Car­bon­ear’s Wa­ter Street is in dire need of a rein­ven­tion, says writer

The Compass - - OPINION - BY DEAN PEN­NEY

Re­cently, I have ap­plied to coun­cil for ap­proval to con­vert a por­tion of my build­ing, the for­mer Knot Cof­fee Shop & Café on Wa­ter Street, from a com­plete com­mer­cial pres­ence to in­clude a res­i­den­tial com­po­nent.

I have closed my cof­fee shop due to it not meet­ing my fi­nan­cials, and in par­tic­u­lar the poor eco­nom­ics of op­er­at­ing in the down­town dis­trict of Car­bon­ear.

There’s no doubt our town is pros­per­ing. How­ever, Wa­ter Street is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story. There are just as many va­cant build­ings as there are busi­nesses, maybe even more.

From boarded up busi­nesses, di­lap­i­dated his­toric struc­tures to the nu­mer­ous pot­holes and ob­struc­tions, Wa­ter Street has be­come a very chal­leng­ing area to nav­i­gate, let alone try­ing to do busi­ness.

In my let­ter ap­pli­ca­tion I write: “If one does not have to go down­town, then you don’t go down­town.” It has be­come a thor­ough­fare for tran­sit­ing from one area to another, with a few mi­nor stops in be­tween, ex­cept a per­ma­nent stop a Noel’s Fu­neral Home.

Wish­ing to di­ver­sify

As most are aware, I op­er­ate E & S Div­ing Ser­vices/Is­land Char­ter Tours. I of­fer div­ing/boat­ing safety cour­ses and boat tours dur­ing the tourism sea­son.

My ap­pli­ca­tion to coun­cil was to have my of­fice/workshop lo­cated in the base­ment of my build­ing, and to con­vert the main and up­per level of my build­ing to in­clude a res­i­den­tial com­po­nent. The res­i­den­tial compo- nent would off­set my fi­nan­cials so that I could max­i­mize the build­ing as a whole. This was pri­mar­ily due to the min­i­mum space I have avail­able at my dis­posal, yet all the while main­tain­ing a busi­ness pres­ence there, al­beit in base­ment level of my build­ing. It makes com­plete sense, both lo­gis­ti­cally and eco­nom­i­cally, and I would still con­tinue to con­trib­ute some­thing to the down­town.

In a Dec. 18 let­ter from the town, my ap­pli­ca­tion was de­nied. Here is a por­tion of that let­ter:

“The ob­jec­tive for this area, as out­lined in the Mu­nic­i­pal Plan, is to pre­serve and en­hance the vi­tal­ity and vi­a­bil­ity of the down­town as the eco­nomic, his­toric, so­cial and cul­tural cen­tre of Car­bon­ear and max­i­mize its eco­nomic po­ten­tial as a tourism re­source. The pol­icy states that this can be only done through care­ful man­age­ment of new de­vel­op­ment. It is the opin­ion of coun­cil that ap­prov­ing the change of any fur­ther com­mer­cial prop­er­ties to res­i­den­tial lo­cated at the main street level will be in con­tra­ven­tion of th­ese ob­jec­tives and poli­cies.”

I agree, in part, that my busi­ness com­po­nent is not street level, but my pres­ence is not some fab­ri­ca­tion of ex­is­tence like other va­cant build­ings on the Street.

If my busi­ness does not con­form to the above state­ment, then I don’t know what does?

Th­ese ques­tions need to be an­swered: Does Wa­ter Street now live up to that state­ment? Or is the state­ment and coun­cil’s de­ci­sion a con­tra­dic­tion of that state­ment?

A dou­ble-stan­dard?

That be­ing said, I have to won­der how some own­ers man­aged to have their build- ings con­verted to res­i­den­tial with­out any busi­ness com­po­nent present, or rather be per­mit­ted to have a va­cant, street level, non-op­er­a­tional busi­ness with­out as much as dis­played sig­nage in­di­cat­ing com­mer­cial space avail­able for rent or lease.

It seems the prece­dence is this: re­gard­less of whether or not you plan to op­er­ate a busi­ness there, as long as you have Wa­ter Street level busi­ness space avail­able, more than likely you will be per­mit­ted a res­i­den­tial com­po­nent based upon the ob­jec­tives and poli­cies stated in the Mu­nic­i­pal Plan.

This may seem that I may have a sour taste in his mouth; maybe so, in part. But all one has to do is walk down Wa­ter Street and for­mu­late your own thoughts. Is the for­mer Easy Save build­ing still there? And that is only one sor­row­ful re­minder.

I be­lieve in com­mit­tees and the tire­less work they do, but one has to won­der who influences who, or who has the last word?

Maybe coun­cil and com­mit­tees should re­visit their de­ci­sion-mak­ing some­times in that the Mu­nic­i­pal Plan is more or less to be used as a “guide­line” and not chis­eled in stone. If the lat­ter is the case then Wa­ter Street will al­ways and for­ever be more be­hind the eight ball.

I con­sider Wa­ter Street a lost and for­got­ten area of our town, for­ever in the shad­ows of our thriv­ing com­mer­cial dis­trict lo­cated in the west end.

With no im­prove­ment or a rein­ven­tion of Wa­ter Street, then our ma­jor im­pact or foot­print on the tourism map will be as a driv­ethru area with no overnight stay. — Dean Pen­ney writes from

Car­bon­ear

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