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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Envisioning a Sustainable Future; the example of Craik, Sask.

by Camelia Frieberg
An ever-growing number of towns in Canada have chosen to revitalize their communities with sustainability as the key guiding principle. The example explored below is from a small town in Saskatchewan named Craik. It shares a number of similarities to Mahone Bay and also some differences, but as a model of a rural town, one hour from Saskatoon that had a desire and need to revitalize itself, the example can be very instructive.

In the 1970’s a new highway by-passed the town and the big box stores that moved out to the highway contributed to the eventual loss of numerous retail stores and services in town. By 2001 the population had dwindled to just over 400 people, the local school was also having a difficult time filling classrooms.

In 2001 the town began working in partnership with other nearby towns and the rural municipality on a long-term plan for a sustainable community based project starting with a socio-economic profile/survey. Speakers were brought in to meet and discuss various topics. Amongst them was a retired professor whose idea of creating an “eco-village” was pitched first to this group and then to the town council. They decided to start with a demonstration building that could serve as a model of cutting edge green technologies and offer a place to hold workshops, seminars and other community activities. The Craik Sustainable Living Project is involved in 4 phases of this project:
1) Eco-Village: lots available for a nominal price to those who put forth proposals for homes that utilize green techniques
2) Eco-Centre: large multi-purpose building that is both demonstration site and community building with restaurant and rental space
3) Outreach and Education: curriculum for grades school, library on sustainable topics and climate change, Solar Fairs and trade shows based on sustainable living and green technologies
4) Community Action: competitions between local towns to meet the One Tonne Challenge, waste management alternatives, etc.

Over the last five years the town has managed to turn themselves around in very significant ways. They have welcomed 47 new families over the last year and a half! They have hosted fairs and trade shows and brought hundreds of people to their community to learn from their example. They have attracted a large-scale business that will build a factory for processing hemp and natural fibres using green technologies and thereby create dozens of new jobs. They have a chemical-free nine-hole golf course that attracts many players. They have received national and international coverage as a leading example of how a small community can thrive and benefit from the choices they have made together in envisioning their future.

For more information on Craik: http://www.craikecovillage.ca/

FUNDING: Some sources of funding used by Craik and available for communities looking to build a sustainable future:

Green Municipal Fund: grants and low cost loans available for capital projects and sustainable community development needs. http://sustainablecommunities.fcm.ca/GMF/

EcoAction: funding for up to 50% of costs for projects that take positive action at community level. http://www.ec.gc.ca/ecoaction/what_is_e.html

paper prepared by Camelia Frieberg. Printer-friendly PDF

Establishing a Mahone Bay Housing Development Corporation

DISCUSSION PAPER ON ESTABLISHING A MAHONE BAY HOUSING DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

by Veryan Haysom

ASSUMPTIONS:

  1. Mahone Bay requires special-needs housing for elders, as well as affordable housing to encourage young families to live in Mahone Bay.
  2. The Town of Mahone Bay has publicly owned land that could be used for housing.
  3. The Town of Mahone Bay wants to maximize its revenues from housing developments in the town.
  4. Publicly owned assets are to be publicly developed for the benefit of the whole town.

One approach to address housing needs and maximize revenues to the Town of Mahone Bay

A. Incorporate a for-profit Mahone Bay Housing Development Corporation.
The mandate of the Corporation would be to:
1. buy land in the Town of Mahone Bay, whether publicly or privately owned;
2. buy and renovate existing buildings in town; and
3. develop, own and operate apartment buildings, condominiums and housing units in Mahone Bay to:
a) supply housing for elders who are residents of the town and have special needs;
b) create a supply of affordable housing in Mahone Bay to encourage young families to locate in the town; and
c) increase housing stock in the town.

The Town of Mahone Bay would own the Corporation and would hold all the voting shares.

If it gets at least 90% of its income from operations in the town, the Corporation’s income would not be taxable under the Income Tax Act (Section 149).

B. Transfer ownership of the 2.9-acre Town-owned lot on Kinburn Street (at the northern corner of Kinburn and Hawthorn Streets) to the Corporation.

The Corporation could seek development financing from other lenders but the Town would hold a second mortgage, at a commercial rate of interest,
for the market value of the property in exchange for the land transfer. The Corporation would then have a valuable asset ($350,000 assessed value) with which to launch its business.

C. The Corporation would pay Town property and commercial taxes and be treated as any other private developer of privately owned land in the town.

