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Danny Williams in spat with City of St. John’s over Christmas tree

Danny Williams: “I’ll never begin to imagine the city’s continued desire to be so punitive towards Galway. A private business paying for this great Christmas addition, only to be given so many ridiculous excuses and hurdles is beyond disappointing.” -THE TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO
Danny Williams: “I’ll never begin to imagine the city’s continued desire to be so punitive towards Galway. A private business paying for this great Christmas addition, only to be given so many ridiculous excuses and hurdles is beyond disappointing.” -THE TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO

Former premier calls city hall ‘dysfunctional’

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The headline of a DewCor news release on Tuesday read like a line from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."

"City of St. John’s says no Christmas for Galway.”

DewCor president Danny Williams said the city has hit “a new low” by not allowing a Christmas tree in the middle of a Galway roundabout unless the developer gets a $2-million insurance policy on the display.

Even with the insurance, lights will not be permitted on the tree.


“I’ll never begin to imagine the city’s continued desire to be so punitive towards Galway. A private business paying for this great Christmas addition, only to be given so many ridiculous excuses and hurdles is beyond disappointing." — Danny Williams


St. John’s city manager Kevin Breen said via an emailed statement that when an applicant looks to build or erect a structure on city property, insurance is required in case of an accident or damages.

“This is to protect taxpayers from paying damages if an incident occurs as (a) result of the structure,” reads the email.

“In this case, there is no issue with the tree itself, but there is a concern with its illumination in the middle of a busy roundabout due to driver distraction. Therefore the recommendation of the transportation engineering division is to allow the tree without illumination for public safety reasons.”

The DewCor news release said the tree lighting just outside The Shoppes at Galway last year was a huge success, and the company wanted to spread joy and happiness again this year.

“Last year we invested upwards of $14,000 to install a permanent source of power and foundations so that every year we can have a beautiful Christmas tree, full of lights to mark the holiday season,” Williams stated in the news release.

“Despite no accidents being attributed to the tree last year, this year the city first turned us down due to traffic concerns. They then insisted on us applying for a building permit for a Christmas tree. Despite not having to do this last year, we did all they asked this week.”


“This is to protect taxpayers from paying damages if an incident occurs as (a) result of the structure. In this case, there is no issue with the tree itself, but there is a concern with its illumination in the middle of a busy roundabout due to driver distraction." — email from City Manager Kevin Breen


Breen said a permit is required to erect items on city land, and applications for permits are reviewed to ensure public safety and standard operating procedures are in place.

“It is also important to note that this tree was installed in 2019 without a permit,” said Breen.

Williams argued 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, and the city is encouraging people to light up their homes this week, as well as allowing lights along Prince Philip Drive, yet the city has made it “untenable” for DewCor to light a tree in the Galway roundabout.

“Every year, people look forward to the lights all around the city. You go anywhere in the world and roundabouts, parkways, shopping areas, town centres are all lit magnificently. One only needs to Google ‘Christmas tree in roundabout’ to see what is possible,” said Williams.

“I’ll never begin to imagine the city’s continued desire to be so punitive towards Galway. A private business paying for this great Christmas addition, only to be given so many ridiculous excuses and hurdles is beyond disappointing.

“I had hoped we had turned a corner with the city and I’ve kept my head down this past year. But this is just too much. … I can only hope people take notice of how truly dysfunctional this city hall has become,” he said.

Juanita Mercer reports on municipal politics in St. John’s.


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