About Last Night…

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I have a confession to make: I did not watch the full CBRM council meeting last night.

I watched (with interest) the discussion of the proposed RV Park in Big Pond. (I spend my summers in Irish Cove, just a little further west along Route 4, so anything that happens along that stretch of highway always grabs my attention.)

Calgary land developer Chris Skidmore has asked the CBRM to change the relevant zoning by-law to allow him to establish the park on a long, skinny strip of land that looks like this:

His plan is to develop an RV and campground in three phases. Phase 1 would involve 221 RV sites and phases 2 and three could involve an additional 330 RV sites and 64 tenting spaces. In total, Skidmore envisions 541 RV sites, 64 tenting sites and “a variety of amenities”

In its completed, fully-tenanted splendor, it would look like this:

The list of amenities “could” include:

  • Office for administration
  • Convenience store
  • Liquor store
  • Restaurant
  • Propane depot

He also intends to offer recreational activities “such as Ziplines, Mini Golf, Mountain Bike Trails, Water Play Area, ATV Trails, Snowmobile Trails, Cross Country 5ki Trails/Snowshoeing and Hiking and Walking Trails.”

I think of this as the “cruise ship” approach to tourism: he wants people to enter his park and never leave. They can sleep there; eat there; buy booze and propane there; swim (in the lake or in a pool) there; hike, bike and ride around on ATVs there. (That last, in itself, suggests to me an environmental assessment is in order — have you read the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment’s “Environmental and Wilderness Recreation Impacts of Off-Highway Vehicles?  But council was told no environmental assessment was necessary for the project, causing Councilors Amanda McDougall and Kendra Coombes to express some alarm). Basically, residents would be encouraged to spend all their time (and money) in the RV park.

Which means this would be a great business proposition for Skidmore. But other than creating some initial construction jobs and a handful of seasonal jobs for store clerks and wait staff and hot tub cleaners, would it do much for the local economy? Would it do enough to justify the negatives — the noise, the environmental impacts, the added traffic?

It wasn’t that long ago Council was discussing the importance of “smart” development — in the context of the Sydney waterfront — as opposed to development for development’s sake. If that’s true for Sydney harbor, it must be doubly if not triply true for development along the Bras d’Or Lakes.

All of these are issues are likely to be raised at a public meeting on Skidmore’s by-law amendment request. This meeting was the subject of last night’s debate. District 7 Councilor Ivan Doncaster (who represents Big Pond) asked that the public meeting be postponed to April on the grounds that many of the residents in the area would not be able to attend a January meeting. (I didn’t hear a definitive explanation as to why this was. I heard it could be because the Christmas season is so busy or because many residents will have gone south for the winter or because many are summer residents only — l’m guessing it’s a mix of all three.)

Municipal planning director Malcolm Gillis explained that the law required them to announce a public meeting within 120 days of the proposal being received (it was received on October 23) but that announcing said meeting for April might not be respecting the “spirit” of the law.

I can see his point — telling developers they must wait a half year for a meeting on a by-law amendment is not what the CEOs would call “business friendly” and if this were a development I were really enthusiastic about (can you tell I’m not really enthusiastic about this?) I would complain. I agree with Councilor Earlene MacMullin who said you have to have rules and stick to them so you will be seen as treating everyone fairly.

In the end, Council decided to postpone making a decision on the date of the meeting until its December 12th meeting, giving us all more time to think about this.

 

Bayplex

The decision of the CBRM to take over the struggling Bayplex recreation complex in Glace Bay is difficult to get a handle on. That’s in part because it was apparently the subject of the in camera meeting held Tuesday afternoon prior to the regular monthly meeting.

I just watched the video (It’s up already, well done CBRM!) of the debate and at least I now understand that the CBRM already owns the building and is simply taking over as operator — provided the municipality gets a promise of co-funding from the provincial and federal governments for the estimated $10 million in renovations necessary at the Bayplex.

The facility, built in 1995, apparently moments before amalgamation, was operated (for reasons no one explained) by a board of directors — the non-profit Glace Bay Recreational Society which, according to the Post, “informed CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke that it was unable to keep the building operational and that it intended to disband” earlier this year.

I don’t know what was said during the in camera discussions, but remarks made by Councilors Amanda McDougall and Jim MacLeod during open session suggest what they heard about the management style of the Glace Bay Recreational Society didn’t much impress them. McDougall said that if the plan for the future of the complex were to have involved leaving the Society in place as manager, she wouldn’t have been able to support it. MacLeod said the building should never have been allowed to deteriorate to the point that it had.

I looked up the Glace Bay Recreational Society in the NS Registry of Joint Stock Companies this morning and found out that it had, indeed, defaulted for non-payment in September 2017.

But I also noticed that District 9 Councilor George MacDonald — who told council he’d been going to bat for the Bayplex for the last nine years and would one day write a book called The Bayplex (I’ve pre-ordered it on Etsy) —  was on the board of directors of the Society. I’m assuming (and I could be wrong and I stand to be corrected) that he was not sitting on the board as a representative of the CBRM. I also have to assume he was on the board for some time, because the last change of directors filed dates to 2003.

So, conflict of interest questions aside (and believe me, if I had more time, they wouldn’t be going aside) we’re left with this:

Bayplex was poorly managed (it was stated more than once during the meeting).

Bayplex was managed by its board of directors.

Councilor George MacDonald was on that board of directors.

Is that why the conversation had to take place in secret?

 

Expropriation

I checked out Nova Scotia’s Expropriation Act (which is in need of updating, it still references the “City of Sydney”) this morning and what the Mayor told the CBC about the decision to expropriate Jerry Nickerson’s land (if necessary) for the construction of the second cruise ship berth checks out.

It seems that once the papers are filed and the CBRM has paid 75% of what it says the land is worth to Nickerson, the expropriation is basically a done deal in terms of who owns the land.

But just how much the CBRM will have to pay for the land will not necessarily be settled. If they can’t negotiate a price, either party in an expropriation can ask the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) to set one. The process of determining that amount could take months — even years — to complete and might end in a figure one or the other party doesn’t like, in which case, they may appeal to Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court.

Basically, the cost of this land to the CBRM could remain an unknown variable for some time to come.

 

Garbage

I will have to watch the rest of the video to see what all the excitement about garbage — particularly, recycling — was about. I will get back to you on that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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