Repeal of Sackville heritage bylaw eases restrictions on new Lafford apartments

Excavation and fencing at Lafford site with no building permit

Sackville Town Council’s repeal of its heritage bylaw on Monday will make it easier for Lafford Realty Inc. to construct a controversial three-storey apartment building  with underground parking on land once owned by the United Church.

During the question and answer period at Monday’s council meeting, Sackville’s Chief Administrative Officer Phil Handrahan said the Laffords had not yet applied for a building permit even though they’ve removed trees, installed a temporary orange fence around the perimeter and excavated the site at Main and York Streets.

“No [building] permit has been issued to proceed,” Handrahan acknowledged, “and the developer is waiting on what the decision of council is going to be with respect to heritage.”

Town planner Lori Bickford said a building permit is not required for the work that is going on at the site.

Brian Lane at last month’s public hearing

Under persistent questioning from Sackville resident Brian Lane, Bickford said the orange fencing at the site is temporary, not structural, and therefore does not require a permit.

Town manager Jamie Burke acknowledged that without the repeal of the heritage bylaw, the developer would have to apply for a permit from the Heritage Board for construction of the new building.

“It does require Board approval,” Burke said. “It is somewhat of a subjective process for Board members as there are no specific requirements in terms of a particular style the building has to be other than the need to complement the existing streetscape,” he added.

‘They can do whatever they want’

During a public hearing on repealing the bylaw held last month, Lane urged councillors to delay scrapping it at least until the new Lafford building goes through the process.

“You’ve got a chance of a major development for the downtown area,” he said.

“It should comply to the existing heritage bylaw. You get rid of that, they can do whatever they want,” he added.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Sackville repeals its heritage bylaw

Bill Evans finishes reading his statement in favour of repealing the bylaw

Sackville town councillors voted Monday night to repeal the town’s heritage bylaw and dissolve the Heritage Board leaving property owners free to demolish or alter the look of downtown buildings in previously designated heritage conservation areas without having to apply for a permit.

“This is an issue that has been, well, I’ve agonized over it for a long time,” said Councillor Bill Evans in a nine-minute statement explaining why he would be voting in favour of scrapping the bylaw.

Evans added that the town adopted the heritage conservation bylaw in 2010 without a clear idea of what it intended to preserve or how far it should go in interfering with the rights of property owners. He said that over the years, two groups emerged with strong opinions — one urging that the bylaw be strengthened and the other arguing that it places an unfair burden on certain property owners.

“It became a hugely contentious issue on which there is little agreement except for one aspect — almost everyone I’ve heard from agrees that what we currently have is not working,” Evans said.

He also referred to the bitter and costly fight over demolition of the former Sackville United Church that he said exposed weaknesses in the bylaw itself as well as the town’s unfamiliarity with the functioning of an independent Heritage Board.

“If the bylaw is repealed, I expect that the streetscape of Sackville will continue to evolve as it has for 150 years and, while not everyone will like everything, Sackville will continue to be the vibrant, attractive town that we call home,” Evans concluded.

To read the full text of Evans’s statement, click here.

Mitton voices concerns

Although she said she would be voting for repeal, Councillor Megan Mitton expressed concern that there would be nothing to replace the bylaw.

“I do wish we could have found a way to change it and address many of the concerns raised,” she added. (Last month, council held an often-emotional, hour-long public hearing with many participants expressing strong views for and against repealing the bylaw.)

Mitton said she understands that town staff will work on drafting new criteria for grants that would help property owners repair and restore their heritage buildings.

To read the text of Mitton’s statement, click here.

Tower weighs in

Michael Tower during a previous council meeting

Michael Tower was the only other councillor to speak before the vote to repeal the bylaw. He suggested that the Heritage Board had imposed unfair, ridiculous and costly conditions on owners seeking to improve their properties leading to a groundswell of opposition against it.

“I was against the whole thing back when I heard from David Jones and they made him put a garage on the side of his house and not facing the front,” Tower recalled.

“So, when I inquired about why they’d be so ridiculous — he built a beautiful house — why that? ‘Well, it’s the only house that we have a garage on the front facing the road. They didn’t do that way back when so why would we allow it now?'” Tower said, adding that complying with the garage requirements cost Jones “a heck of a lot of money.”

