Report raises questions, concerns about proposed 6-storey building at 131 Main

Drawing of 6-storey, 71-unit apartment building developer John Lafford wants to construct on the back portion of his property at 131 Main St.

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.”

Tax subsidies

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.”

Safety issues

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.

Heritage concerns

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.

Affordable housing

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.”

Climate lens

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.

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21 Responses to Report raises questions, concerns about proposed 6-storey building at 131 Main

  1. marilyn lerch says:

    We citizens of Tantramar should thank Hicks and Best for doing the kind of research and discovery and question-raising that the Council itself should be doing. This is citizen participation at its best. Thank you.

  2. Elaine says:

    A good point was made about traffic. It’s bad enough in the area with Mt. A students, congestion with the church (on Sunday’s or during other events they might host); throw in a large apartment and that’ll increase the issues in the area.

    Plus the fire response situation is also a valid point.

    I really hope these are focused on/considered when making the decision about this building, on top of the other valid concerns.

    • Francois says:

      Sackville has a population of 6,000! In 29 years here I never experienced traffic that delayed me more than 5 minutes, and I used to work at 131 main and crossed that MTA crosswalk four times a day. A multi-unit building in the downtown core encourages active transportation. People will be able to leave their cars and walk to stores and services.

      • Jon says:

        Sackville has far more traffic than 30 years ago, for various reasons including many times more students with cars. 4 MtA parking lots are consistently packed with cars, unlike 30 years ago, and generally residents drive more than they did then, and do it in bigger cars and trucks.

        Salem Street was congested and slowed to a crawl for hours when Joey’s burned, impeding the fire trucks from Dorchester, Point De Bute, Memramcook, and Amherst that were trying to get to Silver Lake for water. AFAIK, nobody has addressed how badly traffic congestion interfered with firefighting that day. It’s sensible for council to examine the traffic implications of an increase in population density on Main Street.

        It’s true that the location means walking downtown is easier than it would be from outside the town core. Whether residents at the proposed building will actually set aside their cars is not clear. So far, I’ve seen no evidence that a significant number of others in Sackville leave their cars at home and walk or bike to get around. Generally, every time I walk past the apartment buildings on the site of the old United Church, I have to stop and wait as cars go in or out of their parking lot.

        All housing developments increase car traffic locally. Whether they increase it to a point that will be a problem is something that should be examined before it becomes a problem, since that’s the point of having zoning laws and hearings about zoning changes.

    • Elaine Smith says:

      This is not Elaine Smith making these points!

  3. Fred Harrison says:

    The only part of this alleged report that is worthwhile is the statement regarding the housing shortage within the town .These two folks do not seem to have a single clue on how to address the future requirement for modern living space ..The rest of the alleged report is just ramblings such as neighbours do over the back fence about city hall, politics, the weather and yada yada yada .

    • Jon says:

      “Alleged report”? Are you suggesting that there’s some uncertainty about what it is, and that we should wait until the jury is out before deciding whether it’s really a report or not?

  4. Tristan says:

    Glad to see homeowners leading the defensive charge! yay. What an incredibly ignorant take from Mr Hicks and Mr Best – quelle surprise.

  5. Thilo Joerger says:

    I second Marilyn Lerch’s appreciation for the writers of the report which I agree is eminently reasonable and needs to be considered and explored seriously by Council before any decisions are taken.

    Also, I deplore the ad hominem attacks on the two authors (attentive reading of the article might have convinced one commentator that one of the authors of the report is not a “Mr.”).

    Also, nowhere has there been any evidence presented that the proposed apartments would actually be affordable to renters with even moderate incomes. Contrary to some commentators’ claims, Ms. Hicks and Mr. Best do draw attention to the need for “affordable housing for families.”

    Before condemning it, prospective commentators are urged to read the whole report, which presents strong arguments for very cautious and long-term consideration instead of hasty irrevocable decisions.

    Thank you, Ms. Hicks and Mr. Best for this totally professional labour of love for Sackville.

  6. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    The key remark made in response to to the Hicks and Best 26 page report is, : doing the kind of research and discovery and questions- raised that council should be doing.” Indeed that is indeed the kind of deliberation we should see at a regular meeting. Minus of course some of the cheap talk straying from facts to personalities..

    In defense of council they are not a deliberative council (wards for election purposes only but what is called a hybrid council or a ratifying council. Part corporatism and part parliamentary in which the debaters have hanging over their heads a punitive Code of Conduct (shutta up your face) or have your reputation tarnished, or forfeit your largesse (A Tantramar Councilor makes more than the whole village of Dorchester council including the mayor.) before January !,2023.
    After McKenna assault on school boards both conservatives and liberals back pedaled. For the next 25 years successive governments introduced amalgamation through micro steps to increase their authority . Using School boards (DEC) and Hospital boards (Advisory boards) as “crash test dummies” until through deceit, trickery and ignoring all the evidence it does not work forced amalgamation on New Brunswickers, The DECs and Hospital boards were an illusion of participatory democracy. (Lawrence Bezeau STRUCTURAL REFORM) On the DEC I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t making a difference. Research back to CBC Oct 20, 2010 a Chair of Anglophone East School District refused to sigh off on a 110 000 million dollar budget. Mary Lalto (integrity plus ) asked to see the books. The government of the day handed her a single page. Three councilors resigned refusing to prop up an illusion of local governance. (Our Council would need the Mayor to lead the way and four councilors.) Chair Mary Laltoo reported to the CBC that,” in her time on council (elected in wards) had limited decision-making powers. ”
    Also, “in the province of New Brunswick the CEO’s run the show. the Councilors generally rubber stamp that which is given to them.”
    Councilors are used as administrative functionaries. Deprived of any over sight in committees they know nothing for sure that goes on behind those close doors. Sadly
    staff will make a presentation one well edited and didactic in nature (We don’t know what thresholds are used) with an known bias which only the Mayor and CEO will be cognitive. and will either nod in flavor, or look the other way.
    Sadly as my Mom would tell me, “when money talks reason walks.”. The acid test will come if there is a tie vote. (custom is the mayor votes NO .) It must be clear to the public that the majority of council made the decision. Unfortunately’ Allain realizes that Custom and tradition hang on statutes. He has been advised to do some back filling and make sure that Tantramar Council has no wiggle room, even when you form your own budget. Hence the new Bill. Both the Mayor and Minster always had these powers you just didn’t exercise them except in extraordinary circumstances.

