Sackville Town Council set to approve $390K project to spur development at Exit 506

New signs encourage motorists on the TransCanada to use Exit 506 as a gateway to downtown Sackville

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

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

Land owner Percy Best installed this sign in 2016 encouraging westbound motorists to use Exit 506. Later, the town paid for new signs directing motorists travelling in both directions to use the exit as a gateway to “Sackville Centre”

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.

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13 Responses to Sackville Town Council set to approve $390K project to spur development at Exit 506

  1. Alan Barbour says:

    Should Sackville even develop exit 506?

    This is a very fundamental question that no-one seems to have asked. Ekistics Planning and Design produced a report for the Town outlining what could be done at exit 506, not whether it was a good idea or not.

    What are the effects of highway bypass development on small rural towns anyway? There are myriad studies on the effects of this kind of development and the effects are mostly negative over time, after all it’s not called a BY-PASS for nothing. One need only look as far as Amherst; a suffering downtown core, reduced property values, empty buildings, and abandoned lots. This story is told over and over all across North America.

    What about demand? Who is going to build the apartment blocks and retail outlets visioned in the planning drawings? If there is demand to develop the area, why has it not been developed already? The land has been sitting there empty for years. Would it not be prudent to find developers first, then build infrastructure similarly to how subdivisions are currently developed?

    Who will want to live there, nestled between the Trans-Canada Hwy and the railroad tracks, next to an ambulance station and an industrial park, and in one of the windiest areas in Canada? Sound delightful or cold and noisy?

    And what about the pandemic? Does covid19 and the new economic realities affect the project?

    It’s easy to get excited by the computer-generated drawings, but they rarely match reality. Sackville is more likely to end up with something akin to South Albion Street than the quaint village presented in Ekistics’ design drawings. We need to ask ourselves the RIGHT questions first, before we proceed, not after.

    • Kelly Alder says:

      Alan, there are reasons that some of the things that will hopefully be done on exit 506 are needed. For example, why should the existing businesses not have sidewalks to allow the area residents to walk safely to them? Why should young Playschool children not have a crosswalk or sidewalks to safely navigate this area? We all know you as a former downtown business Owner seem to think that’s all that matters but we as business owners would like to have the same as the other end of town as well. We pay our commercial property tax and would appreciate sidewalks and crosswalks on this end of town and I’m sure the residents who walk around their end of town may like a little more safety as well!

      • Alan Barbour says:

        I agree Kelly. I am a proponent of sidewalks etc. for existing business and residents. It just seems wasteful that a lot of the infrastructure in this proposal is for non-existent businesses and residents. For example, Main and Bridge Streets do not have bike lanes or sidewalks on both sides, yet they are our two busiest streets. Wouldn’t we get more bang for our buck by improving that infrastructure? Also, all of this will need to be maintained. If no-one ever comes along and develops the area, the Town will still have to pay for snow removal, landscaping, lighting and repainting the road markings for under-utilized infrastructure. Better to spend your tax dollars on existing residents and businesses, not imaginary future ones.

  2. Will says:

    Curious why the so-called environmentalists (who probably aren’t even vegan) want people to drive into town off the highway since that will increase CO2 emissions over just stopping at the exit off the highway on their way past Sackville. As Alan pointed out many of us also drive to Amherst (South Albion St.) to get cheaper or more variety of goods there which increases CO2 emissions as well since many people here don’t want ‘box stores’ (with the exception of the biggest box ever aka the Borg freezer facility which I assume uses a lot of electricity aka carbon emitting energy sources – yes even solar panels/wind have nat gas backups and require huge amount of oil/gas energy to make silica for panels and turbines).

  3. Sharon Hicks says:

    In reply to Alan Barbour’s second comment …

    Mr Barbour stated: “For example, Main and Bridge Streets do not have bike lanes or sidewalks on both sides, yet they are our two busiest streets.”

    I may be missing something, but the last time I checked, both Bridge Street and Main Street DO indeed have sidewalks on both sides.

    It’s true there are no bike lanes, and there is good reason for that. Our downtown streets are already as wide as they can be, and short of rebuilding the sidewalks so they are narrower, or removing parking spaces on one side or both, it doesn’t appear to be possible to fit in any bicycle lanes.

    Mr Barbour also mentioned that we need to focus on developing infrastructure for “existing residents and businesses”, instead of “imaginary future ones”, I would simply add that there ARE existing residents and businesses already in that part of Sackville, and they deserve to have the same safety measures as do those living and working in the downtown core. A large portion of the land out there is currently in the hands of a major developer, and they are more likely to move ahead with future plans if the main infrastructure is already in place.

    In addition, by implementing these current upgrades at Exit 506, which is one of our two main ‘doorways from the highway’, and especially since the exit ramps were upgraded by the province two years ago, it will provide a more attractive and inviting avenue for travelers coming from NS and PEI to pull in off the highway and head down Bridge Street – which leads to the downtown area.

    Given all these factors, this certainly would be good ‘bang for the buck’.

