To: The Mayor and Members of the Town Council, Mahone Bay
From: The Board of the Mahone Bay Tourism and Chamber of Commerce
Re: Review of the Town Strategic Plan 2021-25
“God (or the Devil) is in the Details”
-Mies Van der Rohe/Gustave Flaubert
We are pleased to submit some comments about the proposed Strategic Plan.
The Board of Directors of the Chamber had an opportunity to examine your document, but we have not had time to engage the wider membership. Nevertheless, we will post this response on our website and provide further commentary as plan details unfold.
Members of the Board support and endorse the vision, core values and overall priorities cited in the Plan, that is, priorities related to Sustainable Municipal Services, Equitable and Inclusive Growth and Environmental Leadership.
It is easy enough to subscribe to statements of broad intent but another matter altogether to effectively execute them over time and at the level of contestable everyday life. In this respect, we wonder if the assumption about 10% population increase for our Town over the Plan period is understated for several reasons, not the least of which is the twinning of Highway 103 which will significantly shorten the commuting time to Halifax. Has sufficient weight been given to the many positive attractions of small-Town living and the growing possibilities of working from home which COVID helped to highlight? It would be useful to know the basis of this population growth forecast. Also, diversity of population does not happen spontaneously, especially in Atlantic Canada where diversity numbers are low. In order to attract a diverse population special measure must be taken. The Plan is silent on what these measures might be.
One of the key building blocks of diversity is affordable housing. The Plan has a goal of 25% of the stock to be added over the planning period is to be affordable housing. Presumably, there will be some definition of the term “affordable” as we move into detailed planning.
The Chamber has a special interest in affordable housing. As we move from high level statements of intent to practical implementation there will be some themes to be pursued.
1. We should examine how current land use policies and by-laws may restrict further housing development. It is our view that the amount of low-density land-use in the Town is wasteful, and steps can be taken to find innovative alternatives for new development. We need to think ahead now to a time when easy to develop land is used up and we turn to higher density uses for existing properties.
2. An increase in the number of rental housings may require a review of current by-laws restricting the number of these units allowed on some properties and the use limitations on conversion of out-buildings.
3. Conversion of long-term rental or owner-occupied properties to unlicensed short term accommodation such as Air B&B, potentially removes affordable housing units from the available stock of housing. On the other hand, the lack of overnight accommodation in the Town encourages visitors to move on to Lunenburg for the night instead of staying here. How are these two aims to be reconciled?
4. There are many areas of the National Building Code where interpretation is possible and desirable without compromising health and safety. That is why different applications governing similar developments exist throughout the province. An overly rigid and costly interpretation of the Code in a location can defeat the objective of affordability by unnecessarily adding cost. Citizens should be encouraged to bring forward examples where this is happening in order to determine whether Code requirements are too rigid in some circumstance because of issues of interpretation.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to participate in this process. We look forward to working with you on implementation of this Plan.