Category Archives: July 5 2007 meeting

Youden asked for new proposal!

Town Council was presented on June 3rd with 300 letters with the following requests: no sale or development of the Old School Lands without a decision by the electorate, full disclosure for any potential development of all costs and benefits for town and taxpayers, and community participation in planning for any future development. The Mayor at that time said that Council would respond on June 26th.

At the June 26th meeting of Council, the following motion was passed unanimously with no discussion;

Whereas the proposed conceptual plan for the development of the old
school lands has resulted in a number of issues of concern to the
public, and whereas some members of the public have requested that the
development be delayed until various issues are addressed, and whereas
the present town council is committed to promoting new housing
opportunities for young families and seniors as one part of the
sustainable development plan of the town, be it resolved that Town
Council request Mr. Youden to consider re-submitting a new conceptual
plan that responds to the issues that have been raised, and be it
further resolved that any sale of or development of the old school lands
be delayed until revised concept plans are available and a public
presentation is held as part of the public consultation process.

This wording of the motion was obtained from a member of the press who received it in a press package at the council meeting. There has been no reply from Town Hall to this writer’s request 5 days ago for the wording of the motion.

If you wish to share your response to Council’s decison with others on this circulation list, send your responses to pmcarver@eastlink.ca and I will collate and distribute them to the list anonymously. It’s good to know what others are thinking.

And, if you wish to contact the Mayor or Councillors, here are the numbers:
Mayor Joe Feeney 624-8133
Deputy Mayor John Bain 624-1265
Coucillor Cathie Slauenwhite-Nowe 624-8723
Councillor Lila O’Connor 624-9293
Councillor Virginia Uhlman 624-9363
Councillor David Hennigar 624-8559
Councillor Karl Nauss 624-1232

250 signatures say “Freeze the Youden Development!”

On October 9th, Penny Carver made a presentation to Council on the current status of the online petition and recent door-to-door canvassing. Results show approximately 250 names of Town citizens and tax-payers who want a freeze on the Youden development (190 hard-copy signatures plus approximately 60 Town names online). The names represent a wide range of ages, location in town and length of residency and show impressive support for our request that Council seek other alternatives.

The results of the Friends of the Woods and Field petition differ significantly from the summary of a different survey given by the Town’s CAO at the September 27th council meeting. He stated then that, of 77 responses returned, 62 were in favour of the Youden development, 13 were not in favour, and two favoured the proposal with modification.

Here is text of Penny Carver’s October 9th presentation to Council..

October 9, 2007

Your Worship and Councillors:

Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you.

My name is Penny Carver. I live in Mahone Bay. I am here as one of many loosely associated people who call themselves “The Friends of the Mahone Bay Woods and Field.”

I want to discuss the petition which was organized by the Friends of the Woods and Field. The petition registers concerns about the Town’s plan to solve its financial troubles by selling 16 acres of green space – public land – so a private developer can build a large scale development of apartments, houses and new streets.

The petition’s main message – and I have brought copies for all of you tonight – is Wait! Slow down! The final paragraph says – and this was a key paragraph for many who signed the petition – “We call on you not to commit to this development (the Youden proposal) before all the people of the Town have had a chance to fully assess and debate its implications, both good and bad, and to consider alternatives.”

This petition has been on the internet since late Spring. To date there are 345 signatures online. These 345 people cared so much about the old school lands and about the future development of the Town of Mahone Bay that they spontaneously found their way to our website, read the petition, left their name and often added heartfelt and thoughtful comments.

It occurred to us that it was now time for our internet petition to be brought to earth with a paper version; that it was time to talk face to face with our neighbours about this development which has threatened to divide our town.

In the past week, 10 of us, all living in different parts of town, have taken the petition to the streets, talked with people and invited discussion. We have collected many signatures on paper petitions to supplement the electronic version online.

It has been a wonderful experience. We have engaged our neighbours in a significant and respectful dialogue about our town and about our dreams for its future. If nothing else, we have come to know our neighbours better and we are pleased about that. And, it was wonderful to meet so many young families, more than I would have believed possible given recent talk about their dwindling numbers.

We discovered that most of the people we talked with were happy to sign our petition. They expressed many doubts about whether the proposed development could address the Town’s needs and asked many questions. Who would buy/rent the units? Why such a big development? What about extra costs that would drive up taxes? Where are the jobs that would attract new residents? How will we find health professionals to serve an increased number of seniors? Will the affordable apartments require income testing? Will the seniors units impose minimum age limits? If so, by what authority? Why let a developer take the financial benefits? $90,000 is too low – why wasn’t there more than one appraisal? Why doesn’t the Town have a website? Why ruin Town assets for a project with a dubious outcome?

They want to save our green spaces and public land. They want to examine options for scaled-down and scattered development. They said this is the wrong development on the wrong land. They want the Town to slow down, think it over, do it right.

And what about the numbers? How many folks have signed our petition? It’s a little difficult to get an exact count. We have tried to eliminate any duplication of names but cannot claim to have caught them all. This is not an official poll. It does not claim to be accurate within a certain percentage. The value of our petition is as much qualitative as it is quantitative.

