A proposal for a daycare centre on a main thoroughfare in St. John's sparked an emotional debate at a Tuesday night hearing.

The St. John's Native Friendship Centre wants to convert a home on Elizabeth Avenue into the child-care centre that would accommodate about 30 children during weekdays.


Melanie Del Rizzo said a daycare centre in a home on Elizabeth Avenue is not appropriate. (CBC)

The house, which has parking in front that can accommodate several cars, is zoned residential and is adjacent to other homes and an office complex run by the provincial Department of Child, Youth and Family Services.

Residents say the area is not appropriate for a daycare that size, and that parking and traffic are concerns.

But Susan Onalik, a single mother and student, says it's sorely needed.

"It's a godsend, for my child to be taken out of Labrador, because we are Labradorians too — somebody said we are Newfoundlanders, but no, we're Labradorians too — and we need this," she told a public hearing at St. John's City Hall.

"You know what? If it's not going to go here, it's going to go in another area that's residential."

'Not the who'

Neighbour Melanie Del Rizzo said she opposes the project, not the proponent, because of what she sees as a dramatic change for a residential neighbourhood.

"It's not the who — it's never, ever been to me the who — it's the what," said Del Rizzo, whose Alderdice Place home backs on to the property.

97 Elizabeth Avenue St. John's

"When I bought this property, this is a residential property, in an R1 zone … never in a million years did I ever think that I would have a pseudo-commercial operation," she said.

Another resident said she was concerned that allowing the daycare could lead to commercialization that could see a string of 14 houses converted to businesses, similar to what happened at the nearby Regatta Plaza complex.

Staff were asked whether the city would be breaking its own bylaws by allowing a business to operate in the area.

However, the city said it is not rezoning the property on Elizabeth Avenue, and that daycares are allowed in residential areas.

The house is across the street from Elizabeth Towers, which is home to a daycare, and is within driving distance of other daycares.

The Native Friendship Centre, though, said that there are not enough daycare spaces near Memorial University and other institutions to accommodate the demand.