This would provide the Town with tax revenues for the assessed value of the land, change-of-use taxes and commercial taxes.

D. The Corporation would be free to develop the land and any other property it buys on the basis of described needs of town elders and the demands of the housing market, in accordance with its mandate.

Housing currently occupied by town elders who move into the Corporation’s facilities would then become available on the Mahone Bay housing market.

The Corporation could make money from:

1. rent and potential capital appreciation if properties are leased; or
2. proceeds from unit sales, subdivision or converting its property to condominiums; or
3. both.

As previously noted, the Corporation’s revenue would not be subject to payment of income taxes.

Net income from operations would be available for re-investment in the development of Mahone Bay housing or for payment to the Town as dividends.

Note: This short paper cannot fully address the financing of the development of housing by the Corporation. Financing options might include: federal or provincial program funding, bank financing with federal or provincial guarantees or even public/private infrastructure funding (e.g., pension funds or other capital pools seeking long-term, stable rental streams) with capital appreciation. Another option would be a joint venture with a private developer with project development expertise. â–¡

Concept proposed by Veryan Haysom

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How development should be adding to our resources, not trading off one for another

By Alleson Kase

I believe that successful community development builds on existing community resources, including the participation of community residents. It adds to what is already present in the community, while respecting the concerns of its members, rather than trading one resource for another.

GOALS

1. Preservation of existing resources of Mahone Bay

 Preserve current recreational resources
 The soccer field at the Old School
 Walking trails
 Under this and every other point, please add the many concerns that I’ve left out
 Preserve natural environments
 Woodland plants and animals
 Watershed
 Preserve character and ambience of Mahone Bay
 ‘Village’ feel/look/sound of residential neighbourhoods and commercial streets
 Blend of diverse residential architectural styles representing 150 years of local craftsmanship

2. Increase long-term sustainability of Mahone Bay

 Increase the Town’s revenue to meet expense of necessary maintenance and improvements
 Increase town’s tax base
 Increase number of residents and/or residential units
 Preserve and/or increase desirability of the town as a location for businesses
 Increase quantity of good quality and accessible housing for an aging population as well as new residents
 Avoid down-loading external costs of development onto current tax payers
 Increase diversity of population
 Increase total number of year-round residents (by 25 – 30%?)
 Broaden demographics (age, income, etc.)
 Increase viability of local businesses
 Larger customer base
 Larger pool of potential employees
 Attract new businesses with growth potential

POPULATION TRENDS and CONCERNS

A discussion of development plans for Mahone Bay would also benefit from an awareness of current real estate and population trends. A recent study by Scotia Economics predicts a gradual cooling of Canada’s real estate market; those sales that do occur will likely be limited to specific sectors and populations.

 Nationally, the age group most likely to buy a home in any given year — those aged 25-44 years — will grow by only 2% in Canada in the next decade.
 Growth in the younger portion of that group — those 25-34 — will support moderate demand for entry-level homes and condos in urban centres close to employment opportunities.
 The numbers of the older portion of that group — those aged 35-44 — are expected to decline in the same period, cooling off the already under-performing market for suburban homes.
 During this same period, most population ‘growth’ by age group will be amongst older Canadians (i.e., the post-WWII baby-boomers who are approaching retirement age).
 The number of Canadians aged 45-64 is projected to rise by 15%; the number over 65 will jump by an extraordinary 65%!
 These Canadians will likely create what demand growth there is in residential real estate with purchases that “move-up” (in quality) and “down-size” (in square footage). This trend will favour condos, vacation homes and urban areas with greater services.
 Immigration will account for two-thirds of Canada’s population growth in the coming decade, and perhaps Canada’s only source of population growth by 2030.
 While historically lower wage rates translate to lower rates of homeownership among new Canadians, immigrant families who do buy homes are more likely to buy in major cities.

The above points predict a very sluggish market for entry-level homes located in small towns and suburbs for the next several decades — the very types that are proposed in Bob Youden’s concept.

HOW DO WE MOVE FORWARD?