It isn’t just about numbers: it’s about acknowledging all the stakeholders in our community. Some signatures are from outside the Town. Should this discredit the petition? Absolutely not! These names represent the very people that the Town wants to attract to visit or live here to ensure economic sustainability – families living nearby in the county, and visitors from an hour or even a continent away. They contribute to the economic and social vitality of our town; their input is important; we must listen to their concerns.

Some of the names from outside of town represent non-resident tax payers who own property within town limits. Surely the voices of these tax payers count in this issue even though they are not eligible to vote in municipal elections.

The petition also has the names of a few younger citizens who care deeply about this civic issue. Are we to deny them a voice? They are the future of the town; they are the people the Town wants to hold here, to work here, to have their children here. They will not stay if they are not heard now.

But the vast majority of names that we bring you tonight are adult residents or tax-payers of the town.

It’s not just about the numbers: it’s about fair process. On their doorsteps, people told us they felt confused, they wanted more information and 3-dimensional models to help them visualize any proposed development, they felt decisions were being made too fast, that the large meetings had not answered their questions, that the lack of information and discussion has led to polarization and divisiveness in the town.

It’s not just about a number count of those for or against development; it’s about ensuring there is dialogue about how and where development takes place. At the doors, many people asked me right away, “Are you for or against the development?” As soon as I indicated that the petition is asking the Town to take more time to think and talk about it, the dialogue began. And let me tell you the conversations were respectful and lengthy – 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes! We learned that most townsfolk think development would be good for the Town but that development must take place within an overall vision and plan or vision and should be smaller in keeping with the character of the Town. Many people were surprised to learn about the town-owned land at the foot of Hawthorn Hill and felt that this would be a good site for seniors’ accommodations due to its ease of access to Main Street. They were intrigued also to learn that other options are available and want to learn more about them.

It’s not just about the numbers of people who have signed this petition; it’s about the red flag that their collective signatures represent. Think of them as canaries in the mine.

I want to quote from a letter written recently to the Town of Mahone Bay Council and which may be in your package tonight. The writer is trained in planning and environmental design; she has worked with many community and municipal groups; she lives nearby in the county and she cares about Mahone Bay. She says, “When I have seen valued public land sold amid substantial opposition, the wound doesn’t heal.” Further she states, “When there is the kind of substantial outcry to a plan as is currently happening, it is a red flag. The (red) flag in planning means slow down, slow way down, make sure you’re on the right track…get a second opinion…get a third…do research and get advice…reassess the reasons for going forward…(while ensuring that emotions and/or politics aren’t the underpinnings of refuting compromise, and refusing to consider alternatives).”

That being said, as of today, the approximate number of names of citizens and tax-payers within the Town of Mahone Bay who have signed either the online or paper petition, after accounting for duplications, is 252.

This is a significantly large number of people who are unhappy.

At least 252 people – we haven’t canvassed every home or found all our supporters – 252 citizens and tax-payers of this Town want Council to put a halt to this development. They are not against development per se; they want planned and careful development that does not destroy our assets.

This is a clear message for Council. The responsible thing to do is to put a freeze on the development, to slow down and do it right. If Mr. Youden really wants to be part of Mahone Bay, if his is an honourable offer, he will wait until we have a new council. Let the dialogue continue amongst citizens and tax-payers. Give them all the information. Let us hear from all the stakeholders. This must be an election issue in 2008.

Are there any questions? …

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you tonight.

Respectfully submitted,
Penny Carver
Mahone Bay
October 9, 2007
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Proceedings of July 5, 2007 Public meeting, Mahone Bay

The meeting was organized by Valerie Hearder, Sue Bookchin, Muriel Agnes (an experienced facilitator and public educator), Deborah Hickman, Chris Heide, and Veryan Haysom with the co-operation of Mayor C. Joe Feeney. It was set up in four “blocks”, the first two for the sharing of information and the last two for public participation.

The stated purpose of the meeting was to engage the citizens of Mahone Bay in exploring strategies that meet the challenges we face while protecting the old school land.

The desired outcomes were:

— to generate ideas that address Mahone Bay’s challenges, and
— to establish an ongoing process of citizen engagement.

Here is a record of what transpired and what was said:

(Or read it on a printer-friendly PDF)

Block 1
Presentations on the value of the woods, wetlands and soccer field. Chris Heide spoke on the recreational value of the woods, Deborah Hickman showed a Powerpoint presentation on the ecological and environmental value of the woods and particularly the wetlands and Bob Sayer made a presentation on the value of the soccer field.

Block 2
Presentation by Mayor Joe Feeney on the financial and demographic challenges the town is facing.

Block 3 — Presentations by the public.

Note: some of the presenters brought handouts, and where available, they are included on this site — see “Presentations” in the menu or click on the links.

[Ground rules: Take a number. 3 minutes to speak. Listen respectfully and speak respectfully. Not debate or discussion tonight. Not to resolve anything. Use “we” only if speaking for a group, otherwise use “I”. Recorded by video, note taking and flipcharts.]

Dave Thoms, President of Mahone Bay Soccer Association

It is possible to have both development and a strong recreational structure.
• There are alternative public lands in town that haven’t been offered to developers.
• We request that the town develop the soccer field as a multi purpose playing field.
• We would like to see woodlands held as public.
• We are prepared to make a proposal…
• There are 3 acres on Hawthorne Hill.
• Consider these other areas before going forward.

