Bristol Avenue residents protest proposed four-storey apartment building

Bob Chouinard, Valerie Wilcox, Carolyn Campbell, Janet Perry, Tony Flint and Roger Wilcox, all residents of Bristol Avenue in Liverpool, were among a group of people who told Region of Queens councillors on Tuesday that they oppose a 24-unit apartment building proposed for their street. (Rick Conrad photo)

Residents on a busy street in Liverpool are concerned it will only get more hectic if a 24-unit apartment building is built in their neighbourhood.

About a dozen people presented a petition to regional council on Tuesday and spoke against the development planned for 48 Bristol Ave., during the meeting’s regular time for public comments or questions.

They say they have 35 signatures of residents upset that the proposed four-storey building is too big for the area. They are worried about increased traffic, motorist and pedestrian safety and increased noise. 

They say the design doesn’t fit with the character of the many historical homes in the area. And they’re also concerned that existing water and sewer services can’t handle up to 100 new residents. 

Tony Flint, who lives right across from the proposed development, organized the petition. He told councillors on Tuesday that it would be a mistake to allow the development to go ahead. 

“I think a 24-unit, four-storey building with the potential of housing as many as 100 people and 50 vehicles is way too much for the footprint of the real estate,” Flint said in an interview after the meeting. “It’s just an inadequate property to handle a building of this nature.”

Bristol Avenue is a busy thoroughfare into and out of Liverpool. The two-lane road is the main access to and from downtown Liverpool. If you live in downtown Liverpool, Western Head or Mersey Point, it’s the most direct route to get to many services like the town’s two grocery stores, Queens Place Emera Centre and gas stations, or to get onto Highway 103.

There is no sidewalk on the side of the road where the development is proposed. It’s currently undeveloped green space with mature chestnut trees. The 6,720 square-foot building would be set back 10 feet from the street, with 24 parking spots behind and on the side of the building. The lot is about 36,000 square feet.

As part of the site plan approval process, residents within 100 feet of the development were notified by the municipality in a letter dated June 19. According to a letter from development officer Mike MacLeod, they had 14 days to appeal.

Mayor Darlene Norman said Wednesday that councillors found out about the development last week when they received their meeting package.

“There’s a process for appealing. They write a letter to the planner stating that they wish to appeal and then they give their reasons of which they’re appealing. And it has to be based on the criteria that the site plan was approved on.

“Unless there are appellants, unless people within the 100 feet of the subject property make application to be an appellant and to appeal the site plan approval then there is nothing council can do at this time.”

Norman said the proposed building meets the zoning requirements. She added that staff take a serious look at new developments to ensure they follow the municipality’s land use bylaws.

“People don’t understand that council do not have the ability to simply shut down stuff just because people don’t like it. We have to live within the rules that we’ve established.

Flint said he wrote a letter to MacLeod objecting to the proposal. He said that he and his neighbours believed they were getting their appeal on Tuesday, with the petition and speaking to council.

“But we presented the petition and what they do about it, yeah, I would consider that’s a written appeal,” Flint said Wednesday.

“We would like to proceed and continue further if necessary. Whether we’re beating our head against a brick wall, we don’t know. We all feel like we accomplished something by bringing it to the council’s attention. And there were several people that were completely unaware of it.”

Carolyn Campbell is another Bristol Avenue resident who also expressed her opposition Tuesday about the new building.

“I’m concerned that it could possibly be a death trap. As far as I know, there’s only one entrance off of Bristol and they all have to come out the same way. … If there’s a fire or if there’s an emergency vehicle needing to get in there, it could be bad.”

She and others worry about increased congestion caused by this development and a 45-unit building under construction behind Bristol Avenue on Mersey Avenue.

Janet Perry said residents agree with the need for more housing in Liverpool, just not in that location.

“We all live in close proximity to each other and we’re all going to be facing that building. The traffic is horrendous on that street, the noise is horrendous. There’ll be so many other things happening. … Garbage pickup in the mornings, can you imagine how long there are going to be trucks parked on the street? It’s just going to be a nightmare. I’m sure there’s another site (where) it can be built. We’re not opposed to housing, we’re just opposed to that location.”

