Detailed Description of the Proposed Affordable Housing Development in Mahone Bay

The Town Council of Mahone Bay has unanimously accepted a proposal for the development of affordable housing using town-owned land (Chester Clipper, May 22, 2007, page 2).

The Land

The Mahone Bay Centre with the soccer field in the foregroundFour parcels of Town-owned land are going to be conveyed to the developer for this development (the Land). The principal piece is some 14 acres in extent. It used to be a school property. The property has already been sub-divided to separate the old school building from the rest of the Land. The old school building is now the Mahone Bay Centre (owned and operated by a not for profit community organization) and lies at the Northeastern end of the land. The remainder of the principal piece is a strip that is approximately 140 meters in width and 415 meters in length along its north east to south west axis.

The Southwestern boundary runs along the old Canadian National right-of-way which is now the Bay to Bay Trail. Its northeastern boundary is land owned by Nova Scotia Power and used for the power line that runs to the substation at the terminus of School Street.

House bordering soccer fieldThe northern end of the land has a number of features. There is a private residence at the terminus of School Street which forms part of the northern boundary. The land is currently accessed at its northeastern end from School Street by an entry that runs between the residence and the Mahone Bay Centre. The other entry, on the opposite side of the northern end of the land, is across a vacant lot of land on Fairmont Street which is also owned by the Town. This lot has traditionally been used for access to the rear of the old school and is now used to access the Centre and the soccer field. The soccer field occupies a large portion of the north eastern end of the property which also adjoins the rear of the Baptist Church on Maple Street.

Adjoining the Southeastern boundary of the land are 13 lots along the northwestern side of Fairmont Street from Maple Street to the terminus of Fairmont Street before it intersects the Bay to Bay Trail. These 13 lots contain 10 residences. The traveled portion of Fairmont Street (technically Fairmont Street Extension after the intersection with Pine Grove Street) is some 14 feet wide. After Fairmont Street reaches the top of the hill it becomes a gravel road and drops sharply into a small valley. Town water and sewer services end at the crest of the hill. Two of the ten residences abutting the land draw their water from private wells and are served by septic fields. Of the three vacant lots two are serviced lots owned by the Town and are going to be dedicated to this project so as to enable access to the development and are part of the Land.

While this land is in the hills behind the Town it is not part of the drumlins that characterize the Northwest Hills. The Bay to Bay Trail runs along the northeasterly base of the drumlins at this point. The land appears to be underlain by shale bedrock, which is visible in places.

Forested slopeThe land generally slopes from southeast to northwest with the high land running along the southwesterly boundary and sloping down toward the northeasterly boundary. The land is intersected by a small valley that contains the duck pond stream and wet land. In combination with the slope downward from southeast to northwest there is a rise up hill from the soccer field then a drop into the valley followed by another rise up hill toward the Trail. A smaller tributary of the Duck pond stream runs through the Nova Scotia Power property and may enter the land on its northwest boundary just as the stream leaves the land on its way to the Duck Pond (and then on to the Maggie Maggie River, which it joins opposite the Quinlan Condominium development.)

The main values currently associated with the land comprise the soccer field, in use as a playing field since 1934, some brown space that is an old quarry which was associated with the construction and upgrading of the soccer field and related drainage works, woodland, wet land, and at the southwest end a small mature second growth pine forest. All ages play soccer hereThe soccer field is a ‘village green’ in addition to being a very fine field where people of all ages play soccer. It is used by a number of programs based in the Mahone Bay Centre including the South Shore Alternative School. The woods behind the soccer field are a quiet, beautiful space enjoyed by a number of residents for strolls, walking their dogs, bike riding and cross-country skiing. The wetlands are part of an extensive series of swamps and streams that are drained by the Duck Pond stream as part of the Maggie Maggie watershed.

The neighbourhood

The Land is very central within the Town of Mahone Bay. Mahone Bay is a small Town, about 1.20818 mi2 or 773.423 acres in extent. This is a Town in which all residents are neighbours and the land is part of the community’s back yard. It is land that the people of the Town own in common through the municipal corporation of which they are members. The Town owns an estimated 38 acres of land within its boundaries. This parcel of Town-owned land has served educational and recreational purposes for a very long time. It has also comprised part of the Town woods for a very long time. It is currently zoned Residential in its entirety.

