Friday, January 8, 2016


Next to hypocrisy nothing bugs me more than ad-hominem attacks.

Yesterday, I posed a simple question on Twitter with regards to the controversy related to the City of St. John's proposed purchase of 8 hectares of land in the Galway Development. 

This land would provide the city with serviced real estate to build a municipal depot, a fire department and provide other municipal services for the Goulds, Southlands and the growing west end of the city.

My question was simple enough, I was wondering why so many people are up in arms about the City of St. John's purchasing land from Danny Williams? if the land in question was not owned by him, would folks be spewing such vitriol?

Like the dogs in the Pavlovian experiment on conditioned responses, the Danny haters could barely control themselves offering ad-hominem attacks instead of dealing with the real issue - the lack of foresight and planning by the city.

Regardless who owns the land, the city is in need of a base of operations to provide services to the growing West end which includes the areas referenced above. The city has expanded and continues to expand along Kenmount Road across to the Goulds. 

Mayor O'Keefe felt that that the land in question will be much more expensive in the future and this is the right time, despite their current budget woes, to expend a million dollars to purchase. The city began to negotiate a deal but the uproar forced council to go the route of an RFP.

Frankly, an RFP makes sense, unless of course it is purely for optics because the land you want is for sale and is strategically located exactly where you need it. The real issue for taxpayers should be value for money, not who owns the land they need to purchase. 

The other issue is planning or lack of it. Why had the city not acted earlier to acquire this for peanuts when it was owned by the crown - in the event of possible expansion?  The answer is straightforward enough.  Provincial legislation (City of St. John's Urban Regional Plan) stated that development above the 190-metre contour was prohibited. 

The rationale for this was that the expenses involved in the infrastructure requirements of pumping water to that height would be prohibitive and stress the existing infrastructure. 

That all changed in June of 2012 when the Department of Municipal Affairs approved the city's request to amend the rules allowing for land above the 190-metre contour to be developed. 

While no formal development applications had been filed it was anticipated that proposals for developments west of Southlands and on both sides of Kenmount road near the Mount Pearl Border would be forthcoming.

I would argue that this would have been the time for council to try and secure 8 hectares of undeveloped land on the cheap, knowing that it was just a matter of time before these regions were developed. 

The next opportunity to negotiate the purchase of this land for municipal services presented itself when the City approved the Glencrest/Galway Development Plan. Surely a development the size of Gander would have resonated with the city planners. 

Why did the city not request at that point that land be set aside for future municipal services like a fire department or a future site for a school to serve a new population? The city would have been bargaining from a relatively stronger position and the burden on the taxpayer could have been negligible!

Instead, council waited until 2015 , after he developer has spent $60 million installing services and developing the property before approaching DewCor for 8 hectares of land.

The lands current commercial value is not in dispute. The city paid for an independent assessment to determine that. The developer will invest at least $100 million to make Galway suitable for commercial and residential development. What is wrong with a return on investment - no matter who the entrepreneur developing it is.

Park the immature ad hominem attacks. The issue of who owns this land is irrelevant.

If the public wants to be angry at someone, focus your energy on City Hall for lacking the foresight to acquire the land for a depot and a fire hall much earlier. 

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