To read the text of Tower’s statement, click here.

The vote to repeal the bylaw was seven in favour with none against. Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken, who is co-owner of the heritage building that houses Tidewater Books, left the council chamber and did not vote or participate in the discussions about repealing the bylaw.

Posted in Sackville United Church, Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Mt. A. expert calls Sackville high-risk area for tick-borne disease

Dr. Vett Lloyd in Mt. A. photo

Mount Allison biology professor Vett Lloyd warned Town Council last Tuesday that Sackville is in a high-risk area for ticks that spread illnesses including Lyme disease.

“The problem with ticks is not that they’re revolting blood suckers,” Dr. Lloyd said, “we have lots of revolting blood suckers all over the place, but unlike mosquitoes, while ticks suck the blood, they squirt the diseases that they carry in their gut into your blood stream and you get sick.”

Lloyd, who has conducted extensive research on ticks and Lyme disease, was invited to share her knowledge with council by Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken who is also a biology professor at the university.

She said public health authorities consider the southern half of New Brunswick to be a high-risk area.

Collecting ticks

“For the past six years, I’ve been collecting ticks,” she said, adding that people from all over the province send ones to her they’ve removed from pets, children and themselves. She tests the ticks and then puts dots on a map to indicate where they came from.

She showed a map of Sackville with a large number of dots indicating ticks in backyards and especially in Beech Hill Park, the Waterfowl Park and in the rough areas of Sackville’s golf course.

“You can’t actually spray for them or get rid of them,” Lloyd said, adding that the province should post warning signs.

“Your best bet is to tell people there are ticks much the same way that people are warned when there are icy sidewalks or any other natural hazards,” she said.

Lloyd told council the ticks that spread Lyme disease are spreading north on migratory birds and mice and they aren’t being killed off as winters get warmer.

“So we’re getting more ticks,” she added, “they really like it here unfortunately.”

Worrying numbers

NS diagram shows places to check for ticks

She said about 25 per cent of ticks she has tested in the Sackville area carry Lyme disease with about 18 per cent of dogs being infected here.

She also suggested the province grossly underestimates the number of people infected.

“For every person they say has Lyme disease, there are 29 others who have it, but haven’t been diagnosed,” she said.

Lloyd said that the tick and flea tablets that veterinarians prescribe for dogs work quite well.

As for humans, she questions the effectiveness of advice from public health authorities telling people to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into their socks.

“There are a couple of issues with that,” she said. “One is that it’s hot and putting your pants in your socks isn’t really fashion-forward, so try to persuade a teenager that that’s the look they want to go with,” she said, adding that people should simply check themselves for ticks.

“If you think to just have a quick glance at your body when you have a shower and pull off a tick or notice anything crawling up your leg and remove it, that’s probably going to be more effective than telling everyone to dress in full clothes for a day in the park.”

For more information on tick safety from the Nova Scotia government, click here.

For information from the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, click here.

For my coverage of a 2015 art exhibit in Parrsboro, N.S. depicting the potential horrors of Lyme disease, click here.

Posted in Mount Allison University, New Brunswick government, Nova Scotia Government, Town of Sackville | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Evans ‘gobsmacked’ by Lorne St. flood control costs

Councillor Bill Evans

Sackville Town Councillor Bill Evans says he’s “gobsmacked” by the news that the second phase of the town’s Lorne Street flood control project could cost nearly $6 million, twice as much as the $2.9 million in federal, provincial and municipal money set aside for it.

“The elephant in the room is finding out that something we thought — our consultants said — would be three million is six million,” Evans said during town council’s meeting on Tuesday.

He was commenting on a report from Town Engineer Dwayne Acton that the lowest bid on Phase II of the $2.9 million Lorne Street project came in at just over $5.9 million even after the town had made substantial reductions to its original plans.

Acton responded to Evans by saying that consultants Crandall Engineering of Moncton are reassessing the project to see if there are other options for draining flood waters from the Lorne Street area to the Tantramar River. He also defended Crandall’s original estimates of the project’s costs.

“It’s a huge unknown when you start digging in marsh,” Action said. “It was a very difficult project to gauge.”

Less ambitious plans

The town’s plans called for construction of two large retention ponds connected by deep drainage ditches that would discharge flood waters through a double-gated aboiteau into the Tantramar River at low tide. But last month, Acton said the town had eliminated the second, larger retention pond to stay within the $2.9 million budget.

