New Brunswick

Saint John council votes to rewrite heritage bylaw to allow Irving Oil HQ

Saint John council has unanimously approved amendments to the city's heritage conservation bylaw in a bid to ensure Irving Oil can proceed with construction of its planned 11-storey headquarters.

Public hearing on site-specific changes scheduled for April 28

The new rules could see Irving Oil begin construction of its 11-storey headquarters any time after May 2.

Saint John council has unanimously approved amendments to the city's heritage conservation bylaw in a bid to ensure Irving Oil can proceed with construction of its planned 11–storey headquarters.

The amendments create new rules specifically for the company's property at 30 King's Square South, which is located in a heritage zone.

Council approved the changes during a special, eight–minute meeting on Monday night in response to the project being halted following an appeal filed by neighbouring property owner, Jim Bezanson.

The new rules, which will still be subject to a public hearing on April 28, should allow the company to begin construction on the office building any time after May 2, when council will hold the third and final reading.
Saint John Mayor Mel Norton said council's unanimous vote reflects the favourable attitudes in the community toward the Irving development. (Rachel Cave/CBC)

The unusual step is essentially an end–run around Bezanson, who is appealing the project's approval to the province's assessment and planning appeal board.

It's not about any one developer.- Mel Norton, Saint John mayor

Bezanson argued the design of the building is too tall and set too far back from the sidewalk, and therefore doesn't comply with city heritage preservation bylaws.

According to a report prepared for council by city staff, the fast–track, three–week process is as quick as "legislative timelines allow," and could normally be expected to take two to three months.

Staff in the city manager's office, the planning and the legal departments worked "countless" extra hours last week, according to Saint John Mayor Mel Norton, to prepare the amendments.

"This is about making sure we get development in the city, it's not about any one developer," said Norton.

"This is about an opportunity to move a project forward in a timely way, in a way that provides certainty for the project," he said.

Norton said council's unanimous vote reflects the favourable attitudes in the community toward the development.

Further, Norton said if there are other developments in future that don't quite meet the specifications, "the same process can be applied."

Bezanson could not be reached for comment following Monday's council vote.

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