It appears likely that Sackville town councillors will adopt new zoning regulations that would restrict residential development near the CN railway line.
Council held a well-advertised hearing on the proposed regulations last night, but no members of the public showed up to express opposition or support.
One of the regulations would require home builders to maintain a minimum distance of 30 metres (about 100 feet) from the railway that runs through the southern part of town.
A second regulation would prohibit anything such as private fences or hedges from blocking a clear view of the tracks at railway crossings.
Town planner Lori Bickford explained that the regulations are designed to ensure safety and to minimize the effects of noise and vibrations caused by passing trains.
She said existing homes would not be affected by the new, 30-metre setback regulation.
Trains and trees
Council agreed to consider the changes last year when CN gave the town a $25,000 matching grant to plant 120 trees on public property. (Under the terms of the grant, the town agreed to contribute an additional $25,000 toward the project.)
At its meeting in November, council heard from Sackville resident Keith Carter who complained about the tree deal.
“CN gave you fellas some money to plant some trees,” Carter said, “so now you’re going to jump up and down and get them a hundred foot setback on everybody’s property along the railroad.”
Carter added that if he wanted to build a house close to the rail line, it should be his choice not council’s.
Deputy Mayor Joyce O’Neil replied that she had attended a CN presentation showing the need for national standards governing residential construction near rail lines.
“They [CN] showed pictures of where this setback had never been in place,” she said, “and when a person come out of an apartment building, they came right straight out their back door, brought them right out onto the railroad track, so this is a safety issue.”
O’Neil added that the new regulation would not affect other structures such as sheds and unattached garages that could still be built in the 30 metre setback zone.
At last night’s meeting, Lori Bickford estimated that there are 37 residential lots next to the railway.
Council is also planning to adopt new policies governing rail safety under the Sackville municipal plan.
The town plans to work with the rail industry to promote safety along rail corridors.
It also plans to consult with the the rail industry on design standards for any new apartment buildings or residential subdivisions within 300 metres of the tracks.
Residential developers could be encouraged, for example, to consider ways of minimizing the effects of noise and vibrations in houses or apartments near the railway.