ARICHAT: Councillors want to consult with the planning commission after receiving a request to support the development of a property on Isle Madame.

The Isle Madame Christian Assembly Society asked for a letter of support in its application to the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment to build a cemetery at 122 Cove Road in West Arichat during the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on November 26.

In its letter to council, the society also asked for tax exempt status for the same property under municipal by-law #56.

After staff reviewed the application, Warden Jason MacLean said it was determined that the society owns the land in West Arichat, is a registered non-profit organization operating for 12 years, has consulted municipal staff and fully explained their request, and meets the criteria for tax exemption since it is a church using the land for religious reasons.

Because the society has yet to construct a physical church – although they have promised to do so – Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC) has the right to later exempt the church once it’s constructed, and MacLean said council can revisit the issue after the building is constructed and PVSC gives its decision.

In its letter, the society said it formed an official assembly on Isle Madame in December 2017 after starting on the island approximately 12 years ago. In March 2018, the society was registered as religious not-for-profit with the goal of becoming a corporate entity that can acquire property.

The society wrote that is has provided the office of the building inspector with preliminary plans for the meeting hall.

“The outcome of the property tax exemption proposal will influence the final plans for this project as it affects the future financial burden on the assembly,” wrote the society’s recording secretary Olger Verlage and director Dave Quigley in a letter to council.

In the correspondence, the society said it will use a small part of their land in West Arichat for 50 cemetery plots, which will be situated behind the planned meeting hall.

Deputy Warden Brian Marchand noted that before giving its support, council should make it conditional on the society’s building plans getting the approval of the Eastern District Planning Commission (EDPC).

District 1 councillor James Goyetche said he has no problem with the letter of support, but also wants to make sure their plans conform to current zoning by-laws.

District 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher said without all pertinent information – such as how big the meeting hall will be, the size of the setbacks, or getting the input of the EDPC – he was unable to give his support.

Council decided to send a letter of support to the provincial environment department for the graveyard, but until a structure is erected on the property, council will not approve tax exempt status.

“If the property were there and it was used as a church, then the tax exemption would be in place,” MacLean added. “There’s just a few questions marks that come along with that so council really didn’t feel it was appropriate to address that issue just yet.”