Norman said that if the development goes ahead, a new council may decide to address any traffic issues that arise. 

“It always has been and it always will be a busy street. If these apartments are built and it’s deemed that there’s a need to put a crosswalk, there’s a need to put streetlights to improve traffic flow … then I’m certain that council at the time will do those things. But at this point in time, we are going through the process as it is.”

Email: rickconradqccr@gmail.com

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Killing Coastal Protection Act makes shoreline more vulnerable, Queens residents say

Brian and Cathie Mourre

Brian and Cathie Mourre live in Eagle Head. (Rick Conrad photo)

Nova Scotia’s coastline now has even less protection after the province announced Monday that the Coastal Protection Act is dead, some Queens County residents say.

Tim Halman, Nova Scotia’s minister of environment and climate change, announced the government would not proclaim the long-delayed act, effectively killing it.

The legislation was passed with all-party support in 2019. Instead, Halman introduced plans, tools and other legislation that would have property owners, municipalities and the province share responsibility for protecting coastal property.

He said the government wants to empower coastal property owners to make informed decisions. As part of that, the government introduced a new online coastal hazard map that shows projected sea levels, storm surges and flooding potential to the year 2100. 

Residents who have been waiting for stronger coastal protections were disappointed, but not surprised. Len Michalik lives in Eagle Head.

“I was somewhere between disappointed and vindicated in my thoughts that wow this is really where they’re going with this,” Michalik said. 

“They’ve kicked this can so far down the road that it’s in the ditch and unrecoverable. They promised they were in full support of this when in opposition. … And ever since they’ve come into power, they’ve done seemingly everything they can to make themselves look good while pushing it to the side.”

Michalik is part of the group Protecting Eagle Head Beach. 

It was formed in June 2022 when former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly bought a property on Eagle Head Beach and immediately blocked the road through the property which people used as one way onto the beach. The community was also upset that he was damaging the beach and wetlands on the property.

Despite many appeals to and meetings with Environment and Natural Resources officials, as well as with Queens MLA and Public Works Minister Kim Masland and her staff, the development was allowed to go ahead.

Cathie Mourre lives in Eagle Head. She is also a member of Protecting Eagle Head Beach. She said the Tories could have committed to enforcing current environment protections and making them stronger with the new act.

 “But instead they took the easy way out and put it in our hands. We’re not experts, we don’t know how to protect the coastline.”

Mourre said she’s worried that more of that job will now fall to smaller municipalities like Queens, who have limited resources.

“And the thing is Nova Scotia is a coastal province. So what happens in the municipality of Queens isn’t necessarily the same that’s going to happen in the municipality of Lunenburg. So we have two coastlines butting up against one another and we’ve got two different sets of rules, well that’s crazy.

“The municipality had bylaws set out and we know they didn’t follow them. The Environment (department) has tons of rules. They didn’t follow their own rules.”

Region of Queens Mayor Darlene Norman joined 11 other municipalities last year calling on the government to enact the new legislation. 

She said that while she is disappointed, the region’s municipal planning strategy and land use bylaw, passed in 2022, has some of the strongest protections in the province.

She said she’s more concerned with neighbouring municipalities like Shelburne or the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg having minimal or weaker protections. The Coastal Protection Act would have levelled the playing field across the province.

Mourre says she believes property owners should be able to build on their own land. But they should be forced to follow the rules.

In the meantime, she says she wants a moratorium on coastal development. 

“And permitting on a beach is totally different than permitting in a subdivision,” she says.

“So when this permitting along the coastline happens, (staff) should be getting out from behind their desks and they should be going and looking at the piece of land that people want ot develop. It’s as simple as that.”

Michalik says he’d like to see the municipality resurrect and integrate the Coastal Protection Act into its own bylaws.

“However, I have my doubts that that will happen. We don’t have the resources or the manpower to actually do the investigation, do the research and do all the enforcement on it. I hope for the best but I fear the worst.”

Both Michalik and Mourre said, however, that maybe this will spur more people to pressure governments to do more to protect Nova Scotia’s coastline.

“We’re also in danger of having our licence plate motto which is known across the country and around the world, Canada’s Ocean Playground, is going to become the playground for those who can afford it. 