To read about elimination of the second pond, click here.

To read about the town’s original plans for three ponds, click here.

Councillor Andrew Black

Andrew Black was the only other councillor to comment on the doubling of costs for the Lorne Street project.

“Not to be too mean, but I would question the ability of the consultants to predict this, I mean it seems huge,” he said.

Black also wondered if Crandall Engineering would be paid additional fees “to  re-do what they’ve already done.”

Acton answered that after a brief discussion, the consultants are re-looking at things. Chief Administrative Officer Phil Handrahan added that the project is complex.

“We need to allow the consultants the time to work with staff to see what options can exist,” Handrahan said, “and as soon as we have a better idea, we’ll bring something back and hopefully have some answers at that time. To try and answer questions here tonight, is really just speculating unfairly.”

The following exchange occurred when Black persisted:

Councillor Black: “I would hope that the consultants would come back with many options. I mean is it possible that this Phase II just doesn’t happen? Is Phase I enough? Anyway, it would be nice to see many options potentially just to give some sense of where we’re at, where we’re going to go.”

CAO Handrahan: “There will be as many options as is reasonable and feasible to bring back to council and, at the end of the day, council will be the ones to determine whether or not something goes ahead or doesn’t go ahead and at what cost.”

To read earlier coverage of Phases I and II of the Lorne Street project, click here.

Additional note

Aside from eliminating the second water retention pond from its tender for Phase II, the town also eliminated construction of the large ditch and control structure that would funnel water from the first retention pond south of St. James Street under Charles Street on its way to culverts under the CN Rail tracks. According to town Treasurer Michael Beal, the $200,000 still left over from Phase I of the Lorne Street project could be applied to the Charles Street crossing.

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Retired military policeman chosen as PC candidate in Memramcook-Tantramar

PC candidate Etienne Gaudet

New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives have chosen Etienne Gaudet, a 48-year-old retired military police officer to contest the riding of Memramcook-Tantramar in the September 24th provincial election.

“It’s not very often that we run into a retired military person who’s offered his services,” former provincial cabinet minister Mike Olscamp said as he introduced Gaudet during a PC meeting in Memramcook on Tuesday.

Olscamp said that during Gaudet’s 21 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, he served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, one in the Central African Republic and another in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Gaudet also served as deputy commanding officer of the military police unit in Halifax.

He retired from the military on June 13 and now operates Chapeau Rouge Farm Ltd., a small operation that grows and sells fruits and vegetables in the Memramcook area.

PC message

In his acceptance speech, Gaudet portrayed himself as a fighter with deep passion and energy.

“If you want an MLA that will be present in the riding and represent all corners of the riding and not just some, I’m your guy,” he said.

He also said he wanted to be elected as part of the PC team led by Blaine Higgs.

“A team that understands that government has a spending problem and not a revenue problem,” he said, adding that New Brunswickers need to be allowed to keep more of their hard-earned money.

“A team that understands to its core that you can run an effective and efficient government for all New Brunswickers without borrowing, borrowing and borrowing money that our children and their children and their children will need to pay back,” Gaudet said.

Different election

PC leader Blaine Higgs

When his turn came, PC leader Blaine Higgs told the meeting that this election campaign is going to be different.

“The Premier, Brian Gallant, is out there promising everything to everybody [in] typical fashion,” he said, “and you know what sets our province behind so much is the election cycle.”

Higgs said the PCs themselves “promised everything to everybody” when they got elected in 2010 and then “had this great big hole to fill.”

He added that the Conservatives limited their spending promises to less than $200 million in the 2014 election campaign with $56 million of that for catastrophic drug coverage while the Gallant Liberals, on the other hand, promised $300 million per year for six years, a total of $1.8 billion in new investments in health, education, social services and roads.

“We’ve heard all about the investments,” Higgs added, “but we’ve heard nothing about the return on investments.”

He said 70,000 people who had no doctors, still have no doctors and New Brunswickers still face the longest wait times in Canada for referrals to medical specialists.

“I don’t think last place is good enough,” he said returning to his main theme.