Everyone's backyardEven in this small town there are neighbourhoods and this land is also at the centre of one of Mahone Bay’s neighbourhoods. It is hard to define the boundaries of the neighbourhood with precision. The immediate neighbourhood includes Pleasant Street from School Street to the Fauxburg Road, Pond, Maple, School, Spruce and Pine Grove Streets, Hedge Row, Stove Pipe Lane and Fairmont Street from Pleasant Street to the Trail. Like all neighbourhoods there are a diversity of properties, people and opinions and it is dangerous to generalize about it. It is a mixed neighbourhood, containing grand homes and mobile homes, shift workers, professionals, young families, children, and retired seniors, newcomers and life-time residents in their eighties. It is a neighbourhood that contains vacant lots (some serviced, some not) and affordable housing. There are some empty homes which are on the market for various reasons including the death of an elderly and long-term permanent resident to land speculation, and land clearance has started on one treed lot in preparation for the construction of a new home. Generally, these are homes that are occupied year round by people who have lived in them for a long time.

People walking on the main pathAs a neighbourhood it is spacious, peaceful and permeated with the sounds of nature and of children playing. It is a neighbourhood that has established paths through the land. The main path runs the length of the land from the soccer field to the Trail. There is a path that runs up from the duck pond to the soccer field. There is another path that runs across the land from Jubilee Park to the main path. And there are paths from the lots along Fairmont Street to and through the land. These are old paths and some are well used. It is a neighbourhood where people know each other. It is a neighbourhood that is part of the forgotten beauty of Mahone Bay. Up a path to Fairmont St.It is not photographed, it is not on the waterfront or Main Street, it is not toured by those en route from Peggy’s Cove and Chester to Lunenburg, but it is part of the beauty that surrounds and defines the Town. It is the kind of neighbourhood that attracts people to the Town.

The Development

The development has been presented as a concept. Detailed engineering plans have not yet been prepared. Over the next 5 – 7 years a developer will provide the following types of affordable housing using the land:
96 one and two bedroom seniors’ apartments. The number of these apartment buildings and their dimensions are not clear. It appears these apartments will be housed in a cluster of three buildings along the southeast boundary of the land on what is now the soccer field.

  • 30 Assisted Living apartments for seniors
  • 36 two and 3 bedroom apartments for the general population. It appears the assisted living and general apartments will comprise 3 buildings on or in the vicinity of the soccer field along the northwest side of the land.
  • An indoor swimming pool in a separate building near the southern corner of the Mahone Bay Centre.
  • 36 duplex homes
  • 32 single family homes.

The apartment clusters and pool will be accessed primarily from the current rear entrance to the Mahone Bay Centre. They will also be accessible from the current entrance to the Land on School Street. Three additional roads are planned. One will be located on the top of the Fairmont Street Hill and will be a dead end crescent serving approximately 16 single-family lots. A second street will be constructed at the end of School Street and will travel the length of the property, with a number of bends and a final curl ending in a dead end. Running off this longer street at right angles to it and located in the wetland will be another short dead end street. These two roads will serve the duplexes and the remaining 16 single family dwellings. The roadways will be linked by footpaths and no cutting of trees will take place within 20 feet of a boundary. The housing is described as having zero maintenance exteriors and as being energy efficient. 32 different designs will be available to choose from and the designs will be consistent with current Mahone Bay architecture.

The intention is to accommodate 300 people or more within these parameters. The single family homes will cost $149,000 each and duplex homes $129,000 each. The sizes will range from 950 to 1,050 sq ft of finished space and will provide unfinished basements space in addition. The lot sizes will be 7,000 sq ft each.

The land will be made available to the developer for $90,000. The town plans to subsidize the purchase of lots using that money. The development is valued at $24 Million. All dollar amounts are in 2007 dollars.

The Process

The Town council and the developer invited citizens and taxpayers of Mahone Bay to a heavily attended public meeting in the Legion Hall on Wednesday June 6 at 7:00 pm to receive information about the concept, to raise questions and discuss the proposed development. Many concerns were raised by audience members.

Discussion has continued, including presentations to Town Council, one of which is available here. The mayor and a group of citizens are organizing another public meeting with a neutral facilitator on July 5th.