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!”

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8 Responses to Sackville birch grove cleared to make way for downtown apartments

  1. tuxemal says:

    Wondering what the purpose of this article was? You had previously reported on the activities at the public hearing as well as last weeks council meeting which council made their decision for the rezoning.
    Can I suggest a topic to be written about and included in your commentary’s on Tantramar FM.
    What is the purpose of a municipal plan? How are municipal plans developed? Is there opportunity for public input during the process of developing a municipal plan? What does a municipal plan cover? What are the steps to revise the municipal plan? How often are municipal plans reviewed?
    Being passionate about something is important however understanding how to effect positive change in your community needs to be written about and understood.
    Use the tools that are available along with an open minded perspective. Understand how each cog interacts with the other.
    Developers will work within the plan/codes that are put in front of them. If people believe there needs to be improvements then work within in the system to make changes. However be prepared to have others weigh in and not agree.

    • Les Hicks says:

      I find it hard to give any weight to comments made by individuals who don’t provide their actual names on their posts.

  2. Rima Azar says:

    Nothing surprising here. It was just a question of time. Just to add something lighter (yet serious), I still think that age of 55+ for tenants may be discriminatory :).

    As far as I am concerned, I understand the university Board of Regents. On one hand, there are at least two members in conflict of interest (Town links). On the other hand, what should they say? I think common sense should come from Town Council, not from the Board of Regents.

    As for Mr. Lafford, he is taking care of his affairs. This is normal.

    Of course, the Provincial Government will ignore any request (this may be trivial to them, being busy). In French, one would say: “Ils ont d’autres chats à fouetter” (especially before the coming Elections). Who knows? Being smart entrepreneurs, the Laffords may perhaps know how to be connected (Service NB’s offices are located in the building that has replaced the beautiful white church). Again, well connected or not, they are protecting their business interests. Again, this is expected from entrepreneurs.

    My only remaining questions are: What about the charming little bridge? Will it be destroyed? And about the cemetery? Will our town and/or the Laffords respect the GNB Cemetery Act and/or best practices of the Association of NB Cemeteries, if the next step would require moving the cemetery?

    All this being said, thank you Erna and John for caring about the beauty of Sackville.

    • Carol J Cooke says:

      I just want to second Rima’s thanks to Erna and John and Meredith. Thank you for all of your hard work to try and preserve the beauty of this town!

  3. Christian Corbet says:

    I trust history will write that these modern and cost effectively constructed buildings, designed by qualified yet unremarkable architects and their commissioners, will prove to leave little historical importance to the once brilliant architecture Sackville, New Brunswick once knew and lost to the minds of some “powers-that-be” who some believe have little understanding or appreciation for our past, present and future.

  4. Azi says:

    I certainly agree with you Christian …. Sadly it will be too late by then ..I have to mention though that as far as I know, on this proposed project and similar ones around and on the site of previous United Church there has been no architect involved ..a designer yes, an architect, No.

  5. Susan Dales says:

    The sad weight of inevitability. It was very difficult to drive along Main Street towards the Bridge Street intersection and see only a pile of tree trunks where once the beautiful birch grove had stood. I know many folk will feel the loss. The question is how much are we willing to lose in the name of ‘progress’. I too thank Erna and John Duchemin and Meredith Fisher for their admirable effort to stave off inevitability and protect precious beauty.

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