Sackville Town Council has adopted an economic development incentive program that could save developers, including JN Lafford Realty Inc., hundreds of thousands of dollars in municipal property taxes over periods of five and 10 years.
Although the aim of the plan is to attract new projects, town staff acknowledge that it could also apply to ones that have already received zoning approval.
That would include the Lafford plan, announced last summer, to build a large seniors’ complex and a nursing-care or assisted-living facility on 22-acres between Hesler Drive, Wright Street and Fawcett Avenue.
“Yes, it can absolutely apply to that development,” town manager Jamie Burke said during the question period after council had approved the new incentive program.
“The whole program is based on town council approving an application from a developer before a building development permit is issued,” he said, adding that since a building permit has not yet been issued, the Laffords are free to apply for the partial tax rebates.
Councillor Bill Evans, who voted in favour of the incentive program, expressed misgivings about it at an earlier council meeting on March 2nd.
“The risk that we are exposing ourselves to is that a developer who would normally build a multi-million dollar project, [who] would do it anyway, is now going to pay less tax,” he said, adding, “What we’re hoping is that we’re going to get a developer [to] do something he or she wouldn’t otherwise do.”
Evans noted at the time that council would have to approve the partial tax rebates, but wondered if it would be legally possible to say no if a developer qualified for them under the new program which requires projects to be in areas zoned for mixed commercial/residential use (MU); dense urban residential use (R3); highway commercial (HC) or industrial use (IND).
“My mind is spinning here trying to think of a reason why you would turn someone down,” Burke answered.
He added that as long as the development was planned for one of the targeted zones, “I’m not sure we’re in a position to say no.”
In January, council gave final approval to zoning much of the Lafford land as urban residential (R3).
Aside from potential municipal tax rebates, JN Lafford Realty will also benefit from the town’s $90,000 plan to extend Wright Street for 90 metres from where the pavement ends opposite the United Church Maritime Conference building to the end of the town-owned section.
The project, scheduled for later this year, will include the extension of the storm sewer system as well as the sidewalk. Water and sewer lines have already been installed.
John Lafford told Katie Tower of the Sackville Tribune-Post in January that he needs the road before his project can get underway.
“The starting point is when the road gets built,” he said. “Before we do anything, we need a road to it.”
To read my previous coverage of the latest Lafford project, click here.
For details of the town’s new economic development incentive program, click here.
Now would be a good time for Council to mandate that all new multi-unit developments be required to install solar panels on 30%-50% of south facing roofs. The developers will benefit from the energy savings in the medium-long run. The tax incentive is the carrot to offset initial capital costs.