Open Questions for the Mahone Bay Town Council about the Youden Development Proposal for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands
In his July 18, 2007, letter to our community the Mayor reported that the Council of the Town of Mahone Bay is committed to reviewing the many questions that have been raised about Mr Youden’s development proposal for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands. We are pleased to see the Council engaged in that process. We would like to contribute to their deliberations by offering a list of questions gleaned from many residents who have expressed concerns to us about this development proposal and the Council’s decision to support it in principle.
In providing these questions, we continue to believe that the Old Mahone Bay School Lands should be preserved as public lands for recreational use and for their ecological value. We also believe the Town should not be using public resources to advance a flawed development proposal.
We believe this is a basic list of the questions that need answers. They are serious questions. We know Council is already addressing a number of them. We understand some are complex questions and it will require expertise and time to answer them. We ask, however, that the Town Council respond to the questions and make the answers available to the public before Council makes any further decisions.
Respectfully submitted on behalf of friends of the Mahone Bay woods and field, July 23, 2007, by the following residents of Mahone Bay
Veryan Haysom, Fairmont Street, Stephanie Macleod, Fairmont Street,
Valerie Hearder, Fairmont Street, Bob Sayer, Pleasant Street,
Deborah Hickman, Stove Pipe Lane, Ellen Agger, Main Street,
Keith Macdonald, Fairmont Street, Tim Worthington, Fairmont Street,
Sue Bookchin, Kinburn Street, Penny Carver, Spruce Street,
Chris Heide, Stove Pipe Lane.
Open Questions for the Mahone Bay Town Council about the Youden Development Proposal for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands
Planning and Procedures
1. The Old Mahone Bay School Lands are presently owned by the Town and are currently used by residents of the Town, the general public, the Mahone Bay Youth Soccer Association, the Youth Stewardship Centre, the summer theatre program and other programs run out of the Mahone Bay Centre.
(a) On what basis has the Town decided that the Old Mahone Bay School Lands are no longer needed for Town purposes?
(b) What studies were done by town staff or consultants to demonstrate that the lands are no longer needed?
(c) When and under what circumstances was that decision made by Council?
2. The Town decided to offer the Old Mahone Bay School Lands to developers for $90,000.00. This represents approximately 52% of the assessed value of the land assembly. Has the Town Council established a policy to use Town owned lands to depress property values in the Town?
3. What process or procedures will the Town Council follow before it conveys the Old Mahone Bay School Lands?
4. Does the Town intend to transfer the Old Mahone Bay School Lands to MADE for Mahone Bay or to Mr. Youden?
5. The Town called for proposals for the development of the Old Mahone Bay School Lands in February, 2007, after being approached by Mr. Youden.
(a) Who prepared the call for proposals?
(b) Who prepared the development concept?
6. The Town received two proposals in response to the call.
(a) Who submitted the second proposal?
(b) What did the second proposal contain?
(c) Was the proposal that was approved in principle by the Council the same as the proposal that was announced to the media on May 17 or were changes made to it before it was announced?
7. The Youden development concept for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands was announced to the media on May 17, 2007. On May 1, 2007, the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) requested the Town’s Planner to prepare a density study in light of the Youden Development concept for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands and in the context of the Committee’s review and preparation of a new Planning Strategy for the Town.
(a) What information about the Youden development concept for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands was available to the Committee on May 1, 2007?
(b) Why was that information not announced to the public before May 1, 2007?
8. On what date, and at what meeting, did the Town decide to approve the Youden development concept for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands?
9. Why is the decision to approve the Youden development concept for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands not reflected in the minutes of meetings of the Town Council?
10. What studies and reports (other than the density study prepared by the Town Planner for the PAC) were requested or prepared by the Town or any of its departments, commissions or committees in relation to the Youden development proposal for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands before the Council made its decision to approve the proposal in principle?
11. The Town of Mahone Bay planning documents (Planning Strategy and Land Use By-law) are out-dated and while they have been amended since the new Municipal Government Act come into effect in 1998, they have not been revised so as to account for the repeal of the Planning Act and the provisions of the Municipal Government Act. Such a review is currently under way. Does the Town intend to make decisions about the Youden development concept for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands before the revised planning documents are in effect?