Get the job done

“Here’s the big question,” Higgs said as he began his speech, “are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

He said the Liberal government is costing taxpayers a billion dollars more per year than it was four years ago, the equivalent of $2,000 more from every taxpayer.

“And what have they done with it?” he asked. “Spent it! Premier Gallant promised growth. What did he deliver? Disappointment,” Higgs said adding that New Brunswick is actually in last place.

“Last place is nothing new for Brian Gallant. We’re last place in economic growth, seventh, eighth place in education, we even got voted worst roads in the province and since the election in Ontario, Premier Gallant is last place in popularity, so he is no newcomer to last place,” Higgs said.

Throughout his speech, the PC leader portrayed his party as one that could work with the private sector to create growth so that young people aren’t forced to seek jobs elsewhere.

“I’m not here to buy your vote,” Higgs said. “This team that I’m so proud of being part of are here to earn your vote, earn your vote for results for this province,” he added.

“I’m not here because I need a job. I’m here to do a job. And that’s our goal, to get the job done and see our province turn around.”

Posted in New Brunswick Election 2018, New Brunswick government | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Sackville birch grove cleared to make way for downtown apartments

Photo taken Fri. June 15 showing removal of birch grove on site of new Lafford bldg.

Contractors working for JN Lafford Realty Inc. began felling birch trees in the heart of downtown Sackville last week to make way for a controversial $6 million apartment  building called “The York” that will cater to tenants over 55.

During an interview, John Lafford said he would have preferred not to cut the trees down.

“Yet they had to go for the building to be there,” he added, while promising to replace every tree.

“If we can’t put every one of them on the site, we’ll plant them anywhere that town council chooses,” Lafford said.

A majority of councillors voted last Monday to rezone part of the former Sackville United Church property at Main and York Streets so that the Laffords can construct a three-storey apartment building with underground parking.

Artist’s drawing showing building with gables and loft spaces at either end. Underground parking entrance is at the left end. (Click to enlarge)

The 35, two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments, will come in a variety of sizes from 1,000 to 1,250 and 1,400 square feet. There will also be two 1,600 square foot units with lofts. Rents for the smaller apartments will range from $1,250 to $1,750 per month with utilities included.

Lafford says the building’s three apartment storeys will be brick, while the first storey underground parking — visible from the Main Street side — will be stone.

He adds he already has a list of people who are interested in renting some of the apartments and that the building should be ready for occupancy next summer.

Petition to save trees

During last week’s town council meeting, Erna Duchemin asked councillors to consider a petition that she, her husband John and a small group of citizens had been taking door to door in downtown Sackville neighbourhoods. (To read the text of the petition, click here.)

Erna Duchemin addressing council on Monday

Duchemin said they obtained 159 signatures from people opposed to the rezoning partly because of the loss of trees and green space in the heart of downtown.

“Many people thanked us for letting them know,” she wrote in an e-mail to Warktimes. “Believe it or not quite a few people were unaware of the rezoning and the proposed development.”

Duchemin also wrote to members of the Mount Allison University Board of Regents who responded that they had confidence in whatever the town would decide.

Her e-mails to Premier Gallant and other provincial officials raising concerns about how possible runoff from the site could affect wetlands in the Waterfowl Park brought no action.

She writes that even though she delivered the petition to town council the Friday before their meeting, none of the councillors asked about the concerns of those who signed it.

“They already had their minds made up,” she writes.

Finally, Duchemin writes that even though the new building is zoned for mixed use, there will be no retail stores on the ground floor because of the underground parking.

“What a loop hole!” she writes. “It is just another apartment building, not really bringing more business to the downtown area. Let’s hope these people who move into the building can support the businesses downtown!”

Posted in Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Sackville councillors clear way for luxury apartments and repeal of heritage bylaw

Former Mayor Bob Berry

Sackville Town Council has approved a controversial property rezoning to permit construction of a downtown luxury apartment building while taking the first step toward repealing the town’s heritage bylaw.

Those actions came during an often-emotional, three-hour meeting Monday night when the mayor and councillors heard from members of the public and former Mayor Bob Berry who said he had received death threats in connection with the fight over demolition of the Sackville United Church in 2015.

“As mayor of this town,” Berry said, “I’ve been threatened. I had threats to burn my property down. I had threats to go to court. I had threats that I could probably serve in prison or jail over this heritage bylaw,” he added. “If you guys ever got threatened and received letters that you were going to have your house burnt, your family and my wife burnt and threatened my life, then you would be emotional too.”

