MacLeod Group Health Services, developers of the new nursing home in Mahone Bay, say more trees were felled on the Main Street site than originally planned because of a change in building footprint to appease neighbouring property owners.
Ramsay Duff, chief executive of the Antigonish County-based company, said the original design made public in 2018 and 2019 positioned the new 96-bed home closer to one side of the property and allowed for greater retention of several mature trees.
"Unfortunately, as part of the public consultation process to address concerns of the adjoining property owners, we were required to move the building west and south – resulting in the approved site clearing as evident by viewing the site," he explained to LighthouseNOW in an email.
Construction of the new three-storey $40 million facility is expected to take two years to finish. The 2.4 hectare site is at civic address 164 Main Street. The building is expected to open in December 2022.
The new nursing home replaces the current 61-bed provincially-licenced long-term care Mahone Nursing Home at 640 Main Street.
Civic politicians in Mahone Bay authorized a development agreement with the business last year.
"We have taken all required steps to protect the brook including retention of the tree line adjacent the brook as required by the development agreement," Duff added, noting the deal includes a provision to add a public access walking trail adjacent the brook.
"Some of the cut trees will be re-used as part of the trail including benches for trail users. Our landscaping plan does add back green space and improved public access to the site."
A review of landscaping plans and site tour is planned, he added, as is a meeting with a group that has interests in trees in town.
Mahone Bay council received written correspondence from two women concerned about tree cutting in town. Wendy Priesnitz and Susan Robertson both mentioned MacLeod Group's new nursing home property.
"I am appalled at the devastation there, including the tree cutting right down to the creek, which will likely cause problems with erosion, silting," Priesnitz wrote, in part.
"I realize that tree removal is the simplest and least expensive route to developing a site. But I believe that efficiency must be balanced with protection of biodiversity and conservation of our natural resources such as trees and waterways."
Town council awaits a staff report on drafting a trees bylaw. The matter is expected to be discussed at strategy and policy committee.
Robertson said she is concerned with the disappearance of trees in our town in light of the importance of tree coverage and green spaces.
"I must say I was rather shocked to see a significant destruction of trees visible from one of the walking paths I enjoy regularly on the new nursing home property," she noted, in part.
"Besides changing the atmosphere of that walk itself now it also seems like such a great loss for the future residents who will be living out their final years there."
During a town council meeting April 13, civic politicians agreed to send replies to Robertson's and Priesnitz's correspondence.