ANTIGONISH: The town is looking at mixing it up when it comes to its commercial fringe areas.

Brynn Nheiley, planning and development officer with the Town of Antigonish, took the lead on a public input session looking at options to increase flexibility in the fringe areas of the town’s commercial district. Nheiley described the area in question as the bookends of Main Street and James Street.

“Those areas have purely commercial spaces pushed up against purely residential spaces and we’re looking to create a flexible overlay there where what look like commercial spaces might be used entirely as residences and what look like traditional houses might be used entirely as commercial, but allows for either/or.”

Nheiley said council is looking at making a change for a number of reasons, one of which is to address concerns about a lack of different housing options.

“We have property owners with large commercial spaces… that have a hard time looking for a tenant looking for that large of a space and [the tenants] would like the option to change to those residences,” she said.

“On the small business side, we have a number of entrepreneurs who are looking for a chance to take the next step… but they don’t have a small commercial space they can grow a business out of.”

Photo by Matt Draper
Town councillors, staff, and residents made it out to a public information and engagement session at Antigonish Town Chambers on April 10. The meeting looked at the possibility of increasing flexibility in the fringe of the town’s commercial area.

She said such changes combined with bringing people closer to the commercial areas will lead to a pedestrian supported commercial neighbourhood. As for the feedback she received, Nheiley said some people are excited and recognize the benefits of such a plan.

“Of course, there are concerns that we need to mitigate things like allowing more businesses into that residential area that’s right up against our downtown,” she said.

“We need to make sure we’re managing traffic. We need to make sure noise doesn’t become a problem.”

The next step for Nheiley is reviewing the direction the plan has taken so far and making sure there are appropriate responses to the questions raised in the public session.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there are some new considerations that I need to incorporate into the amendment and really to make sure that there is a two-way dialogue between residents of the town and the kinds of changes that staff are making,” she added.