Sackville residents Sharon Hicks and Percy Best have sent a 26-page report to members of Tantramar Council, senior town staff and members of the media raising questions and concerns about a proposed six-storey, 71-unit apartment building behind the historic Allison/Fisher/Fawcett house at 131 Main Street.
“We do not own property near the proposed development,” Hicks and Best write in their introduction. “We have nothing to gain or lose whether or not this project goes ahead. What we do have is a keen sense of doing what is right for the best interests of the citizens of our Town.”
In April, JN Lafford Realty Inc. applied to rezone approximately 1.3 acres at the rear of the property to Urban Residential 3 (R3). That would allow for construction of a residential building with more than six apartments. The company is also seeking to change height restrictions in the R3 zone from a maximum of 15.3 metres (50 feet) to 19.8 metres (65 feet), a change that would apply to a number of other properties in Sackville.
On May 9th, council voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on the zoning changes at 3 p.m. on June 27th during its monthly committee of the whole meeting.
In their report, Hicks and Best say the public hearing should be held at a separate evening meeting to allow more people to attend.
They also summarize their concerns about the possible effects of tax subsidies for the project on town finances as well on safety, the environment and the effects on neighbouring properties “in that lovely stretch of history and green space bordering on our Waterfowl Park.”
The report says that under an economic development incentive program that Sackville town council adopted in 2020, the project could save Lafford Realty more than $1 million in property taxes over a 10-year period, a subsidy that Hicks and Best argue would not apply to the same extent in other municipalities such as Riverview, Moncton, Shediac, Dieppe and Amherst.
“Sackville’s grant policy for fully Residential developments is far out of line with what the other nearby municipalities offer,” they write, “which means our Town municipal property tax payers will be subsidizing multi-unit fully residential developments.”
Hicks and Best question whether fire trucks would be able to reach the sides and rear of the new six-storey building and they raise concerns about the effects of traffic congestion along with increased numbers of pedestrians and cyclists.
“There needs to be a thorough traffic study carried out, before any rezoning decision can be made,” their report concludes.
The report points out that the repeal of Sackville’s heritage bylaw in 2018 left the town with no protections for its historic buildings in spite of repeated promises that some steps would be taken.
“Without such protection, many essential features which define the character of a community can — and will — be lost,” Hicks and Best write, warning that Sackville’s identify is at stake.
They also worry that the historic carriage house on the grounds of 131 Main could be demolished.
The report acknowledges that Sackville faces a housing shortage, but questions how affordable the apartments in the proposed building would be.
“What is really lacking is rental properties suitable for families, especially families who might be struggling to make ends meet,” it says.
“The so-called ‘affordable units’ mentioned for the current proposed development are just the smallest 1-bedroom units. Those would be suitable for a young working single, or perhaps a young couple, but they’re not designed for families. No family is going to fit into a small 1-bedroom apartment such as what is being offered in this proposal, even if it were affordable for them.”
Hicks and Best end their report by requesting that Tantramar Council apply a “climate lens” to the proposed development “as it has been adopted to apply to all aspects of town management and governance.”
Elsewhere they raise questions about the “buffer zone” between properties, the preservation of green space and possible water runoff from the property and building.
To read their full report, click here.
To read earlier coverage from CHMA that includes developer John Lafford’s comments on the proposed building, click here.