12. The Town’s planning documents were amended to reflect the decision to sub-divide the Old Mahone Bay School Lands and transfer the old Mahone Bay School building to the Mahone Bay Centre Society. They were not amended to reflect the fact that a recreational playing field exists on the remainder lot.
(a) Why were the planning documents not amended to reflect the fact that a recreational playing field exists on the remainder lot?
(b) Will this situation be corrected?
13. The Town’s planning documents do not deal with affordable and special-needs housing. The Statement of Provincial Interest Regarding Housing in the Municipal Government Act says that planning documents must include housing policies which address affordable housing, special-needs housing and rental accommodation.
(a) Has the Town established definitions of what is meant by these terms for purposes of Town planning?
(b) If not, how and where did the Town establish its definitions of affordable housing and special needs housing for purposes of the February call for proposals and the Council’s review of the proposals that were received in response to the call?
14. The Town of Mahone Bay is required to prepare a Community Integrated Sustainability Plan. Does the Town intend to proceed with the Youden development proposal for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands before the Community Integrated Sustainability Plan is in effect?
15. The 20/20 Vision exercise called for the development of the Town’s green lands by putting in recreational trails and recreational facilities. Why is the Town council not following the specific vision put forward for these particular lands?
16. The Youden development concept calls for the construction over a period of 5-7 years of 103 residential units that are not specifically designated as being for seniors. These are understood to be targeted for young families.
(a) What is the current demand by young families who want to come to Mahone Bay for housing in the $150,000 range?
(b) What is the current demand by non-seniors and young families for apartments in Mahone Bay?
(c) What independent (other than the Developer’s) studies have been done to show the nature, extent and location of this demand?
(d) Has the Town Council maintained statistics on the number of residential units of various types that become available in Mahone Bay from month to month and how quickly they change hands in order to gauge the need for new residential units in Town?
17. A small number of young families have recently moved to Mahone Bay.
(a) What studies have been done to find out what it is that drew them to Mahone Bay?
(b) What was it that made them decide to purchase property in Town?
(c) How are these factors accounted for in the Youden concept for the development of the Old Mahone Bay School Lands?
18. There are new housing developments in Bridgewater, Lunenburg and Oakland.
(a) What is the regional demand for affordable housing?
(b) How will the increased regional supply of housing impact on the price, availability and desirability of housing in Mahone Bay?
19. Recent studies show that youth are leaving rural Nova Scotia for employment in provincial growth centres such as HRM or national growth centres such as Alberta and the lower mainland of BC.
(a) On what basis has the Town determined that there is a demand for 36 apartments for the general population, 38 duplex homes and 29 single family homes?
(b) What is there to draw and keep 103 young families in Town?
20. Demographic information published by Statistics Canada shows Nova Scotia with a disproportionately large aging population, and a report by Scotia Economics predicts seniors of 65 and over will provide the demand growth in residential real estate and that they will look for housing that represents a â€œmove-upâ€ in quality and a â€œdown-sizeâ€ in square footage.
(a) How does the Youden development concept avoid the market trend identified by Scotia Economics and capture the younger housing market?
(b) How will the Youden development concept be able to ensure that these 103 residential units are reserved for young families and will not be filled by seniors?
21. The Youden development concept calls for the construction of 30 assisted living apartments for seniors.
(a) What is the current demand for seniors assisted living units within the Town of Mahone Bay?
(b) How will the current demand be affected by the construction of seniors’ assisted-living units in Bridgewater and possibly in the Lunenburg area too?
(c) What independent studies (other than the Developer’s) have been done to show the nature, extent and location of this demand?
(c) Have the organizations in Town that are involved in meeting the needs of seniors, such as the Interfaith Committee, been consulted?
22. The Youden development concept for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands will see the construction of 96 one and two bedroom seniors’ apartments in addition to the 30 assisted living seniors’ apartments. This envisions the addition of between 126 – 180 elderly people to the population of the Town.
(a) How does this address the Town’s concern about the aging Town population and the decreasing number of young families and children in the Town?
(b) Was a needs assessment done in order to establish the scope of this aspect of the development?
