Saint John city council has approved a controversial plan that will see a block of Elliott Row closed off and sold to J.D. Irving Ltd.

The company will then incorporate the street into a new parking lot for its employees.

Under the plan, the first block, between Carmarthan and Wentworth Streets, will be closed permanently to allow a landscaped parking lot that will hold 131 vehicles.

The area is adjacent to J.D. Irving's headquarters, which houses 727 employees.

A public pedestrian walkway will be maintained along the current sidewalk.

But the plan is opposed by Mayor Mel Norton.

"Parking lots are the opposite of what we want to do in an urban core," said Norton after last night's council meeting.

'Parking lots are the opposite of what we want to do in an urban core.' - Mayor Mel Norton

In fact, said Norton, current thinking on urban development holds that parking lots are counter productive.

"Parking lots don't add vibrancy, they don't add people to landscapes."

"Those experts tell us that the best use of streets is for housing, for businesses, for people. Using a street for a parking lot is the exact opposite of that vision."

The parking proposal had the recommendation of city planning staff and the volunteer planning advisory committee.

But former PAC chair Morgan Lanigan spoke out against the plan at last night's public hearing.

"One of the greatest myths about uptown Saint John is that there's not enough parking," he said. 

"This is truly a myth. And in fact there's many studies that have shown that we already have too much parking in this city."

Lanigan told councillors parking lots have helped depopulate the urban core in many North American cities. 

Councillors see parking lot as improvement

But city councillors, like John MacKenzieview the proposal as a big improvement on what exists now on that section of Elliott Row. 

Council approved the plan unanimously.

Rick Turner of Hughes Surveys presented the plan at last night's meeting.

Turner is handling the file as a consultant for JDI.

He said properties along Elliott Row were bought by Irving over a 20-year period because of their "strategic proximity" to the headquarters.  

"Many of the properties were dilapidated, some of them vacant as they acquired them," said Turner.

"JDI systematically cleaned up the site."

The last building was removed in 2009. 

The vacant Elliott Row lots are currently used an unapproved parking for JDI employees.