put the concern on his list, but said in his opinion, a green space would be the most cost-effective way to improve the property,
McCarthy and MacMillan wrote the concerns down for consideration and explained the suggestions
Maureen told The Compass the meeting was productive.
“They answered our questions and eased our minds for now,” she explained.
For more in depth coverage, see the Feb. 17th edition of The Compass.