Tantramar Councillors question developer’s plan for 6-storey apartment building on Main St.

Drawing of 6-storey, 71-unit apartment building John Lafford wants to construct at 131 Main St.

Sackville developer John Lafford is seeking changes to the municipal zoning bylaw so he can construct a six-storey, 71 unit apartment building at 131 Main Street, but judging from their initial reactions, Tantramar councillors have many questions and concerns.

Town planner Lori Bickford told town council today that for his plan to go forward, Lafford would need the back portion of the 2.3 acre property rezoned to Urban Residential 3 (R3) to allow for a multiple-unit building.

She said he would also need an increase in the maximum height permitted in the R3 zone from 50 to 65 feet.

“The development is proposed to be of non-combustible materials, so concrete construction versus wood, and it would contain a sprinkler system,” Bickford added.

Town Planner Lori Bickford

She said the historic Allison/Fisher/Fawcett House at 131 Main Street would remain on the property and retain its Residential Historic Commercial (RHC) zoning.

Bickford’s background report on the proposed development outlined further details:

A variety of units are proposed to offer a mixture of accommodations which include: 24 – 2 bedroom units with a den (~1400 sq ft) (corner units), 12 – 2 bedroom units with a den (1,087 sq ft), 17 – 1 bedroom units with a den (898 sq ft), and 18 – 1 bedroom units (682 sq ft). The smaller 1 bedroom units are being proposed as affordable housing options. A gym area is proposed on the ground floor for the residents. The building will also be serviced with an elevator…A combination of underground parking (54 spaces) and surface parking is proposed for the development.

Bickford noted that Sackville Town Council voted against rezoning the property when the late Gordon Beal proposed to construct a two-storey, 10-unit building in 2009 and again in 2014, when he sought approval for a three-storey, 18-unit building.

She said council could decide at its next meeting on May 9th if it wishes to consider Lafford’s rezoning applications and set a date for a public hearing or whether to reject his proposals.

The first thing to consider, she said, would be lifting the height restriction because without that, the project would not be viable.

Council’s response

“My first question is, what has changed from the two previous zoning (applications) to now?” asked Councillor Josh Goguen.

Councillor Josh Goguen

“From what I understand, it’s in the middle of a flood plain that could, especially if you’re putting parking down in the bottom, that could flood,” he added.

“What’s the definition of affordable? Is it 50 bucks off? There’s just so many questions.”

Goguen also expressed concerns about how close the development would be to residents in the co-op housing apartments on Main Street.

“Ms. Bickford, I think you know how I feel about this project,” said Councillor Bruce Phinney.

“I’m going to go back to what I said when I refused back in 2014 and 2009. I think it’s the wrong place for this project,” he added.

“The height makes no difference to me…but it’s the place where it’s being built and the impact that I feel that it will have on the people that live around there,” Phinney said.

“Do I like the idea of having 71 more units throughout the town? Definitely. But I also would like to know, what are the apartments going to cost and the…apartments that are supposed to be affordable, what’s the price of those?”

Bickford promised to seek more information on rents after Councillors Michael Tower and Matt Estabrooks echoed Phinney’s concern.

Barry Hicks was the only councillor to express wholehearted support.

“Obviously we all know, there’s a need for apartments in the town,” Hicks said.

“A developer’s not going to build a 71-unit apartment unless they know that they’re going to be able to rent some of it and I feel the more apartments they get around, it’s going to drive the price down on the older ones,” he added.

“I don’t see a problem with the site.”

To read Lori Bickford’s background report on the Lafford proposal, click here.

To read previous coverage on the aftermath of Gordon Beal’s 2014 application for rezoning, click here.

This entry was posted in Town of Sackville, Town of Tantramar and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Tantramar Councillors question developer’s plan for 6-storey apartment building on Main St.

  1. Fred Harrison says:

    Surprised that the councillors were not CONCERNED about the price of livery stables.

  2. John Wallace says:

    Is Lori Bickford’s job to advocate for developers? Does she advocate equally and unbiasedly? She always seems to be trying to sell something on their behalf.

    • Percy Best says:

      John, take a guess who the landlord is for the South East Regional Service Commission offices here in Tantramar, that Lori is representing. You probably only need one ‘guess’.

    • Kelly says:

      This development will happen no doubt. And as far as affordable units I’m sure it will follow along with the same criteria this developer was able to secure an interest free 16 million dollar loan for units in Moncton. When asked about affordability this is what Lafford said in cbc article from September 15,2021. “John Lafford, the developer behind the Birch Meadows project in Moncton, said he would have gone ahead with the apartment complex without help from Ottawa. But he said that without the low-cost loan, unit rents would have been about $200 higher“. I’m doubtful council will ever get a true answer as to what the rent prices will be. This is geared as student housing, most likely.

      • Percy Best says:

        Kelly, the Town of Tantramar taxpayers would be subsidizing this building as well. A change, introduced by ex CAO Jamie Burke, will see Laffords initially only pay a percentage of normally required town taxes on this building, on a sliding scale, for four or five years. I think it is something like an 80% rebate the first year, then 60, 40, and finally 20%.

        So, we too will be subsidizing this construction if it goes ahead, by paying more on our tax bill to offset Laffords’ grants. I believe this will be the first time that this type of town taxpayer funded subsidy will be implemented here. This subsidy, of course, was not offered to the late Gordon Beal when he was trying to get permission to erect the 3 story,18 unit, historically blended in building.

