St. Mary’s looks to post-pandemic future

By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
May 13 2020

SHERBROOKE – With eyes firmly fixed on long-term economic development, the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s will ask the award-winning urban-planning firm, Fathom Studio of Halifax, to help plot its post-pandemic future.

Council approved the move at its regular meeting on Monday on the advice of staff, who had conducted a review of three proposals to update the District’s Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use Bylaw. Although Fathom’s bid was the priciest, at $54,720.00 (plus HST), it was also best aligned with the municipality's long-term objectives, said Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald.

“Their proposal stood out for us, because they tied it very closely to economic development. I think everybody realizes that all municipalities need to focus on economic development especially in light of all the restrictions that have been in place over the past few months due to COVID-19," he told The Journal following Monday evening's monthly council meeting.

Fathom’s task will be to breathe new life into the municipality’s strategy and bylaw, which haven’t been refreshed in at least 15 years. “To be compliant with new provincial legislation around municipal planning, we have to update our documents,” MacDonald said. “Any number of things have changed over the years.”

Although project details are not available, and a start date has yet to be fixed, MacDonald confirmed Fathom “is talking about producing documents that are easier to read...with development tools we can incorporate in the future.”

According to its website, Fathom Studios – formerly Ekistics – is an interdisciplinary “collective of architects, designers, planners, engineers, and strategists” whose “depth of thinking translates complex design challenges into meaningful places and experiences.” Since 2018, the firm has been recognized by the SEGD Global Design Awards, Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, Halifax Urban Design Awards, Applied Arts Community Awards, and Best of Canada’s Sign Industry Award.

In other moves at Monday’s meeting, council approved renewing its three-year cost-sharing agreement with the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal for street maintenance and improvements, and the appointment of St. Mary’s resident Dana O’Connell to the district’s audit committee.