(c) What other local organizations have been consulted as to their plans and/or recommendations for seniors’ housing
23. Where will these seniors come from?
(a) If these seniors currently live in Mahone Bay, what will be the impact on the local housing market when they vacate approximately 100 living units?
(b) If they are currently living in the surrounding communities, what impact will the new vacancies in the surrounding area have on the housing market in Mahone Bay?
24. What consultations have been carried out with the South Shore Regional Health Board about the supply of services that will be required by this demographic?
25. Is there an adequate number of properly qualified workers (in the area or the province) to service the needs of seniors?
26. Seniors, like all of us, prize their independence and freedom of movement. However, they are more dependent than the general population on safe and easy access to streets, buildings and sidewalks.
(a) What plans exist to ensure safe pedestrian, walker and wheelchair access between the downtown area and the proposed development?
(b) What costs will the Town incur in this regard?
27. Accommodating seniors involves a series of steps or stages starting with independent living, moving next to assisted living, and then to nursing homes. It also implies the ability to meet needs through facilities specifically for people with Alzheimer’s and in need of geriatric care. The Youden development proposal does not address any needs beyond the need for assisted living.
(a) What plans or studies have been done to assess needs for nursing home facilities and for specialized services such as geriatrics?
(b) What plans are there to meet these needs?
(c) Will there be costs to the Town?
28. Current water supply in Town has a low pressure. Residences on the Fairmont Street hill suffer not only loss of pressure but loss of water when hydrants are opened on Main Street. There was not sufficient pressure in the Town water system to feed the Hawthorn Hill development.
(a) Have water supply and water pressure studies been done with respect to the supply of water to an additional 230 residential units?
(b) How will adequate pressure be maintained for the additional 230 residential units?
(c) What effect will the Youden development concept for the Old Mahone Bay School lands have on water supply and water pressure issues in the remainder of Town?
(d) How will water pressure be maintained for those on the top of Fairmont Hill, to houses uphill on Main Street and other high points on the far side of the Old Mahone Bay School Lands?
29. If additional pumping capacity is to be installed:
(a) Where will it be located?
(b) What will it cost?
(c) Who will pay the costs?
30. What additional, off-site, water supply and water pressure costs will be incurred by the Town?
31. What ongoing on-site operational and maintenance costs will be incurred by the Town with respect to water services for the Youden development concept once all phases are constructed?
32. A number of residential areas of the Town are not currently served by the Town’s water supply. What impact will the Youden development concept have on the extension of Town water services to current taxpayers of the Town who are without water utilities?
33. One of the current water quality issues experienced with respect to the Town water supply is that the water lines end in a series of dead ends without through flow. This results in sedimentation and other problems. The Youden development concept for the Old School Lands calls for the construction of 3 new dead end streets.
(a) Will the water mains also be dead-ended?
(b) What off-site costs will the Town incur in order to avoid dead-end water mains?
34. The Youden development concept will place significant additional demands on the Town sewage system. A number of the existing sewer lines in Town are old. Sewer service is not currently supplied to all residential areas of the Town.
(a) Do the existing sewer lines have the strength and capacity to service sewage from 229 additional residential units?
(b) Will additional pumping capacity be required?
(c) If so, where will it be located?
(d) How much will it cost?
(e) Who will pay?
(f) What are the ongoing on-site maintenance and operations costs to the Town?
35. What impact will the additional 229 residential units have on off-site sewage system operation and maintenance costs?
36. What impact will the Youden development concept have on the extension of Town sewer services to current taxpayers of the Town who are without this Town service?
37. Storm sewers in the downtown core overflow during heavy rainfalls.
(a) What studies have been done to evaluate the quantity of additional storm water run-off that will be generated by the Youden development concept?
(b) What existing storm sewers will receive the additional storm run-off?
(c) Do the existing storm sewers have the capacity to service the Youden development concept?
38. What additional development and ongoing off-site operation and maintenance costs will be incurred by the Town with respect to off-site storm sewers as a result of the Youden development concept?