    • Alan Barbour says:

      Sharon, the following areas of Main and Bridge do not have sidewalks on both sides:

      – North side of Bridge from Squire to Jones Funeral home and south side of Bridge from Copps to Crescent.

      – West side of Main from Main Street Baptist Church to the public library and again from Service New Brunswick to Mount A crosswalk (some of the asphalt is eventually striped as a sidewalk next to campus but no curb or concrete), Then intermittent sidewalk from civic centre to Wright St.

      -Also significant portions of York, Lansdown, and Salem have no sidewalks on one or both sides.

      You would agree there are a magnitude more businesses in these areas, as well as multiple large residential buildings, a hospital, a university campus, and a civic centre that pedestrians and other non-vehicular traffic may need access to. These are the busiest most heavily populated areas of town.

      Also, Bridge and Main are actually wide enough, and good candidates for bike lanes. I am certain of this as I was a consultant on the Halifax Regional Municipality’s bike plan and bike map.

      It is best practice to invest in infrastructure that will be utilized by the most people. I would suggest it is unwise to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on the hope that “a major developer is more likely to move ahead with future plans if the infrastructure is already in place.”. It’s aspirational but hope is not a sound investment strategy.

  4. Alan Barbour says:

    What makes Cattail Ridge so exceptional?

    Just for example, Monaris alone is assessed at about two times the assessment of all the properties on Cattail Ridge combined. Monaris is bordered by no sidewalks and is not directly connected by a crosswalk to nearby sidewalks, and has no bike lanes either. Not only does Monaris pay a lot of taxes, it is also one of the town’s top employers and employs dozens of locals. Monaris has also been paying taxes to the town of Sackville for years. Would it not make sense to develop infrastructure around Monaris? Don’t all those Monaris employees deserve safe access to sidewalks and bike lanes? Maybe if we show our appreciation of Monaris they will invest more in Sackville and expand their operations here. This story can be told up and down Main and Bridge streets (etc.).

    If y’all are arguing for fairness, by these measures, this escapade seems doubly unfair.

    • Wendy Alder says:

      I think your argument for Moneris (note proper spelling) is not valid. There are sidewalks by Moneris. You can easily cross from Moneris property across Charlotte and then cross at the crosswalk across Main to get to the other sidewalk. Moneris is also not open to the public. Don’t get me wrong they are a huge employer, I also think if they felt they needed additional sidewalks and crosswalks for the safety of their employees, they would be asking for them.

      The work being done at 506 is partially provincially funded, the work is upgrading OLD storm water systems and waterlines, installing curb and gutters and paving the road. Any development would be done by the private developer that owns the large plot of land, that’s their business. They obviously saw an opportunity to develop that land or they wouldn’t have bought it. I don’t think it’s a big ask for sidewalks and crosswalks for the residents of that end of town and for the safety of the 100+ children that attend the daycare.

    • Kelly Alder says:

      Alan, here you go again comparing a business that doesn’t serve the public to others that do! If you want to compare areas that don’t have crosswalks, sidewalks to allow safe flow for pedestrians to businesses go for it. I can’t think of any other than the ones on exit 506, and I’ve lived here almost 50 years and bicycled since I was old enough and never had issues on Bridge or anywhere else since the 70’s. Growing a bit tired of all the drama over bike lanes as I was able to travel all over Sackville with paper route bags and golf clubs etc. when I was younger than any of the adults who seem to always feel unsafe now.

      • Alan Barbour says:

        Kelly, going for it –

        Other public businesses/ places in the Sackville core not properly accessible by sidewalk or marked crosswalk:

        Napa auto parts, Marshview Middle School, Home Hardware, Cannabis NB, Via Rail, Estabrooks insurance, CamTran, Sackville BnB, Sackville Cemetery, Visitor Information Centre, skatepark, Lions Den, Boultenhouse and various parts of MTA campus.

        It is really a moot point because the town is going forward with the work, I feel the money could be better spent, but that’s just me.

      • Kelly says:

        Because I can’t reply to your last point here I go. Napa, Estabrooks insurance, train station, marshview, visitor information, cemetery boultenhouse cam tram home hardware and bNB all have a sidewalk adjacent so simply add a crosswalk painted with whatever you like and problem solved. Skatepark yes but is that really considered a public business? Lion Den is no longer and will soon be home to an after school learning centre so hopefully there is enough in budget to paint a crosswalk from bottom of hill at marshview , where that sidewalk ends. The sidewalk pretty much goes right down to the visitor centre parking lot, I know as I walk that way from Balser Place to my business on end of bridge street. And as far as Mta don’t even start with that as they have more than enough crosswalks to safely navigate their campus!

  5. ttmarshview says:

    If only our residential tax rate was based on how close you lived to the busiest streets in town, that sadly is not the case. I have been a resident here since 1970, owned four homes and two businesses paid taxes on it all and continue to pay on my property on Bridge. I think putting a little TLC into this end of town is long overdue. I’m not talking about big box stores, I’m talking esthetics; flowers, trees, walking paths, Christmas tree lights and celebration flags that go past Devon Ave. etc.
    When we travel part of the draw for us to go into a small town is what the pathway looks like to get to its core.

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