An Irving owned parking lot continues to sit empty in uptown Saint John as the company awaits proper approvals to move forward with a new headquarters for Irving Oil and its thousand employees.
A special meeting of Common Council Thursday night saw first and second reading given to a by-law amendment the city believes will allow it to side-step an appeal so the multi-million dollar project can get started.
Jim Bezanson, the former city heritage officer behind the appeal of the heritage board decision, says council’s decision may not provide the project certainty it is looking for.
“They’ve now I think encroached upon my Charter rights and freedoms guaranteed under Section 15 of the Canadian Constitution and that’s appealable to the Supreme Court of Canada,” Bezanson said.
Councillors on either side of the fence
The meeting wasn’t without its drama when attendees were allowed to speak only to the amendment, not the process itself.
Councillor Donna Reardon was the only nay vote. She thought the public should have been given a longer leash because everyone has to feel comfortable moving forward.
“We all live in Saint John, we all pay taxes, we all want to think we have a voice,” Reardon said. “We don’t want to think our voice is based on power.”
Reardon’s Ward 3 colleague Gerry Lowe voted in favour, saying he thought it was the right thing to do.
“I guess most of the people I spoke to are the building trades, the working people and the taxes,” Lowe said.
“The taxes going from an empty parking lot to an 11-storey building is a big tax revenue for the city of Saint John.”
This issue is expected to return to Common Council on Monday night where it’s widely expected the bylaw amendments will be given third and final reading.
Bezanson says he will wait to hear from the Provincial Appeal Board before deciding his next move.