“The rest of us are going to have to stay in our designated areas and keep quiet.”

Email: rickconradqccr@gmail.com

Development on hold waiting for Region of Queens decision to extend water lines

Artist rendering of proposed neighbourhood developments

Rumclo Developments Ltd proposed Birchwood Gardens and The Curve communities. Photo from Rumclo Developments Ltd, Region of Queens Agenda package

A new affordable housing development in Liverpool hinges on whether the municipality is ready to extend water and sewer services along Shore Rd.

Rumclo Development Ltd is proposing to build 92 units of affordable housing between Shore Rd and College St in a community they’re calling Birchwood Gardens.

The apartments will be a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms ranging from 650ft2 to 1,000ft2.

Rent is projected to range between $696 and $1,200/month, depending on construction costs.

During their presentation at the most recent Region of Queens Council meeting on June 13, Rumclo officials expressed frustration that they have yet to see a study that will determine if municipal water and sewer can be extended.

Rumclo has requested the service extension for another development they’re proposing further along Shore Rd called “The Point”.

The presentation also included a development called “The Curve” which would sit adjacent to Birchwood Gardens affordable housing project.

The Curve will see 22 two and three bedroom 1,500ft2 townhouses built that would sell between $400,000 and $500,000 and rent at approximately $2,000/month.

They developers argue the new proposed developments can piggyback off the same lines that will service “The Point”.

Rumclo developer Chad Clothier says they’ve already lost this building season and are eager to learn if they will have the water and sewer extensions so they can plan to build in 2024.

“Ask the Region why the study isn’t coming back or what the hold up to the study is and it really makes it hard as a company to feel like we can get this project done if a simple study is taking this long to come back,” said Clothier. “So, we’d really like to get some insight on the study.”

Region of Queens Interim CAO Dan McDougall was sympathetic to the developer’s time pressures but explained determining if the municipality can extend those services is not a simple matter.

“It’s actually far more complex than just extensions,” said McDougall. “Extensions are one element of what we’ll likely receive back from the consultants. They’ll also provide insight on how the system needs to be improved in order to accept volumes, both water and wastewater.”

McDougall says the existing wastewater treatment plant has the capacity to handle the increased number of users but getting the flow to the plant will require significant upgrades to the underground infrastructure.

The CAO says the study is also looking at how providing municipal water to the developments will affect the existing system.

“You can get water to the lands that you’re proposing to develop but what are the implications on the rest of the system?” asked McDougall. “Will it result in negative water pressure in other areas of the municipality where improvements are required in order for the extensions to work for your project, but to work for the rest of the community as well.  So, it’s not a simple study.”

McDougall expects the final engineering report to come to staff and council for review in the next few weeks.

It will then be a month or two before it will be presented to council for a decision whether the project will go ahead.

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Queens Council roundup February 28

Entrance to Region of Queens council chambers

Entrance to Region of Queens council chambers. Photo Ed Halverson

Region of Queens Council will once again vote whether to build the new public library at Queens Place.

After receiving more information on the costs to run a road and services to the new location Councillor Maddie Charlton presented a notice of motion for council to vote on the suitability of Queens Place for the new facility at the next council meeting. There will be more to come on this story later in the week.

While the new library provided the most heated discussion there was still plenty to discuss at the Feb 28 meeting.

Staff continued reviewing and updating existing bylaws and presented council with a modernized Emergency Management Bylaw.

Council then filled vacancies on the Heritage and Planning Advisory Committees.

Next staff recommended council approve a development agreement for the construction of a three unit fixed-roof overnight accommodation on Beach Meadows Road.

A public hearing will be held March 28 in council chambers for residents to provide input on the proposal.

The next item was a proposal shift the various insurance policies held by the Region to a single provider.

The move could save the municipality $65,000 each year.

Eight items in the discussion portion of the session began with a request to name a private road, “Serenity Now Lane”.

From there council talked about the Region’s area rate policy and requests for area rates from Brooklyn Cemetery Association and Brooklyn Recreation Association.

An area rate is a tax collected for a specific community purpose which is collected by the municipality through the property tax bill and paid to the administrating group.

The two Brooklyn Associations were concerned they couldn’t meet the level of accounting standards deemed necessary by the municipality.

