at Barnes Place, Georgestown, St. John's, A1C 5G9 Canada
United to prevent further destruction of one of St. John's oldest, most unique neighbourhoods and to ensure the safety of its residents.
SUMMARY For over a year, the residents of Barnes Place have been enduring extraordinary disruption from heavy construction initiated by the Gathering Place (TGP) and without consultation. A parking lot for use by TGP is now under construction, it will be: unnecessary, a blight on this heritage neighbourhood, paving a valued green space, increasing runoff. Our lane will be used as a thoroughfare to access this parking lot which is illogical and dangerous as the lane: is very narrow, has no drainage, has no sidewalks, and residents step directly onto the pavement from their front doors. The Gathering Place, a joint operation of the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of the Presentation, is "a service center committed to building community, promoting equality and providing nourishment for those seeking respite from isolation and loneliness". We support absolutely the aims of TGP and its contributions to the community of St. John’s. We are appalled by TGP's total disregard for the homeowners and families whose safety and quality of life are directly and abjectly affected by their heedless expansion. We will use all means at our disposal to bring the public's attention to this thoughtless and demonstrably unsafe course by TGP. We will contact every organization and individual who cares about St. John's and its neighbourhoods. DETAILS Fall 2012 TGP began renovating their building. They used Barnes Place as an access road to the field adjacent to our lane way. This was always a problem: Barnes is a narrow lane way with no exit, no sidewalks, and residents step directly onto the street. We were never informed or consulted. We heard indirectly that it was just a kitchen expansion which would only be a matter of weeks; we would grin and bear it. October 2013 Drilling for geo-thermal wells continued for three horrible months, though we were told it would only be for a few weeks. We requested a meeting with TGP, after a year of ever more disruptive construction as TGP continued to raise large sums of money for its expanding project. At that meeting we were stunned to hear a parking lot would be built in this beautiful old field, one of the few remaining green spaces in downtown St. John's. We protested, saying that parking was easy to find and very accessible at several nearby locations, including the large and often empty Basilica parking lot adjacent to TGP itself. Our greatest shock came when we were told TGP intended to turn Barnes Place into a thoroughfare, an access road, for this unnecessary parking lot! We expressed our utmost concern. We said this would be unsafe for residents and their children. All residents have stories of nearly being hit by trucks and cars belonging to the project. The house at 11 Barnes Place WAS hit by a truck, dislodging the porch roof. TGP promised to look for alternative parking. They promised to update us on a weekly basis regarding our grave concerns about parking. But our requests for information were either ignored, or evaded. They refused to address the issue. November 2013 Residents were finally given a meeting date with the Board of TGP — on December 18. At that meeting, we have been promised, studies regarding the feasibility of alternate parking arrangements would be tabled and options discussed. Yet a parking lot was obviously already being constructed before our eyes, and ears. December 2013 Now we have been told, by a construction supervisor, that there is no possibility of accessing the parking lot, other than through our lane way. We therefore have no choice but to go public. We will use all means at our disposal to bring the public's attention to this thoughtless and demonstrably unsafe course by TGP. We will contact every organization and individual who cares about St. John's and its neighbourhoods. Again, we support absolutely the aims of the Gathering Place, but we cannot allow a serious threat to the safety and wellbeing of our families.
100 FB users likes Barnes Place Residents Association, set it to 12 position in Likes Rating for St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador in Community organization category
Mud impacts neighbours! In the overall scheme of things, given the important issues of safety, environmental impact, and so on, the problem of dirt is minor. Yet it illustrates the kind of problems residents of Barnes Place face with the Gathering Place Board. Massive truck and track vehicles coming up and down the little lane that is Barnes Place have left mud all over, mud that, since there are no sidewalks, we drag directly into our houses. We therefore requested that the lane be hosed down every Friday after work. When I complained on Nov 20 that it hadn't happened, we were told (email of Nov 23) that there was a misunderstanding: “Our [The Board's] understanding about the clean-up was that as soon as the work at the back of the building was finished the related mess would be cleared up.” A clean up ONCE, despite months of dirt? And the finishing date of the work had already been repeatedly postponed over months? A further complaint led to the response (Nov 29) that the contractor was “building trenches in the field to lay the piping connected to the geo-thermal wells. As soon as that is completed, and according to the contractors, this is not a long procedure, the mess will be cleaned up.“ That work was completed a couple of weeks ago, and work stopped. Yet even today no attempt has been made to clean up the mess. Now the mud is embedded in snow, salt and ice and so frozen that cleanup is likely impossible. it may be Spring before we can stop tracking the mud (now with salt and ice) into our houses. In an $7M project, the cost of such cleanup would have been minuscule, yet despite all these delaying promises, even this much consideration for the residents has not been forthcoming. It is therefore hard to credit that, in a news release on Dec 5, the Gathering Place Board blatantly claims, “We have been careful in our planning and work to reduce the impact on our neighbours.”
Pope on Side! In their News Release of Dec 5, The Board of the Gathering Place distinguishes sharply between public and private property: “We respect their property rights, and believe they respect our rights to develop our property. We take care in using public property in accessing our private property.” The suggestion is that the community, the public, have no say in what happens on private property. Private property trumps community interests. The boundary between public and private, however, is not so simple. The noise of drilling did not unfortunately remain behind their fence. Effluent from the private wells flowed out over Barnes and Military Roads. Runnoff from a future parking lot will not remain on private property. It is public property that has been covered in mud. Reduction in green space affects all city dwellers in the vicinity, and indeed influences climate change globally. Aethetic and heritage issues affect all of us. Even though the tree that has been backfilled has its roots on private property, City regulations prohibit its destruction if the branches overhang public space. It is on the public access to the private property that safety issues are involved. The implication that private property gives owners carte blanche to do with it as they will is a position that the Gathering Place itself, given its community spirited nature, surely does not support. The notion that private property has the highest value contributes to global injustice and, within our own society, partly explains the disparity between the 1% and the rest of us, the disparity that also produces the poverty and disadvantages that the Gathering Place, in its overall mission, so admirably addresses. Is it only with respect to the residents of Barnes Place that private property is so sacred? Maybe the Board misspoke. Pope Francis spoke to this very question last month. In his Apostolic Exhortation he says: “The word “solidarity” is a little worn and at times poorly understood ... It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few. ... Solidarity is a spontaneous reaction by those who recognize that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property.” (Pope Francis, EVANGELII GAUDIUM, Nov. 24, 2013, paragraphs 188, 189.) Translated from Papalese, His Holiness is saying that private property is a social institution that has a communal function – to improve the lives of all of us (“universal destination”). Private property rights do not automatically trump community interests.