Sackville Town Council is expected to write another chapter Monday night in the slowly evolving story of economic development at TransCanada Highway Exit 506.
Councillors will be asked to approve spending more than $390,000 for major improvements to the Cattail Ridge/Highway 106 roadway including the installation of sidewalks, curbs and storm sewers from Bridge Street to Robson Avenue.
The paved roadway would also be widened slightly making Cattail Ridge safer for cyclists and the new sidewalks would be installed on both sides of the road.
If council does say yes, the project would be going ahead about two-and-a-half years after a Nova Scotia consulting firm recommended road improvements on Cattail Ridge to make the area more suitable for a “village” near Exit 506 that could include restaurants, coffee drive thrus, small shops, a commercial bank and apartments or condominiums.
In its $27,000 report, Ekistics Planning and Design of Dartmouth also proposed hiking and biking trails as well as two new parks in the area including one dedicated to artist Alex Colville.
Its plan included the Ambulance New Brunswick station that has since been built by the Nova Scotia developer Parsons Investments Ltd. which owns about 600 feet of undeveloped land on Cattail Ridge across from the Ultramar gas station.
$100K over budget
The town’s share of these latest Cattail Ridge improvements is a little under one-third or $117,600, while the provincial department of transportation and infrastructure (DTI) will spend a total of $273,300.
Town Engineer Dwayne Acton told council last Monday that the lowest bid of $390,798.75 came from Bowsers Construction Ltd. of Sackville, a figure about $100,000 higher than the amounts the town and DTI had originally budgeted for the project.
He said DTI has agreed to pay an extra $57,800 while the town would spend $45,900 to cover its share of the budget shortfall.
Acton said the town plans to come up with the additional money by postponing another project — the 90-metre extension of Wright Street that developer John Lafford said would be needed before he could proceed with his plans for a seniors’ complex and nursing-care facility on 22-acres between Hesler Drive, Wright Street and Fawcett Avenue.
“I did speak to John,” Acton told council, “and they’ve indicated that at least in 2020, they’ve got too many other projects on the go and they will not be proceeding.”
How it began
The push for more development at Exit 506 began in the summer of 2016 after a majority of Sackville town councillors rejected plans for a Robins Donuts drive-thru next to the Ultramar gas station.
In the uproar that followed, local business and land owners organized a Facebook group to come up with ideas for developments that could divert more traffic from the TransCanada via Exit 506 onto Cattail Ridge and into the downtown.
Over time, town council responded by approving plans for moving the Ambulance New Brunswick station to a location near Exit 506 and hooking it up to the town’s water and sewer system.
Council also commissioned the Ekistics development study, approved installing new TransCanada Highway signs advising motorists to use Exit 506 as a gateway to downtown Sackville and voted to extend the Bridge Street sidewalk to Cattail Ridge.
If councillors approve the Cattail Ridge road improvements tonight, they will be taking the next major step in the development of the Exit 506 area.