39. What additional costs will the Town incur with respect to the on-site operation and maintenance of storm sewers?
Roads and Traffic
40. Fairmont Street from the intersection with Pine Grove is a cul de sac no wider than 21 feet and is as narrow as 12 feet at its steepest parts on the crest of the Fairmont Street hill. The Youden development concept calls for this section of Fairmont Street to service a new dead-end street that will be at least 50 feet wide.
(a) Is this possible without widening Fairmont Street?
(b) What traffic flow and engineering studies, opinions and advice have been obtained in relation to this concept?
(c) What road works will be required to enable Fairmont Street to service the proposed new road in the Youden development concept?
(d) What will the road works cost
(e) Who will pay the road work costs?
41. If Fairmont Street is to be widened:
(a) Are expropriations planned?
(b) What will expropriations cost?
(c) How will the Town pay for expropriation costs?
42. School Street, also a cul de sac, would also service 2 new 50 foot wide dead-end roads. It is also a narrow street. The distance between the property at 57 School Street and the NSP power transformer is approximately 20 feet. School Street ends in a very steep embankment.
(a) What road works would have to be constructed at the end of School Street in order to access 2 new 50 foot wide roadways of the Youden development concept?
(b) What will these road works cost?
(c) Who will pay these road work costs?
43. Would the NSP transformer facility have to be relocated?
(a) If so, where to?
(b) Who would pay the costs of relocation?
44. Would property on School Street have to be expropriated to make access to the Youden development concept viable?
(a) If so, at what cost?
(b) Who would pay the expropriation costs?
45. The Youden concept calls for 230 new living units to be serviced by Fairmont and School Streets.
(a) Has the Town done any traffic volume and traffic flow studies to assess the implications of these new living units for traffic volumes and flows in the Town?
(b) What is the estimate for the number of additional vehicles that will be housed in this new neighbourhood and those that will be visiting it on a regular basis?
(c) What are the parking requirements for the 132 apartments and 30 assisted living units and where will the parking be located?
(d) What are the predicted impacts of the additional traffic?
(e) What are the predicted impacts on parking in Town off site?
46. What are the predicted impacts of having to clear snow from the proposed development on the ability of the Town to clear its streets following a major snow fall?
(a) Will there be longer wait times for all roads to be cleared?
(b) Will additional road clearing equipment be needed?
(c) If so, how will it be procured?
(d) What are the estimates for new and additional road clearing and maintenance costs?
47. The Youden development concept calls for 5-7 years of construction activity.
(a) Do the existing streets serving Fairmont and School Streets have the capacity to carry the heavy construction equipment and vehicular traffic associated with the Youden development concept?
(b) Are School and Fairmont streets wide enough to accommodate the turning radius of large construction vehicles?
(c) What impact will this weight and volume of traffic have on the streets of Mahone Bay?
48. What additional off-site costs will be incurred for street maintenance and repair as a result of the construction activities?
49. What arrangements are planned to avoid or minimize the impacts of this type and duration of construction on the affected streets and neighbourhoods?
50. Large and heavy vehicles used in the construction industry have to make wide turns. The intersection of Fairmont Street and Pleasant Street intersection is narrow and at times it is necessary to back up to permit a large vehicle to make a turn at this intersection.
(a) Will expropriations be necessary on this corner for purposes of street widening?
(b) Are there similar implications for other intersections that service the old school lands?
51. There are times when it is difficult to make a safe left turn onto Main Street at the bottom of Pleasant Street because of pedestrians in both cross walks, through traffic on Main Street, and traffic entering and exiting the Save Easy Parking lot.
(a) Will the additional traffic using this intersection require the installation of traffic lights?
(b) Will traffic lights be required at other intersections?
Sport and Recreational Values of the Old Mahone Bay School Lands
52. Soccer is the fastest growing sport in North America and the most popular sport in the world. The Soccer field on the Old Mahone Bay School Lands serves a vibrant youth soccer club with over 170 active players, 40 of them from the Town of Mahone Bay. The playing field that is part of the Old Mahone Bay School Lands supports soccer as one of the few growth ‘industries’ of the Town. Why destroy the playing field?
53. What equally well-developed and well serviced facilities exist to support the soccer club on publicly owned land elsewhere in Town?
