PORT HAWKESBURY: After several years of discussions that have spanned three different provincial administrations, town officials and the Nova Scotia Government are in the home stretch of transferring a parcel of land from the province to the town.

Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Michel Samson and Port Hawkesbury Mayor Billy Joe MacLean each confirmed last week that talks have picked up regarding a parcel of land owned by the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR) that previously housed the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Campus and its predecessor, the Canso Regional Vocational School (CRVS).

Speaking to reporters after last week’s town council meeting at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, which faces the Reeves Street property in question, Mayor MacLean explained that the town had received a commitment regarding the land transfer from provincial officials this past summer, following one final year-long round of negotiations with DTIR and the Strait regional school board (SRSB), whose SAERC high school site is adjacent to the land in question.

“We had the school board that needed property and parking, and we needed [DTIR office] parking [at the town’s Provincial Building], and all kinds of stuff,” MacLean recalled.

“It was slow-moving, trying to get appointments and trying to get it nailed down, but we got a commitment about two months ago.”

As approximately five decades’ of the property’s provincial ownership prepares to come to a close, MacLean is hoping the land in question can house his long-time proposal for a senior-oriented multipurpose centre that would include up to 100 housing units and such amenities as a bank, a pharmacy and a medical clinic.

“We’re very happy,” the mayor beamed.

“That’s a prime piece of property, and I think that could really change the look of Reeves Street if we’re successful in attracting that kind of investor… I think, if they can pull that off, it will generate great tax revenue.”

Speaking to The Reporter, Samson praised MacLean, who is not re-offering in this Saturday’s municipal elections, for his dedication to the land transfer.

“I know that the mayor has identified this as one of those issues that he certainly wants to see addressed as he’s getting on the sunset portion of his career as mayor,” the MLA pointed out.

“The fact that someone that has given so much of his life and his family time to serve the people of the Town of Port Hawkesbury, even in the dying days, is still lobbying us on certain files which are clearly meant to be for the best interest of the town, I think it speaks volumes, and we certainly want to see this done.”

While Samson suggested that “a few complications” remain with the property transfer in terms of a nearby access road and the adjacent Port Hawkesbury Veterans’ Memorial Park, the MLA is confident that the town will soon take control of the land parcel.

“Negotiations are moving in the right direction, and all indications that I’ve received is that this is something the province wants to see done,” Samson added.