Proposed residential development takes hit after council rejects policy change


A Halifax-based real estate firm's plans for a 30-unit residential complex on the former Fairview Inn property in Bridgewater took a hit when civic politicians declined the company's request to change planning policy.

BlackBay Real Estate applied in September for concurrent re-designation and rezoning of the Queen Street site, on the town's west side, which it hoped could lead to a potential development agreement establishing the multi-unit building.

Bridgewater's current planning and land-use rules stood in the way of BlackBay's project.

The re-designation would have been a policy change concerning future residential density intent for the property. BlackBay also sought rezoning consistent with the requested density policy change. Once those steps were achieved, the company planned a development deal with the town.

During an April 12 town council meeting, civic politicians rejected the requested re-designation, choosing to maintain the property's current density status.

Town planner Mackenzie Childs outlined several reasons to decline BlackBay's policy proposal.

Childs pointed out issues surrounding water infrastructure and necessity for "considerable" wastewater upgrades.

"After a preliminary review ... staff believe the existing infrastructure in the area is likely insufficient for the proposed development," Childs told the council. Later in her presentation, she noted "there are no plans within the current 10-year capital budget for infrastructure upgrades for Queen Street in the area of the proposed development."

BlackBay proposed options for cost-sharing upgrades with the town and provided two scenarios, one of which stipulated the company would get a 10-year property tax exemption.

Mayor David Mitchell worried about the financial impacts and optics of such a proposal.

"My concern with this would be setting a precedent where the taxpayer is funding the upgrade required for a for-profit development," Mitchell told his council colleagues. "The town doesn't generally use taxpayer money to facilitate a development that is for-profit ..."

BlackBay Real Estate is linked to companies that in recent months acquired King Street interests in town. The tavern is now a sports bar and a former bank building is converting to a six-storey, 19-unit residential development with ground-floor commercial space.

A BlackBay representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

The former Fairview Inn property - a 3,200-square-metre empty Queens Street lot - remains on the market for $225,000. The property is currently owned by a numbered company linked to an insurance agency in Bridgewater.

The inn itself was consumed by fire in June 2011. The fire-ravaged building was torn down in December 2011 and never re-built.

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