Rezoning of residential land in “Old Town” Antigonish moving forward

HALIFAX: The rezoning of residential land on one of the oldest streets in Antigonish will move forward following a dismissal of an appeal by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

The Town of Antigonish approved an amendment to the Land-Use By-Law (LUB) to rezone the land at 116 Church Street from Residential First Density (R-1) to Residential Second Density (R-2), which allows for two residential units on a single lot in consideration for sub-division and development as a flag lot.

A report was prepared by Antigonish’s Acting Director of Planning and Development Officer, Brynn Nheiley in October of 2017. A notice of public hearing by the Town of Antigonish appeared in local newspapers advising a public hearing was to take place on June 19 at 6 p.m. in council chambers to consider rezoning 116 Church Street from R-1 to R-2.

At the hearing, Nheiley noted the approximate location and the various sections of the planning documents that needed to be considered. Council accepted Nheiley’s recommendation and approved the rezoning.

On September 14, 2017 the board received a notice of planning appeal, dated the same day, from Douglas MacDonald and Dr. Robert Sers, who are both residents of Church Street.

The reasoning behind their appeal was that the town failed to inform affected residents by mail, and as a result the residents didn’t have a chance to appeal. They also assert the decision negatively affects the privacy and property values of residents, particularly Sers’ residencet.

“We do not believe that there is a reasonable expectation that the published notices could reach everyone in the time allotted,” Sers said in the appeal.

Sers’ concern is by allowing one lot to be subdivided it would likely lead to more such re-zonings.

“This would absolutely impact the character of the neighbourhood,” he said. “Enjoyment of the properties, their privacy as well as their value are all threatened by this rezoning decision.”

A hearing was held in Antigonish on May 1.

Sers testified that, in his opinion, Nheiley’s statement that the proposal will have minimal impact on the neighbourhood, which consist of other properties operated as rental units, was inaccurate.

“The area includes numerous private residences, several of which are Registered Heritage Properties,” Sers said.

Sers suggested this was a factual error and town council made a decision based on erroneous information.

Nheiley explained it wasn’t her intention to treat it as if there were no private residences in the neighbourhood and the report was written for an audience that knows the neighbourhood very well.

“It was originally presented to the planning committee which consists of councillors and residents of the town,” she said. “In the readings by council it was presented to councilors who are all very familiar with the town.”

She noted any potential development that would support Antigonish’s struggles of having adequate housing for both the student as well as the permanent population is “positively contributing to the affordability and the diversity of housing available in the community.”

Nheiley testified any development taking place would have conditions pertaining to the architectural qualities, such as pitch of the roof and colour schemes in keeping with traditional housing throughout the town of Antigonish, as the property is located within what the town deems as “Old Town.”