Berry said the bylaw has been “a pain in the butt in this town for a long time” as he urged councillors to either scrap it or apply the bylaw to every property in town. He added that most people can’t afford to bring properties up to heritage standards.

“The average person in this town is having a hard time just keeping a house going,” he said. To listen to Berry’s unedited comments, click on the link below:

Berry’s comments came during an hour-long public hearing on the proposal to repeal the bylaw that was first passed in 2010 as a measure to preserve the look of heritage properties in two designated conservation areas in downtown Sackville.

Pleas pro and con

Sharon Hicks

Sharon Hicks echoed the concerns of several other speakers who said repealing the heritage bylaw without anything to replace it would leave owners of historic properties free to do as they like.

“If everything is just dumped for now, thinking you might replace it with something later,” she said, “in the meantime, there is no heritage protection whatsoever for anything in town.”

Hicks also expressed concern about how quickly the proposal to repeal the bylaw came forward.

“We’ve been told that it was studied for five or six months, but there was nothing made public until after the decision had been made to scrap it,” she said.

Bruce Robertson, warden of St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Sackville, said he also oversees the Anglican Rectory at the corner of Rectory Lane and Main Street. He added that considerable sums have been spent on both buildings while complying with the requirements of the heritage bylaw.

“I believe I have to indicate to you for the record that this sort of legislation puts already precarious organizations like ours at even greater disadvantage financially and has added considerably to the work of the volunteers who manage these structures,” Robertson said.

He explained that replacing the garage at the Rectory cost an additional $20,000 because of the requirement to create a hayloft “presumably to make the building conform to the style when horses, not cars, moved clergy through the town.”

Robertson said that over a year ago when St. Paul’s spent $80,000 to re-roof its iconic steeple, it could not qualify for a full $10,000 heritage grant because most of the work was considered routine maintenance.

Council votes

Councillor Andrew Black

After the public hearing, councillors gave preliminary approval to a measure, moved by Andrew Black and seconded by Joyce O’Neil, that would repeal the heritage bylaw.

However, only Councillor Bruce Phinney said he would definitely vote for repeal when the matter comes up for final votes at a later meeting. Councillor Joyce O’Neil seemed to be leaning that way too while Councillors Black, Butcher and Mitton said they would weigh comments made during the public hearing before making a decision. (Councillors Bill Evans and Michael Tower were absent from the meeting, while Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken, who owns a heritage property, did not participate in the discussion or voting.)

Lafford rezoning

Earlier in the meeting, council approved granting JN Lafford Realty Inc. the rezoning it sought for part of the former United Church property. The rezoning clears the way for construction of a multiple-unit luxury apartment building for tenants over 55 with underground parking.

Five councillors voted for the rezoning while Councillor Phinney voted against, arguing as he had at a previous meeting, that another building on the site would add to traffic congestion creating unsafe conditions for drivers and pedestrians.

Public opposition

During the question period at the beginning of the meeting, Erna Duchemin had asked councillors to consider a petition she had delivered to them with 159 signatures expressing concern about the loss of trees and green space while suggesting the new building would not attract new business into the downtown area because there are no plans for retail stores on its ground floor.

Others also urged council to deny the rezoning to preserve the look of the downtown.

Councillor Allison Butcher

However, except for Councillor Phinney, all councillors present supported the rezoning partly on the grounds that without it, the Laffords would still be free to remove the trees and construct an apartment building with above-ground parking.

“The reality is that the stands of trees on the site are going to come down one way or another and council does not have the jurisdiction with our laws to stop anyone who owns a piece of property from doing so,” said Councillor Black.

“The birches, losing them will be a loss,” said Councillor Butcher. “I love them too, but as our laws sit now, we can’t dictate to private landowners whether or not they can cut down a tree or a grove of trees. That’s not in our power,” she added.

While Councillor Mitton agreed that the Laffords could remove the trees without the rezoning, she said the project has brought to light gaps in existing policies including the lack of bylaws to preserve trees and green space.

“We are missing something because we don’t have these bylaws,” she said. “We need to fix this for the benefit of the whole town.”

Posted in Sackville United Church, Town of Sackville | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments