St. Mary’s addresses unsightly properties

By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
December 23 2020

ST. MARY’S – Though rare, complaints about unsightly properties in the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s could become a more common feature of regular council business, as elected officials grapple with a new municipal planning strategy and land use bylaw expected as soon as next month.

Staff informed council’s committee of the whole last week that it had recently sent letters to owners of two properties in District 2 (Ecum Secum and area).

“Residents expressed concerns and we had the building inspector make recommendations,” Director of Finance Marian Fraser reported.

This is not the first time the phrase ‘dangerous and unsightly premises’ has made it to a council agenda, particularly with respect to District 2.

Most infamously, two marine wrecks – The Sir Charles Tupper, a decommissioned Canadian Coast Guard buoy tender and icebreaker, and the Craig Trans, a derelict tugboat – have been tethered to a highway shoulder in the picturesque fishing community of Marie Joseph, provoking controversy for years.

Fraser emphasized that the most recent complaints are not related to these derelicts. There is also no evidence that ugly or even dangerous properties are on the rise in the district. At the same time, the full-court planning underway for the municipality could shine a brighter light on the issue.

“This [process] will give us more teeth,” Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald said in July. “We’ll have more authority and clarity over development in certain areas. We’ve been looking at updating our plan, on our own, for a long time. This process gives us the mandate to have far more and better control over development in our own municipality.”

In July, the Halifax-based urban planning firm Fathom Studio completed the public consultation phase of the modernizing project. The draft report with final recommendations is expected sometime next month.

As for the most recent unsightly properties incident in District 2, Fraser said: “We’re giving the owners time to clean them up.”