Bob Sayer

I think there is an obligation on people opposed to the proposed development to come up with an alternative. I only hope they’ll be listened to.
I’m a CFA. 35 years.
I’m amazed at how small a community we are. Our tax base is tiny.
It worries me that the proposal is being made is a band-aid. What if we did this and in 5 years we still had the same problem of not being viable financially?

• Possibility of amalgamation with Municipality of Lunenburg or of Chester: Take the example of Liverpool. In 1996 it amalgamated with the municipality. But first it appointed a 2-person impartial committee of respected citizens who did the books and came up with a recommendation. At first the majority of town councillors were against it, as ours would be. But they voted unanimously for it when the facts were presented. There were considerable cost savings. Residential and commercial tax rate is now lower than in 1996. Garbage collection fee scrapped. The special commercial rate for business development was scrapped. Policing improved. Liverpool has been able to eliminate its $400,000 debt on the town water utility. And now they’re going to add a new water project to the town.

• This town has never done an objective, impartial study on amalgamation. We have people with opinions, but not based on facts. We need to do this.

(See Bob’s handout)

David Etter

I’ve raised this question of amalgamation to councillors, but they have a vitriolic emotional reaction against it.

Derwin Spencer.
Recent CFA. 64 Maple St.
Being new here, I’ve been exploring all of Mahone Bay and thinking of ways to develop the town as a tourist destination. Once you’ve seen Main St. and the churches, and if you’re not a shopper, what do you do? I congratulate those who work on the festivals. But we have other unrecognized resources that we are not promoting, not advertising.
• Waterfront could be developed for walking, more park benches and picnic tables
• Have more information signboards around: about the churches, other historical buildings, as Lunenburg does, particularly along Main St.
• Have more opportunities for people to get on the water – boat tours.
• Walking trails – they’re hidden away – they should be promoted more.
• Mahone Bay Centre should be better advertised to draw people in from the county and farther to take courses available there.
• Promote ourselves to bus tours more – and give them more reason to stay a while and walk the streets and shop.
• Generally we need to sell the town better; put some resources into it.

Barb Hayley.

2 year resident living on School St.
Recognized town planners Dover, Kohl and Partners (http://www.doverkohl.com/) say that poor planning causes people to lose confidence – it turns a NIMBY attitude into an attitude of resisting any kind of change anywhere. We need growth. The key is to have a master plan. Take into consideration what is valuable in the community. For example, the planners mentioned worked with a small town, Port Royal SC, population 4,000. Townspeople and councillors worked together to identify key private properties that could be developed, existing roads and rights of way that could be improved, how significant public spaces, open spaces, and public buildings could work together for preservation and conservation. Developers and planners do not always work in sync.
• We should work together with planning and architectural schools, develop a master plan, see how we can develop resources better.
• We have a gem, let’s develop our gem.
• Also should check out amalgamation.

Scott Cadillac.

Just moved here from Calgary with wife and 3 kids.
We sold our house in Calgary and drove here without coming in advance to find a place to live. We arrived in NS 2 months ago and decided to go town shopping. We had a defined list of criteria:
• no big box stores,
• not overrun with commercialism,
• character and culture,
• safe for kids,
• lots of green space,
• access to shopping and nature within walking distance of the house.
Mahone Bay met all these criteria. We took possession of our house on May 18. We felt we were the luckiest people in the world. We were willing to pay more for the house than we might have elsewhere; it was well worth it. The day after we moved in, we found out about this development. I came to think that maybe I made the worst decision of my life. I don’t pretend to know the alternatives, the politics, etc., but I will do what it takes.

Penny Carver

Lived in Lunenburg Co. for 11 years and Mahone Bay for 3.
I want to talk about the example of the little town of Craik, Saskatchewan, pop. 400, which had lost its grain elevator but found a creative way of dealing with its challenges. Working in partnership with other towns in the area, it studied its possibilities and decided to pursue a sustainable living project. Town Council was forward-looking. Now there’s an eco-village with economical building lots for green houses, an outreach centre, community action such as the 1-tonne challenge contest. Over the last 5 years, Craik, has turned around. 47 new families have moved in and there are new green industries, a chemical free golf course and lots more. See handout. There is funding available for sustainable development – matching the human needs of today without compromising future generations. Sustainability requires a balancing and meshing of economic, social and environmental factors, not the promotion of one at the expense of the others. See writeup about Craik by Camelia Frieberg.

Alleson Kase

See blue handout. [Some points below are taken from the handout.] I came to NS to do a degree in international development and stayed. I feel fortunate to live in Mahone Bay.

Successful community development builds on existing resources, not trading one for another. We can build on what we have while increasing sustainability of the town.