        Comment from Bruce Wark: Here is a link to a document that provides more information on the tax breaks Percy is referring to: https://warktimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/regular-council-package-march-9-2020-part-1.pdf

  3. local citizen says:

    What a slap in the face that would be to the Beal family.

  4. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    “Surprised that the councillors were not CONCERNED about the price of livery stables ” , a citizen says. Tis funny, but this is the time to find out about all the knowns and unknowns and the unintended consequences of even a laudable project. I am of course in conflict of interest because I need a hitching post and electrical trough for Radride my trusty electrical steed .

  5. Meredith Fisher says:

    Thank you for this information. It will certainly be interesting to see if this proposal can be considered/approved by Council. It will not be an easy, uncomplicated decision for them.

    This proposal also requests the bylaw change to allow the height of a building to be increased from 50 ft to 63 feet (or 6 stories high as seen in the proposal for this new apartment building) in residential areas. Be careful what you wish for!

    If we had a Heritage policy, it would, at least, try to help protect the heritage character of our community streetscapes. There are those who understand this as being important to the economy and those who do not fully realize the importance. One only has to visit the small Maritime communities of St. Andrews and Lunenberg to experience a sense of places that know what they want to be and how to create a healthy economy.

    Thanks again to the New Wark Times for being a lifeline for solid, unbiased reporting.

  6. Melanie Rogers says:

    As a newcomer to Sackville, I can say more rental units are required for the city. However, the “affordable” price concerns me. What is affordable? Will it be based on the “average” family income? Will it have so many units dedicated as low rent? I see that many are concerned where it will be built and the effect on the look and feel of the city. Can the city control what the facade of the building looks like to maintain the heritage feel of Sackville? It is worth a solid discussion to the pro’s and con’s before going ahead . Understand we can’t make all the people happy, but let’s do our best before the green light is issued.

  7. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    Has the town ever said no to John Lafford’s building proposals in the past? Mr. Beal’s plan was rejected and a messy attack on him ensued but business is business and the cry for new housing did go out at Alice Cotton’s Facebook page wanting more housing here… Lafford is doing what he does best… soviet block housing builds.

  8. Azi says:

    Where did the 3d drawing of the building come from? It looks like any building that has fallen from the sky on a big piece of land. It clearly has nothing to do with the location and other buildings and features of this particular site.

    When Ms. Bickford says that the historic Allison/Fisher/Fawcett House at 131 Main Street would remain on the property and retain its Residential Historic Commercial (RHC) zoning, she should understand that “remain” and “retain” on a site means a lot more than NOT demolishing a building. You cannot retain the historic value of Fisher’s House by building a structure that looks completely disconnected from its site and surroundings.

  9. Janet Hammock says:

    I wrote and sent this. How come everyone is just sitting back?

    Dear Bruce, Matt, Josh and Andrew,

    Holy Toledo! Talk about a way to get rid of some of the last vestiges of beautiful Sackville! Good grief!

    When I read about the proposal of John Lafford to build a huge apartment complex behind 131 Main Street, I had the vision of a gigantic tombstone placed in one of the most beautiful locations still remaining in our town. Putting such a building there would be exactly like creating a cemetery in our town centre. I cannot imagine a worse location.

    I went online and looked at this video of 131 Main Street:

    🔎 where is 131 Main Street Sackville – Google Search

    Yes, this video was made to “advertise” the historic home at 131 Main Street, but it also shows the reason I and many others choose to live in this town — its beauty. As I watched the video a second time I imagined the Lafford apartment building in the location he wishes to put it, and recognized how dreadfully it would impact on everything around it: the water of the Waterfowl Park, the park itself, the natural wildlife of the Waterfowl Park which we have so successfully preserved and enhanced, the university, the increase of traffic and the accompanying sound pollution of our town’s still-rural soundscape, and the present town centre itself — to name just a few of the surrounding defining features of Sackville.

    I read the questions and comments you three councillors made as your initial reaction to this location, and I agree completely. Bruce, I think you nailed it. Of course we need additional housing in the town. Of course it has to be “affordable” (what that word means to Mr. Lafford, I don’t know — these units, as described by Lori, would not be affordable for a large number of those who so desperately need housing in this town) —but NOT in that location.

    When folks stand in front of the Sackville Arts Wall and read about individuals who were inspired by the Tantramar, who helped people through their art to become aware of the beauty of the Tantramar — people including artist Alex Colville, poet Douglas Lochhead, and even a musician like me— I do not want their view to be obstructed by a huge 6-storey apartment building!

    I support your initial reactions, and will continue to support you and the other councillors who are completely against this location for such a building.

    Thanks for your help in preserving the unique features of our town and its natural beauty safe from unreasonable development projects.

    Janet Hammock

    • Tristan says:

      Janet, you will not be able to see the building from the Arts Wall. There’s a church, and many trees and other buildings in the way. If you’re looking in that direction you wouldn’t even be able to read the arts wall. Standing at the arts wall and looking beyond it you have a clear shot into the waterfowl park. Unless you stand taller than the anglican church, you won’t be able to see it.

      It’s impressive to see all comments coming in from homeowners who have secured housing and don’t have to worry about a roof over their head.

      Given that the original house at 131 main is going to remain, it will block the majority of this new building which will be at the back of the lot.

      As someone who has left Sackville recently because I couldn’t find any suitable housing – this project looks great! Imagine living downtown and not needing a car to get groceries or run errands. Wouldn’t that be great for the environment?

      • Janet Hammock says:

        Ok, Tristan! I had not actually tried it out! ❤️ I will retract that paragraph and leave the rest! I see your points, though.

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