Happy Trails in Cossitt Heights?

Developer Joneljim Construction has come to CBRM council twice recently, asking for modifications to the 2012 purchase and sale agreement under which the company bought the 120-hectare Cossitt Heights Industrial Park on Sydney’s Upper Prince Street with the stated intention of turning it into a $51 million residential subdivision.

Slide from a power point presentation showing a map.

Joneljim corporate controller Everett Knickle appeared before council during its May 23 meeting to request permission to proceed from Phase 2 to Phase 4 of the development and construct apartment buildings and duplexes, rather than the originally scheduled Phase 3 which would have seen them build more single-family homes (or, as we’re now saying, home lots). The company had actually proceeded unilaterally with this change and been shut down by the CBRM’s planning department for failing to follow its original plan. Knickle also asked permission to change the order of the remaining phases as necessary without having to come to council for permission.

Council agreed to both requests, leaving Joneljim free to continue construction on two apartment buildings for which Everett says they already have a buyer.


Trailing off…

I’ve written at length about the promise of the Cossitt Heights development versus the reality, so will leave aside questions of completed units, “green” construction and timelines to focus on a different loose end: according to the terms of the initial agreement, Phases 1 and 2 of the project were to include construction of a system of walking and biking trails, one of which—a walking trail around the development—was to take the form of “a boardwalk in a wetland area.” The land on which these trails were to be built was to be “retained by CBRM.”

Here’s the relevant passage from the 20 March 2012 CBRM council meeting:


My impression, when last I drove through Cossitt Heights, was that no such trails had been constructed, so I asked the CBRM and spokesperson Christina Lamey told me:

I followed up with the planning department. At this time, this aspect of the project is still outstanding and the land is not yet transferred to CBRM.

According to the planning department, this means that:

…The project Phase 1 and 2 is not complete as per all of the requirements…and CBRM still holds the bond on the project.

The bond held by the municipality could presumably be used to complete any trail work the developer left undone, but if this is actually the developer’s plan, it’s surely a rather cynical one.

Knickle didn’t mention the trails during his May 23 appearance before council and council didn’t ask about them before approving the request to proceed to Phase 4 of the development.



Interestingly, on June 13, Joneljim was back with an additional request: under the municipal Land Use By-law and Subdivision By-law, a developer must complete construction of roads and services (sewer and water) prior to receiving building permits to construct housing.

Citing delays in accessing necessary materials, Joneljim asked that it be allowed to provide security for construction of the required infrastructure and planning director Michael Ruus told council it was possible to enter into a separate agreement with the developer to accept financial security to pay for the cost of the infrastructure “in the event the developer fails to complete the work.”

Ruus gave council two options: require Joneljim to complete the work prior to issuing building permits or enter into the agreement with the developer to provide financial security.

"A lot in Cossitt Heights is ready for construction" (George Mortimer CBC photo)

An early street in Cossitt Heights, completed prior to construction of any houses. (George Mortimer CBC photo)

In response to a question from District 10 Councilor Darren Bruckschwaiger, who asked if the municipality had entertained (or refused requests to entertain) such arrangements in the past, public works & engineering director Wayne MacDonald said:

There was a time when something along these lines was part of the Subdivision Development By-law, many, many years ago. It was not necessarily working properly at that time. It was changed in updates to the service delivery policy, however, I believe in this instance the developer is well along and I think in this particular instance it works.

The developer is “well along,” but has already failed to complete some of the work promised for Phases 1 and 2 of the subdivision, a fact council didn’t reckon with during its deliberations. In the end, councilors voted to allow Joneljim to provide security against completion of the required infrastructure.

I emailed Knickle on June 26 to ask about the timeline for construction of the trails which, if you look at the initial power point presentation for the development, were made rather much of.

I have yet to receive a reply.