About Last Night…

CBRM Council’s regular meeting began last night with the usual mishmash of proclamations that left us with a “Maritime Kids Health Day” (September 14), a “Medic Monday” (September 26),  a “Cape Breton Classic Cruisers Fall Classic Show & Shine Weekend” (September 16-18), a Fire Prevention Week (October 9-15) and an entire month (September) dedicated to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder.  I trust you will plan accordingly.

Councilors then heard a presentation by a delegation from the Elizabeth Fry Society of Cape Breton that included Darlene MacEachern (executive director), Julie Kendall (associate executive director) and Alison Aho (a staff lawyer with Nova Scotia Legal Aid in Sydney).

The group, which has been active for almost 50 years in the community, wants to buy a building in downtown Sydney to house women, girls and gender diverse people transitioning from the correctional system back into the community.

"When thee builds a prison, thee had better build with the thought ever in thy mind that thee and thy children may occupy the cells." -- Elizabeth Fry

But the CBRM classifies such apartments as “correctional dwellings,” defined by the Municipal Land Use By-Law as:

a dwelling used by one of three levels of government or an agency sanctioned by them to provide accommodations and supervisory care for persons who have been admitted for correctional purposes (i.e. placed on probation, parole). This is a protective service.

“Correctional dwellings” are not permitted in downtown Sydney, so the Society is currently renting buildings from New Dawn at the Radar Base. As MacEachern told Council, the area is beautiful, but keeping their clients “sequestered outside of the  city is doing them no favors when all services, including healthcare, are in the downtown core.”

To add insult to injury, Howard House, a similar facility for men, has operated for years in downtown Sydney, grandfathered in when some previous Council, in its wisdom, decided to ban “correctional dwellings” from the city core.

Planning Director Michael Ruus said he had been in contact with the Elizabeth Fry Society for over a year and at the time of their initial submission (involving a building they hoped to purchase in downtown Sydney) had advised them to either appeal their classification as a correctional dwelling or request a zoning amendment. Ruus said the Society did neither. But MacEachern said either step would have taken months and, in the current housing market, you often have as little as a day to make a decision.

When they met recently to “chat about addressing the issue,” Ruus said he’d suggested that given the CBRM is “only months away” from a new Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS), Land Use By-law (LUB), and other related enabling by-laws, the Society should speak to the Cape Breton Forward Team, led by Dillon Consulting, which is overseeing the planning overhaul. Ruus said it was his understanding the Society had reached out to Cape Breton Forward and their concerns had been taken into consideration.

Elizabeth Fry Society Core Values

Elizabeth Fry Society core values.

In her turn at the podium, Aho (a very effective presenter, I must say) asked that Council either change their classification to “Community Service Residence” or amend the zoning by-law to allow them to operate in downtown Sydney. She warned that allowing male facilities in the downtown while barring female facilities might constitute discrimination on the base of gender.

Ruus argued that either step would take longer than simply turning the issue over to the Cape Breton Forward team (who are basically being asked to deal with almost all planning issues these days). But either way, the Society would be waiting months for a solution.

Things seemed to be at something of a standstill, but Deputy Mayor Earlene MacMullin wasn’t having it. Stressing that she understood the gender discrimination was “unintentional,” the result of the grandfathering of Howard House, she argued it nevertheless had to be addressed, noting that the optics in the Chamber Tuesday night—three women presenting to a male-dominated council—underlined the urgency.

She moved that staff produce an Issue Paper in time for the next council meeting proposing possible solutions to the problem. Along the way she apologized for getting “a little fired up,” but Aho said, “We appreciate your getting fired up.”

MacMullin’s motion passed with support from all the councilors, many of whom spoke supportively of the work of the Elizabeth Fry Society. The whole episode has left me baffled as to how a Council could have written a by-law banning such an organization from operating in the downtown in the first place.


In the zone

Several other planning issues were settled during last night’s meeting, including the case of Dwayne Fudge, who wants to do motorcycle inspections at his shop on Keltic Drive (a shop one supporter said Fudge has spent a “tremendous amount of money” on). Provincial regulations demand that anyone doing motorcycle inspections must be prepared to do motorcycle repairs, but Fudge’s building doesn’t currently meet the setback requirements necessary for a repair shop. Staff suggested Council either send the matter to CBRM Forward or adopt an amending by-law. Last night, after a public hearing in which four people spoke—three in support of Fudge, one against—council passed a site-specific amendment permitting him to open his repair shop. The clinching argument for most councilors seemed to be that the site had previously housed Superior Propane, which received propane tank deliveries by train. More than once councilor suggested the noise from motorcycles could hardly be worse than that of trains.

Pitt Street, Sydney Mines, proposed apartment building

Rendition of proposed Pitt Street, Sydney Mines, apartment complex.

Council then agreed to close part of MacIsaac Street in Sydney Mines and convey the property to the Future Growth Co-op for the construction of a 22-unit apartment building on Pitt Street. Council also amended the zoning by-law to allow for 22 units, rather than the 20 previously permitted. No one spoke during the public hearing on the matter, the Planning Department received no feedback from residents, so Council passed all the necessary motions unanimously and District 1 Councilor Gordon MacDonald thanked Future Growth and New Deal Development for working with CMHC and the province “to get funding for an affordable building,” noting it “wasn’t easy” due to CMHC’s “bad numbers,” (incomplete data that suggest there is no shortage of affordable housing in smaller population centers).

Proposed three-unit building, Thomas Street, Sydney, NS.

Sketch of three-unit building proposed for Thomas Street, Sydney.