54. What will it cost the Town to build a replacement field of equal size and quality using public land?
55. What will it cost to acquire an equivalent piece of land if no public land is available?
56. What additional commercial activity is added to the town as a spin-off from the use of the soccer field?
57. What effect will destruction of the soccer field have on the Town’s credibility in relation to programs, funding and support from the Office of Health Promotion and the other Municipal Governments in the region?
58. What impact will the reduction of Town sporting facilities have on the ability of the Town to attract and retain young families?
59. The playing field is used by more people than soccer players. It is also used by tenants of the Mahone Bay Centre such as the South Shore Alternative School as well as by the theatre and other programs based in the Centre. In addition it serves as a village green. How will the Town meet the cultural, educational, recreational and social needs of its residents that are currently being met by the field if the field is destroyed?
60. The woods to the southwest of the playing field are used for recreational purposes and by the Youth Stewardship Centre, which is based in the Mahone Bay Centre, for educational purposes. These woods comprise some 40% of the Town-owned green space and Town-owned recreational use land. They are crossed by a number of old and well used trails and paths. The woods and walking trails contribute to the rural environment and high quality of life that the Town’s citizens prize so highly. Does the Town have an assessment of the economic value of the non-market social and environmental assets represented by this land?
61. Does the Town intend to preserve the existing trails and traditional pathways?
62. The Old Mahone Bay School Lands fall quite steeply to the northwest and also run across a small valley that contains marshes and carries the streams that feed the duck pond in Jubilee Park. There are significant stands of old timber along the south eastern boundary and throughout the south western third of the property.
(a) What assessment has been made by the Town of the environmental services being performed for the community by these assets?
(b) What assessment has been made of the environmental impacts that are going to be experienced as a result of the Youden development concept?
(c) Given that these lands provide carbon storage, and that the development will increase the Town’s carbon footprint, are there any plans to off-set these impacts?
63. On what basis has the Town decided it is acceptable to eliminate or bury part of the watercourse as proposed in the Youden development concept? Given that the Youden development concept calls for a road to cover the present watercourse, what will happen to the water?
64. How will the destruction of the flooding buffers which are currently provided by the wetland affect properties and land below the site of the proposed development?
65. Given that surface material will have to be stripped from the land, how will this resource be dealt with?
66. What are the impacts of exposing the shale underlying the Old Mahone Bay School Lands and what are the implications in terms of arsenic and acid rock drainage?
67. Given the relatively steep slopes on the Old Mahone Bay School Lands, how much blasting and earthworks will be required in order to make the lands accessible by road and usable for the lot configurations, including full basements and parking, at the densities proposed in the concept?
68. What engineering costs and studies will be required in order for the Town to verify the feasibility of the Youden development concept? What will these studies cost?
69. What is the value of the standing timber on the old school lands? Who will get the benefit of the lumber on the land if the Youden development concept is implemented?
70. Will a study be commissioned on the wildlife that uses the Old Mahone Bay School Lands as habitat and the impacts of the proposed development on wild life?
71. Will a study be done of the flora of the Old Mahone Bay School Lands in order to identify area that might require preservation or protection?
72. Will an analysis be done to designate old trees on the site as heritage trees with a view to their protection?
73. A standard concept in the assessment of large development projects is to determine if there are alternatives that can deliver the same benefits with fewer negative impacts. Will the Town undertake such an assessment?
74. How many other parcels of land are owned by the Town?
(a) How big are they?
(b) Where are they located?
(c) Are they serviced or readily accessible to town utilities?
75. How many privately owned vacant serviced lots are there in Town?
(a) Where are they located?
(b) Are any of these available for development?
76. The South Shore Housing Authority seniors’ complex on Cherry Lane is located on 2.14 acres of land. The Town owns, in its own name, at least 2 parcels of comparable size in proximity to the downtown area. Both have full street frontage. One is accessible to Town services and one is un-serviced. Have these parcels been assessed to determine whether they can accommodate alternate, smaller scale developments that are more appropriate and more capable of responding to present and predicted needs of Town residents without incurring significant, expensive infrastructure costs?
Social and Economic
77. Major developments have the potential to cause social impacts both during construction and during their operational or on going existence. Is there any intention to carry out a comprehensive social impact assessment in relation to the proposed development?
