FARBLACK pulling out of Lunenburg

by Charles Mandel

  • <p>Gayle Wilson photo</p><p>A construction fence in Lunenburg shows messages of support for Farley Blackman.</p>

Farley Blackman is calling it quits in Lunenburg.

The magazine publisher, restorer of numerous heritage buildings in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and art gallery owner announced on Facebook that "it is with profound regret that we have decided to cease further investment" in the South Shore town.

Blackman wrote over the weekend of August 20th that his company FARBLACK will no longer move ahead with a planned brewery, cidery, distillery and chocolate shop that had been under development for three years.

"These businesses would have created more than 100 jobs, increased year-round opportunities and activities for residents and visitors and would have underpinned brand 'Lunenburg' and brand 'Nova Scotia' as we exported our products around the globe."

For a few weeks now, the construction hoarding on the back of one of the buildings Blackman owns has had written messages of support attached to it from people wishing the Blackmans well (Farley's wife Courtney helps run the couple's Dis.cord Gallery, among other things).

A rally in support of the Blackmans is also scheduled for August 22 in Lunenburg.

Blackman could not be reached for comment; his wife told a Progress Bulletin reporter a week earlier that an announcement would be forthcoming when asked for comment.

In his post the entrepreneur cited problems with Lunenburg Mayor Rachel Bailey, and CAO Bea Renton. Blackman alleged: that they have "created and enabled a toxic and obstructive environment at the Town Hall which does not align with our core values nor the values generally necessary to facilitate a diverse community, entrepreneurialism and commercial growth."

Blackman also made oblique reference to an alleged incident that took place during the Folk Harbour Festival. He wrote: "Unfortunately, the Mayor's behaviour toward us – some of which has recently become public – has led us to make the values-based decision to end further investment in Lunenburg and by default, Nova Scotia."

Ostensibly at the heart of the matter is a text Bailey is alleged to have sent Blackman while he was seated in the Lunenburg Opera House - a building he renovated - during the Folk Arts Festival.

However in an interview with LighthouseNOW last week, Bailey said, "I send messages to people all the time. I think private messages are intended as that, private messages. If the individuals choose to share them then I think that's perfectly acceptable."

But, according to a source who declined to be named told LighthouseNOW that a larger issue revolved around an electrical transformer over the proposed site of Blackman's cidery. Allegedly the town was unwilling to split the cost of having the transformer removed, which in total would have cost somewhere in the region of $80,000.

Bailey said Blackman never petitioned town council to have the transformer removed and the cost split. Asked if Blackman had ever come before council over the issue, she said, "Not to my knowledge."

In September 2016, the Blackmans discovered graffiti spray painted on the pavement in front of their Lunenburg gallery and which said: "Go away."

Originally from the United States, the Blackmans have been seasonal residents of Lunenburg for some 13 years.

During his time in the town, Blackman has bought, renovated and sold a number of properties, including the Opera House. That building is currently for sale for $1.9 million.

He also opened the Dis.cord Gallery on Montague Street, which reportedly world-renowned architect Brian MacKay-Lyons has purchased.

The couple also owns houses in the town and recently purchased the Masonic Temple.

On his website, Blackman is described as a former executive with British Petroleum, General Electric and Motorola, who has worked directly with "businesses and governments throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Latin America.

"Farley's personal passions include nature conservancy, the preservation of historic buildings and the promotion of the arts."

Over the weekend FARBLACK's Facebook page filled up with tributes to the couple.

"Any town, community, or city would bend over backwards to have such a forward thinking and generous company in their area. A massive loss for us all. Those who made this happen, should have a hard time looking the towns people in the eye. Do they have any idea, how big of a mistake this was?," read one typical post.

Blackman wrote that the couple will take a "measured approach to divesting our Lunenburg portfolio, while we establish our interests and brands elsewhere.

"The town of Lunenburg remains a magical place of historic significance, great natural beauty and fantastic people and will always hold a place in our hearts."

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