Heritage Board approval of Irving Oil HQ project appealed

Irving Oil has put on hold plans to construct its new headquarters because of an appeal of a heritage board decision to approve the project. Irving Oil

Controversy is brewing over Irving Oil’s plan to build a new headquarters in Saint John.

A former city heritage planner is appealing the local Heritage Preservation Review Board’s decision to approve the project, despite some areas where the structure wouldn’t coincide with heritage bylaws.

“Do you think I really want to be taking on Irving Oil?” Jim Bezanson said about the situation he faces.

Bezanson, who owns several buildings himself, appealed the board’s decision to approve Irving’s planned new headquarters on King’s Square.

The company made the announcement almost two months ago.

The planned structure would be 11 storeys high to accommodate Irving’s thousand employees, which is about three storeys higher than the nearby Admiral Beatty seniors complex.

“It will tower over and dominate everything in the surrounding neighbourhood and be very disrespectful of the quality of the architecture that we have in Saint John,” Bezanson said.

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Possible nterpreting of guidelines

Bezanson also believes the building violates heritage bylaws. A member of the heritage board agrees guidelines need to be followed, but says there could be some wiggle room.

“I believe that we have, on the board, an opportunity to, I guess, allow for some interpretation of the guidelines as we look to determine appropriateness, etc. of the project for the neighbourhood and the surrounding area,” said Saint John Councilor and Heritage Board member, Donna Reardon.

Irving Oil says it’s disappointed by the situation, but encouraged by support within the community. The company says work would have started today on what is currently a parking lot.

“This site would have been very active today with the first activity of the project,” said Irving Oil’s Chief Business Development Officer, Jeff Matthews.

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton is also getting involved. He says the city has to look at every option to get the work back on track.

“We could let the process that’s started just follow its natural course but there may be other options,” Norton said.

“There may be options around potentially revising the bylaw to comply with the approval that’s been granted by the Heritage Board and by the Planning Advisory Committee.”

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Bezanson also says he has a solution that would allow Irving to do the exact building they have proposed while following all the rules, however he wouldn’t elaborate further.

No date has been set for the appeal.

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