To do this, we have to do a careful study. A study of real estate trends in Canada done by Scotia Economics – http://www.scotiacapital.com/English/bns_econ/retrends.pdf – predicts where increases will occur in the future based on demographic and other data. Mr. Youden’s development looks like it wouldn’t work because of sluggish markets in the areas and age groups concerned. First time buyers will grow very slowly; they go for entry level homes in urban centres close to employment opportunities. It shows the importance of looking at statistics. The main increase is for seniors’ housing where people are moving up in quality and down in size.
• I’ve contacted an architecture professor at Dal who would be happy to place a senior grad student in Mahone Bay in the fall to show us what a real good town plan would look like.
• Have a variety of solutions to reflect diversity of housing
• Develop new residential units for the most likely market
• Spread units over several locations
• Preserve current resources while developing new ones
• Focus development on lands that would benefit from renewal
• Seniors’ units should be in areas that provide safe and easy access (flat terrain within walking distance of amenities)
• Explore creative financing ideas

Jim Wentzell

I’ve been involved with town budgets for the last 10 years in Mahone Bay. I worked for all 3 towns. Did a study on recreation facilities a few years ago. My views are a little different . I agree that we need a good balance between development and what exists. Some of these proposals have looked at that. I grew up in Bridgewater but have worked for all the towns, the County and Queens Municipality. Of all of them, Mahone Bay is the best place to live. It’s the one place where you can park your car in one spot and walk the whole town. I can walk to work. I feel fortunate with the council I work for. I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, and they are positive too.
There are 5 issues that are critical to this town.
• Safe drinking water. Canadian standards have changed. It’s costing $3.5 million for improved water.
• Affordable housing and population decline. To me that is key to the survival to any town. When I looked to buy a house there was only one I could afford. I’m the only town employee who owns a house in the town. Businesses too – ask their employees who can afford to live in the town. More residents are needed to run the festivals, the Mahone Bay Centre, the fire department.
• Economic growth and improved business climate. Businesses here operate on a tight margin. We need more year-round residents and it might attract more services.
• Seniors housing and assisted living for aging population. There are 71 seniors living alone in their own house now, there are 77 that are over 55 living with family [??? not sure I got this]. This is a great need.
• Stabilized tax, electrical and water rates.

This is the not the only patch of woods in town, and there are alternatives to this particular soccer field.

The amalgamation question should be studied in detail. However it wouldn’t solve the issues of affordable housing, seniors’ housing, assisted living nor economic stability for businesses.

Keith Macdonald

I have been in Mahone Bay for 23 years. I’ve worked in finance in Halifax. I have to thank Council for bringing a clean harbour to Mahone Bay, and they are working to bring clean drinking water. It’s not easy. But we have to look at the numbers, and be fair and reasonable. Unfortunately the mailout has mistakes in it. (See Keith’s notes which he handed out.)

The stated decline in population by 27.5% should be 11 %. And we’re not alone. Most towns in NS are in decline.

It says we pay the highest per capita tax. This is a misrepresentation of the facts. We don’t pay tax per capita. In my family, our children have left home and our taxes are the same. We pay taxes per property. We are actually 29th of 31 towns in average taxes paid.

We actually have 25 homes assessed at 80 – 100k – but they’re not on the market because we’re living in them. The average tax rate is skewed by high end properties. We have the 3rd lowest tax rate in NS in Mahone Bay – and why? If you have a $100,000 home you’re not actually paying higher taxes here than elsewhere.

Lower end taxes are about neutral. Looking at increases of utilities: we might have a 75% increase in water rates, 60% increase in garbage disposal – but 60% of $15 isn’t much. It’s not worth quibbling about.

Also, 2/3 of the expense on the water treatment facility is paid by provincial and federal governments.

There are possible financial solutions to consider.
• Assessments for some houses are way below market value. Maybe they should be adjusted.
• We could generate bylaw revenue if town employees could issue tickets rather than hiring an officer to do it.
• How about selling the school land to the nature trust?

Veryan Haysom

• Town-owned land. I’m concerned about the procedures followed for disposal or sale of the land. Council should commit the town to hold a public meeting and hold a plebiscite if 1/3 of the people there call for one.
• Financial suggestions – see discussion paper. One challenge is to increase revenues other than by increased rates and taxes. The town can earn money through creating a corporation – the Mahone Bay Housing Corporation – with a broad mandate including development of special needs and affordable housing. As long as the Town controlled 90% of voting shares and the corporation earned 90% of its revenue within the town, it would not pay income taxes. It could return earnings to the town through dividends or re-invest in housing. I suggest that the Town kick-start the Corporation by transfering the 3 acres on Kinburn St. to the Corporation. The town would take back a market value mortgage, the Corporation would develop financing, or could enter into a joint venture with a private developer.
• Sustainability. The town must establish an integrated community sustainability plan, with consideration of the environmental, cultural, social and economic dimensions of the town’s identity. To assist the town do this, I suggest an ad-hoc citizens advisory council on sustainability with working groups in the 4 areas mentioned holding informal kitchen table meetings. (See Veryan’s handout on this item.)

Richard Nowe

Lifelong resident 86 Fairmont, next to the soccer field and driveway. I have in my mind the best interests of the whole town. I thought this plan was great – especially for volunteerism. I’m a 35 year veteran of the fire department and am now Lions Club president. We need development. The fire department used to have 40 members, and the majority lived in Mahone Bay. There are now only 27, with only 9 living in the town. How is this fire department going to live up to its motto, “to protect the beauty around us”? And the Lions Club supports lots of things including youth soccer. But I don’t feel that the soccer field is as important as the chance to bring in more people in the volunteer sector. If you don’t believe me, come along to the next fire. Sometimes only 5 members respond to the call. This year we could no longer do our garden party which was a major fundraiser for us – a social gathering that’s been taking place for 50-60 years, but we just don’t have the volunteers. We also do things for the classic boat festival. Seniors can’t respond to alarms.