    Allain, “It’s important that people understand that we’re not eroding any peoples democracy.”
    “Its the reverse. We’re actually investing in New Brunswickers ( not the middle class) by having a new, (unelected) independent local governance government commission. (policy governance). This is how big government works . How do I know these things. Well I used the work for parliament (convening orders) looking for ambiguity in policy and procedures that might be misconstrued as the truth, which it was., “double speak”. That’s why when I introduced myself to staff I always got a laugh. “I’m from government and I’m here to help… This no longer a laughing matter. We are in pivotable times follow your conscience. Small comfort but the UK is going through the same crisis where administrator’s holding all the information want to make the decisions as well.


  7. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    Percy Best also doesn’t think a concrete skatepark could be constructed in this town.
    These two people are not serious thinkers… what is their agenda? Blocking housing.
    Perhaps if Lafford built a taller tower – like he has done in Moncton – he would be more likely to get the approval of the NIMBY’s… a tall tower with a smaller footprint… imagine one that is as tall as the ones on the campus just a few steps over… the campus is providing housing that does not benefit the townsfolk though.

    • Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

      The citizen presenters are making pointed statements based on facts and raising concerns that need to be deliberated. Inserting a logical fallacy (Best doesn’t want a skate park) has different parameters. Council ( old school) through deliberation will make a recommendation. 49 % will be unhappy and 51% will hope by the art of persuasion to have made a good decision. Not necessarily the best but at least based on facts. The province has put the community in dire straights. It is a race to the bottom.

    • Tantramarobserver says:


      Their ramblings are not news worthy. But do remain hilarious.

  8. azi says:

    This was a veery good report. Thanks to both Sharon and Percy.

  9. Elaine Smith says:

    We need progress in this Town. In order for progress to happen, we need people and people need places to live. We currently don’t have enough housing which means we are turning people away. Yes, we need affordable housing, but that is not on the back of John Lafford to provide. There was a big concern about traffic issues when Lafford was building the apartment building where the former United Church stood. Much adieu about nothing as I don’t think there is a traffic issue. Every new proposal in this town is met with opposition – this is getting tiresome and not necessary.

  10. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    This Justice Queen Twitter thread is interesting is Bruce Wark wants to give it some consideration and share it here perhaps it will help discussions for all.. I think we all want the same thing basically.. no one living on the street… and no one forced to struggle just to keep a roof over their heads around here.. we should all be living in prosperity in a nation as rich as this in resources and why we are not should be obvious to all if they would take off the blinders.. the ‘agenda’ is scarcity…

    Check this out: From Justice Queen on Twitter… a Greece land development idea:

  11. Christine Kelly says:

    My only concern is the location and environmental impact. Why can’t it be built away from the waterfowl park and away from high traffic areas? Huge buildings taking away from the beauty of Sackville’s green spaces have already made me shake my head in disbelief. This used to be a beautiful little town. It’s quickly becoming a series of “ugly boxes”.

    • Tristan says:

      Unfortunately, “ugly boxes” are all that some people can afford to live in. It’s a bummer, I know. Why on earth should renters be allowed downtown at all? That’s preposterous. Wanting to only walk places without needing a vehicle, who are these people?!
      Also, I don’t get the traffic thing. The exact same issue was brought up when Lafford built the 3 buildings at the center of town. Mere feet from the busiest intersection we have. Has it caused more congestion? I’ve heard nothing about issues since the buildings have been built.
      Why not make Sackville appealing to all people? Of all economical means? Why do homeowners who sit in their comfy homes feel it’s up to them to tell others how to live.
      I didn’t realize living in Sackville is exclusive to homeowners.

  12. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    Its is a stark contrast when one walks around and sees so many beautiful older homes and then the boxes of apartment blocks… the old days here are not erased yet if they ever will be .. what people should realize is that we do not produce working class people in our society who build those old time beautiful homes anymore in large number our town is producing citizens for the global village who play with their gizmos and laptops and have no real life skills like using power tools.. I remember when Rev. John Perkins retired from Mount Allison University a while ago and they gifted him a power drill which his wife Dodie thought was hysterical… if more men and women were building and working with their hands instead of playing on social media for a living you could see a shift back to more people producing homes and living in a beautiful landscape that has a culture that wants to be preserved not ignored. The lost art of homebuilding .. that’s why this town is like a time machine in many ways.

  13. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    Happy Cities
    Many places want to build vibrant, social, walkable communities, but run into huge barriers when it comes time to implement pedestrian-oriented design. We think there’s a solution. Come to our session at
    to learn more!

    Not many people may be aware but Beth McMahon who used to work with ACORN here in town is with the Planners in Ottawa …

    and they have a conference in Halifax called ” Navigation 2023 ” this month..

    if anyone is interested more at this link:

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