By Craig Westcott | The Pearl
Not all of the 16 people who were registered to speak against the City of Mount Pearl's plans for the development of Kenmount Hill showed up at the public hearing to express those views Thursday night, but most did, and there was a lineup of others after them when the floor was opened to everyone.
In a meeting that lasted over two hours, about a third of which was devoted to an explanation of the development scheme by a City planner, speaker after speaker found something to pick apart in the proposed rezoning of the area between Wyatt Blvd., Farrell Drive and Blackmarsh Road, though most of the complaints had something in common.
"This plan is affecting me personally, financially, emotionally and every other way," said Megan Keough, who lives near Montclair Park.
Keough said three years ago she accomplished her dream of buying a home with a park nearby where her son can play. "I do feel like that dream is literally being taken away from me."
Keough said most homeowners in the area are not against the private land owners developing their property. "However, you are dismantling the community that is already in existence," she argued, by imposing a high-density neighbourhood next to a low density one. "It seems some, if not all of council, have lost sight of what it means to be a public servant."
Keough said the development has her worried about flooding, snow-clearing and the safety of children in the area.
"I have an extreme serious problem with council saying 'Just trust us, we won't approve anything that's so bad for you,'" added Bonnie O'Rourke.
Under the proposed scheme, most of the housing will be high density, O'Rouke said, with some apartment buildings as high as seven storeys and possibly even 14 storeys. "That's insane," she said, adding the area will look unlike any other part of Mount Pearl.
O'Rourke said the plan is based on improved service by Metrobus, such as you would see in a large city. "Transit-based development makes no sense for this area," she said. "Without public transportation this will not work."
Ron O'Brien of Farrell Drive, who has started a petition in his area, said he is worried about will happen if the hill loses all its trees. He argued that a buffer zone of trees should be maintained.
"It's a very windy area and the trees are needed in the area," said O'Brien. "There is a lot of damage being done to the homes off Farrell Drive and that will only increase with the removal of all the trees... And in the summertime there is a lot of blowing garbage. To remove the trees is going to be an eyesore."
O'Brien pointed out Farrell Drive already has high density housing and the City should balance it with lower density housing in the proposed zone.
Paula Walsh, who interjected during the proceedings to suggest the Commissioner should record the session so that no information is lost and then, when it was her time to address the proceedings, ordered that the media not take her picture or identify her, said she will "absolutely" seek compensation from the City if her property is "encroached upon" by the changes.
Pam Cositine noted that she and her husband recently moved back to Newfoundland and chose to live on Montclair, in part, because of all the space behind the house, something that will be lost by the development of Kenmount Hill. She asked why there isn't an overarching plan for the whole of the Avalon peninsula.
"I don't know why it (development) has gotten so out of hand," said Cositine. "I don't understand why there is this push for more growth. Where are the demographic studies that back up the need for such high density development, particularly on our hill?.. It's a personal thing for me. I really don't want this development to go ahead in any shape or form."
Jim Stanton found some irony in the proposed development scheme. "In the report it says we should encourage those new (projected) 2,600 residents to take the bus, to walk, or ride a bike," he noted. "I would ask City council to come with me tomorrow morning and start at the bottom of Farrell Drive and ride to my house. I've lived here a number of years and I've only seen two people riding bikes in that area. Both are triathletes."
Benneth Latham said most of the people living on the hill know their neighbours, suggesting the proposed high density development will change that.
Latham said she went to nearly every house in her neighbourhood delivering pamphlets about the rezoning. "This is how important this is to me," she said.
"My biggest concern is the playground area," said Latham, referring to the changes that will happen to Montclair Street and its park as a result of the City's plan. "How can it possibly be safe for little kids to go across a crosswalk with lights with all that traffic?.. We have to look out for the safety of our kids… I don't agree with all this high density. When we became part of that community we were told nothing was going to be developed. We weren't (even) allowed to have apartments. I know things change. I'm not against development. And I know it (the city) has to grow. But we should take into consideration our neighbourhood. That playground should not be taken away from the kids... We're greatly impacted, so please listen and hopefully we'll all come to agreement, because we are all citizens of Mount Pearl and I love living in Mount Pearl, so let's just hope it goes a little bit more our way."