Mike Vautour

I’m a CFA and am soon going away again. But I’ve developed projects that are here to stay. One is a sustainable community survey, helping to create a database of what people are prepared to do for sustainability. There are simple ways to save water for example. There’s $24,000 allotted to Mahone Bay to do this.

I also created the Youth Stewardship Centre with Jake Wentzell who is reaching out to 200 youth. It’s inspired by the green space, and the Centre needs that green space to operate. It just started in April.

• The Nova Scotia Sea School wants to relocate as their rent in Lunenburg is going way up. I talked to the Director, Amy Schwartz and Paul Seltzer at MBC about it – we should try to fit them in.

Karen Janigan

I married a Mahone Bayer, and we’re living in his parents’ house. I’ve lived in a lot of different places. I have a lot of unanswered questions.
• Are we going to protect the old school lands? All of it? Can some of it be developed?
• Where is all the town owned land? How many undeveloped lots do we have that would be available?
• Do we put a surcharge on vacant property that hasn’t been developed? Is it high enough?
• Do we do a debenture run in the town when we need money?
• We’re not in charge of our assessments. They are presently capped at 10% and soon will be capped at the inflation rate. If we raise the rates, can we shelter the people who don’t have the income to pay?
• Is there another way to tax than a flat tax?
• How many people here work in this town? How can we make it so more people who have to work CAN work in this town?
• Can we do an incubator for the arts – where the town invests in a formal way for artists to come – with business support, shipping support, raising money in town to build on a centre of excellence?
• How many people in the town are sitting on committees? There is a great brain trust here in this room. People have to step up. We need young people.

My husband left here in 1978 and thought he’d never be able to move back. He’s lucky, one of the few of his class who are living here now. We need more people to be able to do that.

Lila O’Connor – lived here 45 years.

I was going to speak for myself, but feel I have to speak as a Town councillor.
I have been asked, who is on the committee that organized this meeting.
• Regarding the soccer field, the town looks after the field for 25 weeks.
• As chair of PAC this is the 6th meeting that we’ve had in the last 5? years. We’ve had open meetings before. The Chamber of Commerce had a meeting and people did not attend. There were opportunities for input; when the old school was being turned over to the centre there was a meeting. You wanted to see development on the rest of the land. We are now discussing the rest of the old school land. This is the 6th public meeting on the subject.
• We have the lowest tax rate but also the highest assessment. Assessment went up 4% and the tax rate went down. Town does not have any input into assessment. We have to go along with province. The 10% cap is only on older homes, not new ones.
• Do we discount lower income persons on their property taxes? Yes we do that.
• Anything mentioned here this evening, the council has looked at it. We have tried to satisfy the majority of the people. We do have a swimming pool, a tennis club, playground, soccer field, and we were told that maybe we could do something with the —
• We are not new and just starting. As a councillor we have done everything we could.

Deborah Hickman

Been living here 23 years. We’re here because we have a house. What we don’t have here is work. We’re here because we love this community, and we spend most of our time volunteering here. My husband has worked all over the province, and I commute to Baffin Island. I’m involved with a tourist business here and 2 months a year is not enough to make a living.
• What we need here is not necessarily more houses first, we need work. I’m not saying that council has not tried to attract industry and jobs, but we need more.
• There are properties around town where there could be industry, behind the plastics plant to the rail line, if they would sell it – like HB Studios in Lunenburg. There’s a large heritage building on Main St. for sale.
• The Town needs to be proactive.
• I do thank council for what they have done. It hasn’t been overlooked.

Lisa Linscott, 33 Zwicker

I’m a longtime CFA, been here for 25 years. This is home to me. There are things I love and things I detest about the town.
• I love the green space. Someone said there are other green spaces in town? Very few. None that can compare with the acreage in back of town. As a Guide and Brownie leader I went there all the time, and now go with my dog as the kids have grown.
• I was recently involved through my work with the Imagine Bridgewater program. I was very sad for Mahone Bay that we have so little green space – we could develop it better. Bridgewater has more green space.
• I am of a moderate income level, having been a single mother. It has been very difficult, and I’ve worked hard. It’s very difficult to sustain a household and live in this town. I’m sorry, the prices mentioned for the homes in this development are not for moderate income people like me. They’re too expensive.
• I work with seniors. We need to help them, but not at the expense of younger people.

Joe Feeney

• Keith, I apologize, about the calculations [in the mailout] – there’s a math error in the decline in population figure.
• You’re right; the use of per capita is not appropriate. We have the highest tax assessment per household, not per capita, true.
• Our tax rate is low because our assessments are high.
• And yes, we do have a system where we rebate taxes to those on limited income.

Block 4 – What could citizen involvement look like in Mahone Bay?
[Comments from the floor]

Invite town council to set up an ad hoc committee to work with citizens who would be invited to participate in it.