Mayor Darlene Norman says if the Region is going to collect money on behalf of an organization, there needs to be the upmost transparency.

“It’s very important that when groups come to us requesting us to collect taxpayer’s money on their behalf that there be a third party independent look at their books.”

Norman says the groups will meet with the Director of Corporate Services and their councillor before presenting their yearly budgets and the reasons the area rate is required in a public meeting.

Council followed that with the library discussion which resulted in the motion to rescind the approval of Queens Place as the new library site.

A question about installing new sidewalks in Cobbs Ridge was shut down when Public Works staff said if the sidewalk was to be built, the underlying infrastructure should be updated first, which would increase the cost of construction exponentially.

Council then punted a discussion of whether council meetings should be live streamed to the communications committee.

The committee is looking into ways to improve sound and video for people wanting to follow council proceedings from home.

The last discussion point was to have an engineering firm perform a comprehensive study of the heating and ventilation system at the Astor Theatre.

Staff are recommending the study be included in the 2023/24 budget and work should begin as soon as possible.

Finally, the municipality announced it has entered into a lease agreement at the regional airport with the South Shore Drag Racers Association.

Discussions are continuing with the South Shore Flying Club.

Region of Queens Council will meet next in council chambers beginning at 9:00am on March 14.

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Library construction cost estimates raise eyebrows among Queens councillors

A road leads to an open green space which is the proposed site for construction of a new library

The proposed site for the new library at Queens Place lies at the end of the driveway beside the sledding hill. Photo Ed Halverson

Members of the Astor theatre want permission to pursue grants for a new air conditioning system and councillors are concerned about ballooning costs for the new library at Queens place.

The late additions made for an exciting agenda at Tuesday’s Region of Queens council meeting.

The meeting got underway with presentations from the property valuation services corporation or PVSC. The organization explained how they assess properties before providing that information to municipalities to use when collecting property tax.

The next presentation was an update from the recreation and healthy communities department.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, members of the Astor Theatre made their case for why they want permission to install air conditioning. They say climate change has led to uncomfortably high temperatures during the summer months making the space an unsafe work environment. Because the Astor Theatre is a tenant in the Town Hall Arts and Cultural Centre, they need permission from the municipality to make any changes.

During the recommendation portion of the agenda councillors approved the placement, design, and size of the new outdoor pool which is proposed to be built alongside Queens Place. Council also took the extraordinary step of allowing the pool committee to research and write grants on behalf of the municipality. Grants will still need to be reviewed, approved and submitted by municipal staff.

A study on the feasibility of servicing two new proposed subdivisions in Mount Pleasant will go ahead. Councillors approved spending up to $21,000 for CBCL engineering to undertake a six-week study to determine if there is the capacity to handle water and wastewater flow and demand to the proposed developments. The results of that study are expected to come back to council sometime in April.

Next, councillors debated and ultimately approved the Astor Theatre’s request to apply for grants to install air conditioning. We’ll have more on this story in the coming days.

Eight items were on the agenda for the discussion portion of the meeting.

Council received updates on their implementation report and a financial review for the third quarter.

The province of Nova Scotia is conducting an economic study on the ferry service from Maine to Nova Scotia and approached municipalities in southern Nova Scotia for feedback on the evaluation criteria.

Council was informed environmental documents pertaining to the Mersey River wind farm project can be viewed at the regional administration office and the Thomas Raddall library. The project includes plans to install 35 wind turbines on the site.

Council then discussed property tax exemptions and set a date of March 3rd to begin discussing their 2023-24 budget.

The South Queens Chamber of Commerce asked the Region to assume responsibility for the hanging flower baskets on display on posts in Liverpool. Council discussed taking on the project but determined in fairness, it should be expanded to include Caledonia as well. Staff will investigate the specifics of the request and bring a report back to council.

Finally, council discussed the construction of the new library at Queens Place.

Around the table councillors say they’ve been hearing concerns from residents that the Region has not looked for other sources of funding for the project. Some also feel the location at Queens Place was misrepresented as the best option.

Councillors who had opposed siting the new library at Queens Place dropped their opposition when they believed it would be the most cost-effective option. During the discussion it was revealed the construction of the road and other infrastructure leading to the library could add over $900,000 to the cost.