A mutually agreeable solution would need to address all of the above. We can…

 tap into the creativity of residents to help arrive at a variety of solutions, which will also better reflect the current diversity of lot sizes, housing styles, market values, etc.;
 develop a substantial number of new residential units designed for the most likely market;
 spread units over several locations (for example,
4 sites that total 16 acres rather than a single 16 acre site);
 preserve current resources while developing new ones;
 focus future development on lands that would benefit from renewal (i.e., old pastureland, recent clear-cuts, flood-damaged lots, old derelict houses, etc.);
 position seniors’ units in areas that provide safe and easy access (flat terrain within walking distance of amenities);
explore creative financing ideas

FOOTNOTES

1. – I haven’t used the term “affordable” because Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) states
“To be considered affordable, a homeowner project must have unit sale prices which are below the average price for similar units in the market.”
I don’t consider that the concept presented by Bob Youden meets CMHC’s definition.
2. – http://novascotiabusinessjournal.com

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Alleson Kase, 51 Main Street, Mahone Bay, 624-0427

Development alternatives

June 5, 2007

Dear members of the Mahone Bay Town Council and citizens of the community,

It seems redundant to bring new families into a town, and at the same time deplete that very community of its family resources such as the soccer field (and village green) and nature trails. How does Mahone Bay plan to address the outstanding issue of bored youth (often victims of prejudice, seen on the street) and its relation to few recreational facilities and activities? Or what about the long withstanding issue of underemployment in the area? Although I support the idea of affordable housing, I do not think it is the solution to Mahone Bay’s dwindling population. To attract families to this town, I believe that we must build new (and preserve current) recreational facilities and employment opportunities.

However, if development has already been given the green light, why not consider other locations? What happened to the development behind the tennis courts? Is it complete? What about the barren land next to the fire hall? Would this not be a suitable place for such a development? And the empty lot across from the fire hall as well (now chained off, and containing spare boat parts, etc.)?

Running along the Maggie Maggie River, these lots already overlook another development: the Quinlan condominiums. It would follow that if Mahone Bay is to increase its development, an area already used for such a purpose would be an ideal location. This area could stretch from the new houses on top of the hill behind the tennis courts, down to Quinlan condos, and perhaps the small area of trees (with few to no walking trails) adjacent to the lot with the boat parts, bordered by the Maggie Maggie River and Kinburn St., ceasing at the bridge just down from the graveyard road.

Development in this area would require little destruction of the natural habitat (avoiding clear cutting, top soil damage, climate change, and depletion of a beloved community area) as it is either already barren (without even grass!) or cleared. This area is close to Bayview Community School, the local nursery school, and the Mahone Bay Centre (for the young families) It is also very handy to the Pharmasave and community activities such as bingo at the fire hall (for the senior citizens). All would be able to enjoy tennis courts in addition to their indoor pool (if deemed necessary, as the development would already be neighboring the town’s outdoor swimming pool).

I hope that the town and its citizens will consider all of the factors (including the lack of affordable housing and recreational facilities and activities for families and residents of ALL ages) contributing to Mahone Bay’s problem of a decreasing population, before deciding on a strategy for solution and tactics to achieve it.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Shelagh Abriel

PO BOX 419
MAHONE BAY, NS
B0J 2E0

Field of Dreams

May 29, 2007
The Editor
Bridgewater Bulletin

Dear Sir,

The following are my thoughts and concerns about the MADE for Mahone Bay Ltd. development proposal reported in your paper of May 23, 2007.

Field of Dreams, W. P. Kinsella, “If you build it they will come”

The proposal by MADE for Mahone Bay Ltd. to develop 16 acres in town may be a great deal for Made for Mahone Bay Ltd. but a terrible deal for us, the residents and tax payers of Mahone Bay. Here is why based on the facts reported in the Bridgewater Bulletin, Wednesday May 23, 2007;

The area to be developed is serviced by two roads, School St and Fairmont. Now there will be some very heavy trucks using those roads to transport earth moving machinery, countless cement trucks, numerous trucks delivering building materials and a hoist of contractor’s trucks bringing material and people to the job site. I don’t believe either of the existing roads can handle that kind of traffic for one year let alone the seven that the developers say the project will span. So are there any plans to upgrade any of the roads? None that I’ve heard about and the $90,000 being paid for the property won’t cover the costs to upgrade one road. Who pays?
Mahone Bay tax payers will get the bill!

Now those roads have the water and sewer pipes buried beneath them, a water and sewer system that is probably over 50 years old. The proposal is to add about 300 new residents to the 16 acres. Does the town council think that the existing system that feeds this development can handle this new demand with out an upgrade? People use a lot more water these days then did our parents and grandparents 50 years ago. So, more people using more water, surely this will challenge the capability of the system to or beyond its limit. Will the $90,000 cover the cost of upgrading the sewer and water lines? I don’t think so.
Mahone Bay tax payers will get the bill!