Wasn’t there a list of things that people might be interested in – environment, economics, cultural, social justice… committees could be formed around those working groups suggested by Veryan Haysom. Citizens could be invited to participate in those groups – even have signup sheets. Groups could do research and discussion on the issues.

Town has a Planning Advisory Committee. Perhaps some people would like to join. It meets the first Tuesday of every month. There are three members of public who are members. Meetings are open to the public. It will be meeting again in September.

Specific short term ideas – Council needs to let us know what they’re going to do about them. I’ve heard more ideas tonight than I’ve heard in a long time. They need to be named and brought to Town Council for them to work on. And have citizens involved in specific working groups.

What I need is a managed, coherent planning process that I feel I could be involved in. I wasn’t aware of the 6 meetings that Lila mentioned; perhaps they were piecemeal, not integrated, like 20-20 Vision or Imagine Bridgewater. I need a large vision that I could plug into.

(Richard Novossiltzeff) Regarding the Watershed Committee – there will be new regulations shortly re Oakland Lake. No one from Mahone Bay showed up at the meetings that were called. How can we get some kind of involvement from the public? This is incredible tonight, this kind of participation.

(Virginia Uhlman) Every year we ask for people to serve on various committees. Sometimes we get no response at all. More people want to be on PAC but not the other committees. And run for Town Council. Councillors are often acclaimed, not elected, as there’s no one else interested in running. Elections are in October [2008]. Get more involved in the governance of the Town.

(Jim Wentzell) There can be a lot of informal communication in a small town. You can get your voice heard on a one-by-one basis; speak personally to Joe, Jim, councillors.

(Sharon Thomas, new in town) I got inspired by a lot of the people here at the last meeting, and want to help out but had no idea how to go about doing that. If someone could leave names and phone numbers so I’d know who to contact. I’m interested in working groups.

E-mail list.

Set up a database. Access the town, communicate better by e-mail, get the internet working for the town. Ask the people.

The rules of order at committee meetings aren’t working and that’s part of why people don’t go. The Town should be operating with a structure that is integrated, and that enables us all to be involved together. There needs to be a group of people who will figure out a process to present to the public about how we can proceed. We need a group to work together on the next step. Talk with Sue Bookchin.

To publicize meetings, notices in the paper don’t work anymore. Use e-mail and internet.

Get 3 people from the organizing committee together with 3 people from the council.

(Valerie Hearder) I’m the one who called this meeting. We (the organizers) have a website – and we will put the information from this meeting on the website. This issue has woken up the community in an exciting and deep way. This is a different kind of issue, one that really touches people. But I want to know that if I as a citizen put in my energy and time, will my ideas be listened to by Council? I need to know that we’ll be taken seriously. We need a mechanism by which citizens can participate in the process in an active way.

These notes were scribed during the meeting by Heather Holm and reviewed and edited by several others.

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Lots of constructive ideas

“I’ve heard more ideas tonight than I’ve heard in a long time,” observed a resident at the public meeting held yesterday, July 5th, which was organized by a group of concerned citizens (the folks behind this website) and Mayor Joe Feeney, and attended by about 200 people. The purpose of the meeting was to give residents an opportunity to share ideas about options for the town and also to discuss ways that citizens could be better involved in planning the town’s future.

Town councillors expressed frustration in getting people involved in the past, while citizens identified some barriers to participation, and presented many positive ideas for the town’s development while preserving the best of what we have.

We have compiled the minutes of the meeting and are working on getting the handouts that some presenters had prepared. Feel free to comment here on the meeting. This issue has woken up the community in an exciting way that bodes well for the town’s future.

Record of the meeting [printable PDF]

Click on “Citizen Presentations” in the menu for some of the individual presentations that were made.

Let’s Build On Our Strengths: It’s The Only Game in Town!

by the Mahone Bay Youth Soccer Association

• The Mahone Bay Youth Soccer Association is registered and incorporated under the Societies Act. Its
registered address is in the Town of Mahone Bay. It is proud to be a Mahone Bay based organisation, and uses the Mahone Bay name for all its competitive teams, in the South Shore and Nova Scotia Provincial leagues.
• The Club has a duly elected Board and proper By-laws as required by the Societies Act.
• The Club is huge by Town and Town area standards. It’s the Town’s biggest youth and or recreational organisation. It’s bigger than CBL. It’s bigger than the Swimming Pool.
• In fact it’s the only game in Town: the club is the only organisation in town committed to training young people in a team sport, and fielding teams under the banner of Mahone Bay.
• There is no ball club. There is not even a ball team playing under the name Mahone Bay. There’s no Mahone Bay based hockey club…there’s no lacrosse. There a swimming pool and there’s a tennis club.
• WE SHOULD BE BUILDING ON THAT ONE STRENGTH…..NOT PUTTING IT AT RISK
• It has over 170 registered players, male and female, from the town and surrounding areas. In the Town itself over 50% of the 4 to 14 year olds [the age groups the club presently caters for] living in the Town play with the club.
• The club has programs for the following age groups: U-14, U-12, U-10, U-8, minis and preschoolers.
• The club has competitive teams as follows: U-14 boys, U-14 girls, U-12 boys, U-12 girls, U-10 coed-all playing in the Tier 2 South Shore District League. There is also an Under 14 boys Tier 1 team playing in the provincial league.
• By 2009 the club will have two U-16 teams, and by 2011 U-16 and U-18/Senior teams. It will have these teams just as surely as elementary school kids become junior high kids and junior high kids become senior high kids.