Next Council approved a request for a zoning amendment to allow developer Ray Embree to build a three-unit apartment building on Thomas Street in Sydney. The public hearing did attract speakers—two Thomas Street residents concerned about on-street parking, which they say is already a problem, and groundwater issues. Embree told Council his plan included on-site parking for each unit and Planner Karen Neville said any groundwater issues would be dealt with at the permitting stage.

The final zoning amendment request was by far the strangest: an Austrian couple, Johann and Brigitte Luxbauer, have purchased the former Tobin farm in Howie Centre and established a company called Red Farm Project & Development Incorporated. Red Farm CEO Christoph Mertinitz appeared before Council to answer residents’ concerns about a project which envisions turning the farm into a “multi-use” development including the following elements:

Red Farm Development, Howie Centre, CBRM

Source: CBRM Council Agenda


As for how all this is to be funded, the zoning application says that “95%” of the infrastructural funding will come from VERAG Logistics Inc:

Red Farm Development Investment Details

Source: CBRM Council Agenda

VERAG Logistics is a company founded by the Luxbauers in 2017 and based, according to the Joint Stocks Registry, in Castle Bay, NS. Its website is not very helpful in terms of understanding the nature of its operations:


But it seems to be a subsidiary of Verag Spedition AG, an Austria-based “Transportation, Logistics, Supply Chain and Storage” company, so it is possible the Luxbauers actually have the money they claim to be ready to invest. Maybe the proponents truly are, as one councilor put it, investing “millions and millions of dollars” not asking for “tax breaks or concessions.” Maybe.

Neighbors who spoke during the public hearing were not impressed by the plans. Jennifer Dunford told councilors her home is nearest the Red Barn and that when she originally spoke to the Luxbauers about their project, she was told the plan was “strictly agricultural;” a “small-scale, niche organic farm” which then became what she called “a circus.” Dunford expressed concerns about traffic, signage and sewage; Sydney River resident Walter MacPhail (who said he’d rather be home watching the Blue Jays) expressed concerns about groundwater, and Eden Dunford expressed concerns about under-age drinking and littering.

Mertinitz attempted to assuage these concerns, although I’m not sure he succeeded. In the end, noting that most of these were matters that would be dealt with by the province, councilors voted to amend the zoning by-law to allow the Red Barn project to proceed.

District 5 Councilor Eldon MacDonald took the opportunity to say, on the subject of traffic, that “a traffic problem is good problem to have” and then, if I understood him correctly, pointed out that we’ll have real traffic problems when Novaporte opens, the suggestion being that this will be a good thing. I’m not even going to address the issue of our “coming” container port (has anyone even spoken to promoter Albert Barbusci since his contract was extended in June 2021?) but I would suggest that a traffic problem can also mean that you mean that your preparations for a predictable increase in traffic were woefully inadequate.



Deanna Evely

Deanna Evely, director of HR, CBRM

District 1 Councilor Gordon MacDonald tried—and failed—to repeal the CBRM’s COVID vaccination policy last night with an assist from District 12 Councilor Lorne Green, who took the opportunity to announce repeatedly that vaccines “don’t work.”

Science, Green insisted, has “proved this” although you don’t have to be a scientist or a doctor to understand the evidence: people who’ve been vaccinated get COVID; ergo, vaccines don’t work.

Health Canada, on the other hand, says not that vaccines will prevent your contracting COVID but that they are “very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” a point made by District 11 Councilor Darren O’Quinn during last night’s discussion, which was sparked by an Issue Paper on the subject by CBRM Director of HR Deanna Evely.

Evely explained that CBRM’s COVID 19 Mandatory Vaccination Policy was approved by Council on 9 November 2021 (that is, nine months ago) and affirmed on 8 March 2022, when Council voted that the policy would remain in place in the event of another State of Emergency.

Evely said CBRM had close to 360 employees test positive for COVID between December 2021 and July 2022, with one hospitalization. Since the introduction of the policy, she said the CBRM has hired “approximately” 40 new employees and among those shortlisted for positions, only two external applicants declared themselves unable and/or unwilling to be vaccinated and were “unable to proceed in the hiring process.”

Asked by District 3 Councilor Cyril MacDonald which of three options presented to Council she preferred, Evely said Option 3 which called for the policy to be reviewed in one year “or other time period deemed suitable by Council” to “determine if any changes are required.”

In response to a question from District 6 Councilor Glenn Paruch, Evely said “around” five employees had refused to adhere to the policy, and Council had later decided that all unvaccinated staff would return to the workplace but new hires would be required to be vaccinated.

In response to questions from Council, Regional Solicitor Demetri Kachafanas said arbitrators have upheld the right of employers to have vaccination policies.

There was a lot more discussion, during which District 8 Councilor James Edwards revealed he’d had COVID twice and District 7 Councilor Steve Parsons said his son recently got married and seven people contracted COVID at the wedding—four for the second time. Edwards said he felt people were getting “complacent” and that the best option was to review the policy “as the science gets better.” Other councilors said it was necessary to do all they could to protect CBRM employees. In the end, MacDonald’s motion was defeated, meaning the policy remains in place.



Council agreed to spend $82,000 to buy land in Louisbourg for a wastewater treatment plant that must be built by 2041 and to expropriate land in Glace Bay for a wastewater treatment plant that must be built even sooner.

Regional Solicitor Demetri Kachafanas said the owner of the land, located at the east side of Lower North Street in Glace Bay, H. Hopkins Ltd, refuses to sell for less than $2 million although an Altus Group appraisal put the value at $350,000.

(I think this is called “doing a Nickerson.”)