Council will be looking for staff to provide more information and a clearer accounting of all costs when the library is brought back for discussion at the next meeting.

That meeting will take place Tuesday February 28th at 6:00 PM in council chambers.

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Developer wants Region to pay over $700k for extending water infrastructure to 87 new homes

Drawing of proposed housing development

Concept drawing for development on Dauphinee Farm land from November 8 Region of Queens Council agenda

A local developer is asking the Region of Queens to foot the bill to extend water and sewer services for the construction of 87 new homes in Liverpool.

Larry Cochrane wants to develop on the former Dauphinee farmlands across from the RCMP station on Shore Road.

A presentation to municipal council anticipates over 11 years, 87 new homes will be built and $1.6 million will be raised in municipal taxes.

Mayor Darlene Norman understands from the request that without the Region putting in the 150 metres of water and 200 meters of sewer lines the project will not proceed.

“If there is not sanitary municipal water and sewer then the lot sizes on his property would have to be much larger and he does not see that as financially feasible to push ahead on that,” said Norman.

Phase one, projected to be completed in seven years, would create 57 units including 30 semi-detached homes, three single family houses and a 24-unit apartment building.

The proposal presented to council suggests the $750,000 the Region would receive in taxes from the development over the next seven years would offset the estimated $725,000 cost of extending the services.

The second phase would begin in 2030 and proposes to build another 30 semi-detached homes and deliver $820,000 to the municipal coffers.

Norman says while it is unusual for the Region to entertain a request from a private developer to provide municipal services, in this case, the action would just speed up a process that was already planned.

“On our future land use zoning and documents, this does show the land in question is part of future designated land for municipal services,” said Norman.

The mayor says this is the initial ask from the developer and she expects more information to come forward to council in a reasonable time before they decide if they will support the project.

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A new way of living is coming to the South Shore

A large crowd gathered in construction site listens to a person speak

Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell addresses crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony for Treehouse Village Ecovillage. Photo Ed Halverson

After three years of planning Atlantic Canada’s first co-housing project is becoming a reality.

A groundbreaking ceremony for Treehouse Village ecohousing took place Saturday in Bridgewater.

The 30 unit co-housing project is the dream of co-founders Cate and Leon deVreede.

Cate says they didn’t take the conventional route to buying a house.

“We initially started when we were still renting an apartment. We skipped the single-home ownership and went to let’s build a whole neighbourhood,” said deVreede. “That’s the ambitious part maybe, or the dreamer part in us.”

Cohousing is unique in that the future residents work together to decide on the design and pay for the project. It balances privacy with community involvement.

Homes in Treehouse Village will be arranged to allow residents to easily socialize.

Each family will live in their own townhouse-style home but will have access to a large communal kitchen, playroom, library, co-working space, fitness area and dining room for shared meals.

Cate deVreede says going through the process of figuring out how decisions will be made to planning the design has helped the community form before the first foundation is poured and she’s excited to see it taking shape.

“This is really the first physical example that we have of the social community that’s come together already to design and get this thing built,” said deVreede.

A man stands behind a woman speaking into a microphone

Cate and Leon deVreede address the assembled crowd. Photo Ed Halverson

Treehouse Village isn’t just socially progressive. When it is complete, the development will be Atlantic Canada’s largest multi-unit Passive House construction.

That means all structures will be built and tested to meet extremely high-energy efficient standards to lower energy costs and save on long term maintenance.

Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony. He is pleased not only with how the development is attracting people to the town from all over but also how the ecohousing project aligns with the energy saving goals of the town’s Energize Bridgewater initiative.

“As we try to be more green, reduce our carbon footprint and try to find innovative ways to reduce our energy consumption, that this is the largest passive community in Nova Scotia, it’s a great template that we can build upon,” said Mitchell.

Of the 30 units only six are still available.

After three years of planning, the development is scheduled to be complete in the fall of 2022.

Leon deVreede says when Treehouse Village is complete, moving truck companies better be ready.

“We’re looking at having everything done and having everyone move in together so we can be a community, all at once,” said deVreede. “[It’s a] single-phase build, the money’s in place. It’s going to happen.”

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