Fields
• The club is already using three fields
1: the Old School field: used for its U-14 tier1, U-12 boys, U-12 girls, U-10 coed games and practices.
2: the Bayview School field: used for the U-14 boys tier 2 and U-14 girls tier 2 games and practices.
When the Bayview school field is too wet, these games and practices are switched to the Old School
3: The ball field at Jubilee Park: used for U-8s and the younger groups.

• The Old School Field is the club’s best quality and most used field. It is one of the best soccer fields on the South Shore. It is the club’s flagship field.
The Soccer Club regards the Old School field as indispensable Town recreational infrastructure. It has been used for recreation for decades. It has had town and community money spent on developing it. The Soccer Club has spent thousands of dollars on it for annual aeration, lime, fertilizer, and sod.
• The Jubilee Park ball field is not a soccer field, and, with its fences, can only be used for mini soccer. It cannot be used for full field soccer.
• The Bayview Field is not a Town field or even a school board field. It is privately owned. Bayview is a P3 school, privately built. The soccer field is mediocre, was poorly built [on a swamp] and has serious drainage problems. The soccer club has negotiated to use it for its two U-14 tier 2 teams on condition we don’t use it when it gets wet. At any time, the owners can deny the Soccer Club use of the facility.

The “go and use Bayview” fix has no credibility: it ignores the actual facts.

The Minimum Requirement for The Mahone Bay Soccer Club to function is two full sized fields available on a daily basis.

That’s why the present Town Council Proposed Development would be a disaster for the Soccer Club.

If the Old School Field is lost, the Soccer Club could not continue its present programs, let alone cater for its future teams.

The developer, Mr. Youden, has no plans to replace the field his development would take away, and The Town Council has provided no replacement in the development plans it has approved in principle.

Build on Strengths Mahone Bay a Centre for Recreation

The Soccer Club has been a Mahone Bay success story. Not only does it provide for recreation and fitness for young people in the Town, but it brings adults and young people from outside. The Tier 1 team brings soccer opponents-their players and parents-from all over the province. The tier 2 teams bring in soccer opponents-their players and parents- from all over the South Shore. It’s soccer’s Wooden Boat Festival.
It’s a Mahone Bay Institution — 4 home games per week —all youth age groups — two/teams per game= min. 30 players — say 35 brothers/sisters/parents/grandparents etc — that’s 140 visits per week times 15 wks= 2100 person visits to Mahone Bay for soccer games, not counting practices

LET’S BUILD ON OUR STRENGTHS

The Mahone Bay soccer club plans to offer programs from pre-schoolers to men and women-recreational and competitive.

A development proposal for the town should not cut back on an existing recreational facility that is essential to existing programs. The Old School field is essential to the Town’s soccer club, and no credible, realistic and imminent alternative has been offered or planned.

Alternatives

Later on in this meeting, the Soccer Club will be asking for two realistic alternatives to be acted on by Town Council.

The Soccer Club has come to this public meeting in good faith. The Town Council has asked for input on alternatives. The test for council is if they will deal with the alternatives with an impartial, open mind.

Submitted by Bob Sayer on behalf of the Mahone Bay Soccer Association July 2007
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Developing an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan

DISCUSSION PAPER ON DEVELOPING AN INTEGRATED COMMUNITY SUSTAINABILITY PLAN FOR MAHONE BAY

by Veryan Haysom

BACKGROUND

Municipalities which receive federal gas tax transfers from the Province under the Canada Nova Scotia Agreement on the Transfer of Federal Gas Tax Revenues are required to prepare an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan.

An Integrated Community Sustainability Plan is defined as a long-term plan, developed in consultation with community members, that provides direction for the community to realize sustainability objectives for the environmental, cultural, social and economic dimensions of its identity. Integrated Sustainability Plans must also be reasonably consistent with statements of provincial interest under the Municipal Government Act.

Nova Scotia’s principles of sustainability are set out in the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. They include the principles that the environment and the economy of the Province are a shared responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector and all people of the Province.

DEVELOPMENT OF AN INTEGRATED COMMUNITY SUSTAINABILITY PLAN

Mahone Bay should immediately begin to create a Community Sustainability Plan. All development in the Town should be consistent with the Town’s Integrated Community Sustainability Plan.

To assist the Town and meet the requirement for citizen participation in the planning process, an ad hoc Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Sustainability should be established to recommend an interim Integrated Community Sustainability Plan to the Town Council. Until a final Plan is in place, all developments in the Town should be referred to the Committee for its advice with respect to the sustainability of the proposal.

The Committee should establish working groups on topics that would include the environment, culture, social justice and the economy. The working groups should be given a mandate to conduct their business at informal “kitchen table” meetings throughout the Town and report back to the Committee as a whole.

