Cape Breton Regional Municipality is paying more than it expected after expropriating land in Sydney harbour four years ago to build a second cruise ship berth, but the mayor says she's just glad the deal is finally done.
"Having that hang over your head and your potential budgets was always a bit worrisome," CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board issued an order confirming the municipality and the landowner had settled on a price of $3.8 million for six waterfront lots.
CBRM had been offering owner Jerry Nickerson up to $2.4 million, but he argued the land was worth $4.2 million.
The two sides agreed on the compromise in December, just before a public hearing was scheduled on the matter.
Nickerson did not respond to a request for comment.
McDougall said she is happy it's been resolved.
"It's definitely more than we had anticipated way back when, but again, it's all done and paid for, which is a good thing, so we won't see it pop up in our budgets to come," she said.
"It absolutely is significant when you're talking about a $160-million budget overall, so it'll be nice not to have that on our line items next year."
The municipality had already paid for a portion of the settlement in the last fiscal year, but had to find a way to pay for the remaining $2.5 million in the coming year's budget.
Some councillors pushed for a five per cent tax cut this year, which meant giving up about $3.8 million.
That is coincidentally the final value of the waterfront land for the second berth, the mayor said, and that was one of many potential impacts discussed when councillors debated the merits of a tax cut.
"There were many conversations of that nature going back and forth, but again, council made a decision to go forward with the five per cent tax decrease across the board," McDougall said. "The conversation really had to move into how do we make that happen."
CBRM was left with no choice but to borrow the money to pay the final cost of the land, she said.
The second berth project was estimated at a total cost of $20 million, split evenly between CBRM and the provincial and federal governments, with any extra costs being the municipality's responsibility.
CBRM staff said the final cost, including the land, was $20,138,737.
It's not clear if that includes the $100,000 council spent two years ago on a new helicopter landing pad between the old dock and the new one.
That was added to the project because money council had budgeted for a boardwalk extension would not be used that year.
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