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