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