The terms of reference for the Committee should (1) be worked out by the Council in consultation with the Committee; (2) establish a reasonable time frame to report; (3) identify the support and resources available to the Committee; and (4) take account of the following:
• existing planning and financial frameworks of the Town as well as its other plans and programmes;
• the systematic identification of problems and their causes;
• the prioritization of tasks to address identified problems;
• the consideration and assessment of alternative strategic options;
creation of a vision for a sustainable community;
• establishment of a long-term action plan towards community sustainability which includes measurable targets; the programming of the implementation of the plan including a timetable and statement of allocations of responsibilities; and procedures for monitoring implementation of the plan.

The town’s procedures for finalizing the Plan after receiving the Committee’s report must be transparent, accessible to the public, and mandated by law in order to meet the test for legitimacy set out by the Supreme Court of Canada (City of London v. RSJ Holdings). []

Proposed by Veryan Haysom

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Honestly Seeking Alternatives: Village Status – Amalgamation; by Bob Sayer

Need for Change
• Nobody seriously doubts the Town is in a serious financial viability crisis.
• Nobody doubts the Town is struggling to meet the present and future commitments to services required by town status.
• Nobody doubts that provincial and national requirements for public works
will get more sophisticated and expensive.
• Most people see the need for development.

But before the town is launched on a plan of action-and the present plan is drastic, involving the loss of the most used recreational facility, and wooded land- the critical question has to be answered.

Is Mahone Bay a village masquerading as a corporate town? Is it far better off amalgamating with a municipality, and becoming part of a much larger tax base?
Would amalgamation result in considerable savings and debt reduction?

The only way to find the answer is to appoint an impartial committee into the possible benefits of amalgamation. A decade ago the Town of Liverpool and Queen’s Municipality appointed a two person committee to study and report back.

A Real Life South Shore Example
The Town of Liverpool amalgamated with Queen’s in 1996 and the following facts
are available from the senior administrator, David Clattenburg:
• A majority of Liverpool Town Councillors were initially against amalgamation. They just didn’t like the idea. They changed their mind when presented with the facts from the impartial report.
• Real considerable cost savings resulted.
• The residential and commercial tax rate in Liverpool is actually lower now than it was in 1996.
• The garbage collection fee of $ 155 for each commercial and residential establishment has been scrapped. The area special commercial rate for business development has been scrapped.
• Services by public works and policing have improved.

• Helped by amalgamation, Liverpool has been able to reduce its debt on the town water utility from approximately $470,000 to nothing. And now a new $6.75 new water project is about to start

These are facts and I could quote many more. Most of the facts were given under testimony at Antigonish hearings in 2004.

Mahone Bay is not Liverpool. Nobody [and that includes our town councillors] knows the results of an impartial survey.
No impartial survey has been done. There are only opinions.

Let’s not tear out the physical heart of this Town, and split the community, before a real study of this alternative is done.
What if this proposed development goes ahead and it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem ?
What if the proposal is just a band aid?

It’s easy: a phone call to Stephen Fiest [424-5537] the Municipal Advisor at Service Nova Scotia initiates the process. Get Mr. Clattenburg to come and talk to Council. There are many respected local persons with administrative/financial expertise who would have people’s respect as impartial investigators.

Respectfully submitted

Bob Sayer

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Correcting errors and misinformation in handout

by Keith Macdonald

Thank-you Council
cleaned up harbour: formerly raw sewage in harbour
cleaning up the water: health risk being eliminated
heavy financial pressures: responded to meet these challenges
Helped define Mahone Bay as a clean, eco-friendly town

Five Issues:
• shifting demographics: depopulation
• financial pressures
• residential strategy: housing prices, seniors needs
• commercial strategy
• “branding”: What type of town should we be?

Correcting errors and misinformation presented in handout as “Facts”
some alarmist statements creating climate of fear
1) from “fact sheet”: “in the past 11yrs we have reduced our population by 27.5%”
Stats Canada data for Mahone Bay shows
1996 1,017
2006 904
decline of 113 which is 11.1%, not 27.5%
source: http://www.gov.ns.ca/finance/statistics/agency/publications/Cen2006.pdf
This must be seen in a regional context: of 31 towns in NS, 26 are in decline
This is not a problem just for Mahone Bay but a regional problem
2) from “fact sheet”:
“highest per capita residential tax assessment in Lunenburg County”
tax assessments not based on population
to say my per capita assessment has doubled since the children left home is meaningless
3) from “fact sheet”: “We are 29th of 31 towns in average cost of housing”
MB has many expensive homes and waterfront property which boost the average
high prices in that sector doesn’t affect ordinary property owners
many homes in MB assessed at under $120,000

Financial solutions to consider (  indicates currently being done by Council)

 cost sharing on infrastructure: Federal and Provincial programs
• long term financing: gradual infrastructure recapitalization
• maximize tax revenue: review current assessments
• by-law revenue: authorize town employees to issue tickets
• increase utility revenue from seasonal residents: higher base rates
• sell field and woodlands to a trust for fair market value
• raise residential tax rates: bitter medicine
 with tax relief for fixed income homeowners
• consider village status

Most other towns in Nova Scotia have had to raise tax rates to meet financial pressures
Higher rates can be combined with tax relief for fixed income and low income home owners

With such financial pressures, why is Council continuing to cut tax rates?
We DON’T pay high taxes in Mahone Bay, we have some of the lowest taxes in NS

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