The Chronicle Herald HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA | Friday June 8, 2007



Mahone Bay Mayor Joe Feeney: ‘The vision was to create an affordable housing neighbourhood to attract young families.’ (Peter Parsons / Staff)

Mahone Bay residents angered by council’s field of dreams
Mahone Bay locals upset about plan to turn trails, soccer field into housing development
By BEVERELY WARE South Shore Bureau

Bob Sayer is angry.

He’s angry that the town plans to build a housing development on top of a popular soccer field and woodland trails, he’s angry the land will be sold for a song and he’s angry residents weren’t consulted sooner.

"There are so many unanswered questions and there is so much homework that has not been done," Mr. Sayer said at a public meeting on the development Wednesday.

"We are doing our homework. That’s what we’re doing now," said Mayor Joe Feeney.

He said he understands residents’ concerns with the project, but the town has to do something to address the declining population, lack of affordable housing, marginal business climate and rising tax burden placed on residents.

The town’s population has dropped 10 per cent in the past decade. Of the 904 people who live in Mahone Bay, only 95 are students – just 25 of those preschoolers. The local nursing home has 61 residents. "The town is aging rapidly and becoming rapidly depopulated," Mr. Feeney said.

Council picked the former Mahone Bay school property for development, which includes a soccer field and wooded trails. It was declared surplus in 2000 because a new community school was built.

"The vision was to create an affordable housing neighbourhood to attract young families," Mr. Feeney said, but the proposal is being attacked by people who say it’s just too many units in a small area.

"People are upset at the enormity of this plan. It will change the face of Mahone Bay," Mr. Sayer said. "I’m not sure if this will be a Band-Aid or a solution."

But Mr. Feeney said there are misconceptions about the project. "There are people who are of the opinion it will be a second-class tenement slum." A development that’s "going to attract trailer trash, whatever that is," he said.

He said that is not going to happen.

He stressed the town still owns the land and has not entered into a development agreement, though it has voted to work with developer Bob Youden and his concept.

Mr. Youden said he plans to build 32 homes, 36 duplexes, 96 seniors apartments and 36 regular apartments. Once filled, they would bring the town’s population up 33 per cent, to 1,200 residents.

"That’s essential to maintain the current financial viability of the community," Mr. Youden said.

The smallest lot will be 7,000 square feet and 31 per cent of the site will be devoted to green space. The houses will be put on the market for $149,000 and the duplexes for $129,000.

Keith MacDonald said he doesn’t see that as affordable housing given salaries in the area and questioned whether the development is in keeping with Mahone Bay’s character.

Deborah Hickman said she is upset the town plans to sell the 6.5 hectares for $90,000 and that there was never a public meeting to discuss what kind of development would take place. Mr. Feeney said the land was appraised in January and valued at $90,000. The town dismissed an earlier appraisal that came in at $68,000.

Margaret Busche is 80, but she said there’s no way she’ll move into one of the apartments. "The land should be used for the youth," she said. "I think it’s going to be a town within a town and it’s not going to be coherent. I think that’s not what we want. The soccer field is very important to this community."

Other concerns involved traffic, protecting the environment, the impact on the water and waste water management system and noise created by the construction.

Mr. Feeney said the municipality will get the answers to those questions before it does anything else.

( bware@herald.ca)

‘I’m not sure if this will be a Band-Aid or a solution.’