78. HRM recently imposed a moratorium on new housing developments because of the costs to the municipality of ongoing servicing obligations following construction. When the moratorium was lifted it was lifted only in areas within the municipality that are considered growth centres. Will the Town consult HRM about its experiences in this regard?
79. The Town is planning to sell a large and central land assembly for about half its assessed value. The proposed development will impact dozens of adjacent properties and add 229 new residential units to the housing stock of the Town.
(a) What consideration has been given to the implications of the development concept for the value of properties and for the marketability of older housing stock in both the affected neighbourhoods and throughout Town?
(b) Specifically, what effect will the new housing have on property values of older homes owned by senior citizens who want to sell in order to move into the new development?
(c) What expert opinions have been sought as to the impact of the proposed development on housing values in the Town?
80. The Youden development concept will proceed in phases with the second and succeeding phases contingent on the sale of the previous phase(s). In order for the first phase to proceed as planned the Town intends to convey the land to Mr. Youden.
(a) What are the impacts and implications if the second or any subsequent phase is not built?
(b) Specifically, will the playing field be lost without the Town receiving the full benefits that it anticipates from the development concept?
81. The Town has been mandated under the Municipal Government Act to define what ‘affordable housing’ and ‘special needs housing’ mean in the Mahone Bay context. It has not done so. What is the definition of affordable housing in Mahone Bay?
82. What is the definition of ‘special needs’ housing in Mahone Bay?
83. What is the policy of the Town in relation to apartments and low-cost or social housing (as distinct from affordable housing)?
84. How are these policies reflected in recent planning decisions such as the Quinlan development?
85. What is the timetable for revising the Town’s planning documents to provide for these social and economic dimensions to the planning process?
86. Will a public meeting(s) be held to discuss the issues before revision decisions are made by Council?
87. When the proposed development was announced to the media on May 17 the Mayor was quoted as saying that federal and provincial funding might be available for the development. Has the Town Council investigated the various sources of Federal and Provincial funding that can be utilized to support the collection of data, a thorough assessment of the Town’s needs, and the various means of addressing the challenges faced by the Town?
88. What federal and provincial funding is available to the Town and the developer for purposes of the proposed development in the way of grants, subsidies, loans or loan guarantees?
89. The Youden development concept for the Old Mahone Bay School Lands has been approved in principle by the Town Council because the Council argues that it will revitalize the Town, reverse current population trends, and have a significant positive impact on Town finances, and on rates and taxes. Will the Town disclose the financial analysis that supports these conclusions? Specifically, will there be additional costs to the town as a result of the addition of 230 new residential units?
90. What additional costs are predicted for the provision of the housing subsidies referred to in a media report following the May 17 announcement of the proposal, policing, solid waste collection and disposal, street cleaning and snow plowing, the operation and maintenance of Town infrastructure services and utilities, including the electrical utility and street lighting?
91. The size of the current Town staff is described by the Mayor as â€œlimitedâ€. What additional Town personnel will be required as a result of the demands of a 5-7 year $24 Million development project and a one third increase in the population of the Town? What are the costs associated with an increase in Town employees?
92. What costs will be incurred by the Town for purposes of completing the studies, legal agreements, design and planning assessments, inspection and other similar costs of finalizing the Youden development concept and then monitoring and regulating it to ensure compliance with standards during the 5-7 year construction period?
93. What are the gross revenues that will be generated for the Town during each phase of the development and following final completion?
94. What are the revenues that will be generated for the Town following completion of the Youden development concept net of all development and operation expenses to the Town?
95. Have spread sheets been prepared detailing all financial information, including revenues, costs and cash flows, in relation to each year of the development project and for a reasonable period following its final completion?
96. Have financial plans accounted for reasonably predictable scenarios such as significant variations in the number of units, lots and densities due to engineering, access and environmental constraints; delays in completion, the inability to proceed to a second or subsequent phase because assumed market demand does not materialize; fluctuations in interest and currency rates; and cost over-runs?
97. Will spread sheets demonstrating predicted town revenues, expenses and cash flows under different scenarios be made available to the public before decisions are made by the Council to transfer any of the Old Mahone Bay School Lands to Mr. Youden?