Photo by Grant McDaniel -- John Bain (standing), the Eastern District Planning Commission’s director of planning, appeared before Inverness Municipal Council on September 7.

PORT HOOD: Council was divided, but ultimately the Inverness municipal unit decided to overturn a decision made by the Eastern District Planning Commission (EDPC) to allow developers to create additional housing in the village of Inverness.

John Bain, the EDPC’s director of planning, had turned down a request to grant a variance for a property located on MacKenzie Avenue in Inverness. The request was submitted by Matthew Hart, a lawyer with the firm of Boudrot Rodgers. The intent was to allow sub-division of the lot into two properties.

In defending his decision, Bain said the Municipal Government Act gives him three tests to decide if a variance can be allowed.

The variance can’t violate the intent of the land-use by-law, nor can a variance be granted in cases when the land-use by-law has been intentionally disregarded. Hart’s request didn’t violate either of those matters.

“The issue becomes this: is the difficulty experienced general to properties in the area?” Bain asked. “What I did was look at properties in the area, and the next three lots are all in the same situation. So is a lot across the road. Those are the four lots I referenced in my decision to turn down the variance.

“That’s what [Hart] is appealing on, that it is not general to properties in the area.”

Bain suggested that council had three options, councillors could uphold his decision, or table a decision until more information was received. Council also had the right to overturn Bain’s decision and grant a variance.

Hart also addressed council, and he noted that he was not only legal counsel in the matter but also one of a three-person group looking to buy the property.

“We’re not looking to do anything more than what currently exists on the property,” he said. “The municipality recognizes that two addresses have been at that property. Our intention is to build a duplex in that area that’s consistent with that area.

“I think we have to look at the area we’re talking about, commonly known as the red rows,” he said. “That area has similar structures and lot sizes, the majority of which have been subdivided. We’re only talking about the few that haven’t been sub-divided yet.

“We want to assist with the Inverness housing issue. We want to build houses for people in Inverness.”

Councillors John Dowling and John MacLennan voted in favour or keeping Bain’s decision in place, and the remaining council members – Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie, Deputy Warden Alfred Poirier, and councillors Laurie Cranton and Jim Mustard – sided with Hart.

Though council was divided, the overall tone of conversation was respectful.

“If something like this happens again, are you four going to pass that one too?” said MacLennan.

“We’d have to hear the case first,” said Cranton, to which Warden MacQuarrie added both sides of every case have to be heard.