Next there is the question of drainage of 16 acres. The forest and wet lands hold the water and let it drain at a natural rate. Now assume that 50% of those 16 acres is covered by buildings and roads. Where does the water now drain? Into those already overloaded sewers. Slow drainage means flooded basements. Who gets the bill?
Mahone Bay tax payers will get the bill!

Now look at the development schedule. The first items to be built are senior’s residences, an apartment and the first subdivision street. The senior’s residence and apartment are revenue producing buildings, which I guess would produce a reasonable cash flow for the operators. Could it be that these are enough for the developer to recoup his investment and make a profit? When these buildings are 75% subscribed the developer will start on the next phase. I don’t see the demand for the rest of the housing that the town council and the developer see, so I’m skeptical that they will be able to sell the second phase to the 75% level required to move on to the third phase and thus the project will halt and the land will sit scarred by the anticipated building but unusable for recreation. When sales stall there is no incentive for the developer to aggressively market the properties because he is making money from the senior’s residences and apartments and he is paying little or no tax on the remainder of the land. The contract covers his risk but not the town’s risk. I suggest that the council should put a reasonable tax levy on the undeveloped portion of the land and after a set period of two years when the land should have been developed and sold but has not, the tax levy should double, and keep increasing in subsequent years. This will at least provide an incentive for the developer to market and sell the properties. If I’m wrong and the demand for the properties is real then the developer should have no fear of this kind of incentive.

This development proposal is a bad deal for us, the tax payers of Mahone Bay. It will cost us money long before the revenue from an increased tax base is available to off set infrastructure costs. If town council insists on going ahead with it then I recommend the following actions.
The town council must to go back to the negotiating table with the developer and
1. get money to improve the affected roads,
2. get money to improved the affected water and sewer system and
3. put a tax penalty in the contract that will ensure the developer has an aggressive marketing program in place to sell the properties and not abandon the project.

I fear that the town council sees this development as a field of dreams. If we build it they will come, the 21st century equivalent of the 18th century foreign protestants. They will come driving from Lunenburg looking for their piece of this new country to settle. Dream on!

Yours sincerely

Derwin Spencer
64 Maple St. (Box 151)
Mahone Bay NS

Troubleshoot petition problems

If you have trouble signing the petition because someone else has done so on the same computer, there are several solutions:

1. (The simplest) – Above the blue box where it says “Thank you! You signed at 12:34 PM PDT, Jun 15, 2007” and beside the green “sign petition!” you may see in small blue letters: “Not John Doe? [the previous signer’s name] log out“. Then a new person can sign.

2. Use a different browser – i.e. Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari – if you have it installed on your computer.

3. Delete the cookies in your browser. In Internet Explorer 6 for example it’s in Tools > Internet Options > General > “Delete Cookies” button halfway down the page. (That would sign you out of anything you’ve signed into, however, and you may not want to do it – no website would recognize you and you might be hunting for long-forgotten passwords at Amazon or whatever, if your browser remembers passwords. Cookies aren’t all bad, despite how many people feel about them.) In Firefox it’s in Tools > Clear private data, or for more control: Tools > Options.

Some people have had problems leaving a comment when they sign the petition. We really do want to encourage comments as they add a lot of weight to your signature. We can delete a signature if necessary, but we aren’t sure if you can then log off, log on again, and sign it again with a comment. If you need to do something like this, .

Next Public Meeting July 5

~ ~ ~
The Mayor and a group of citizens of Mahone Bay
invite you to a
PUBLIC MEETING
JULY 5 at 7 pm,
at the Legion Hall, Pond St., Mahone Bay.
Facilitator: Muriel Agnes

Purpose: To engage the citizens of Mahone Bay in exploring strategies that meet the challenges we face while protecting the old school land.
• Celebrate The Beauty Around Us
• Understanding The Town’s Challenges
• Share Your Thoughts About Options For The Town
• Discuss Ideas for Citizen Involvement in Planning the Town’s Future

We are looking for alternative locations for seniors housing and affordable housing while keeping valuable assets like the soccer field and the woods. We can retain the character of Mahone Bay while developing housing in scale with the town. The town needs to attract economic development with new creative strategies. Share your constructive thoughts at this public meeting. Come and be a part of finding solutions for the Town’s growth.