Developer vows to do business anywhere but CBRM after proposal rejected

·4 min read
Harbour Royale Development president Marty Chernin, backed by his lawyer, Dwight Rudderham, speaks at a CBRM council meeting in Centre 200 on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Harbour Royale Development president Marty Chernin, backed by his lawyer, Dwight Rudderham, speaks at a CBRM council meeting in Centre 200 on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

One of Cape Breton Regional Municipality's biggest property developers is vowing to never invest another dime in CBRM after council rejected his latest proposal to put residential and commercial buildings on Sydney's waterfront.

Marty Chernin, president of Harbour Royale Development, was the only one who responded after the municipality put out a request for proposals three years ago to develop the downtown waterfront around the marina.

That proposal expired earlier this year after being extended once, in part because council refused to fund a study for the library that was included in the development.

Chernin, who owns a parcel of land next to the municipal land, offered a new proposal this week to develop CBRM's property without a library.

New request for proposals to be issued

On Tuesday, council voted to issue a new public request for proposals rather than accept Chernin's submission.

Afterward, the developer said he would "absolutely not" respond to a new request.

"I'm not dealing with that council anymore in the future, nor am I going to expend any funds on development in the CBRM," he said.

"If I do any more development, it'll be outside of the CBRM. It'll be in places like Port Hawkesbury, which I am already doing a development up there, and other parts of the province — Halifax, Dartmouth, New Glasgow — but definitely nothing in the CBRM, because this council is not business-friendly."

Chernin said he had negotiated a three-page deal with CBRM chief administrative officer Marie Walsh and solicitor Demetri Kachafanas in which he offered to buy municipal property to build residential and commercial buildings along the waterfront.

Councillors expressed concern Tuesday that staff might have tied council's hands by committing to a new proposal. Walsh said staff made no commitment, but were obligated to bring the proposal to council.

Chernin said it doesn't make sense for developers to deal with staff if council won't support them.

Brent Kelloway/CBC
Brent Kelloway/CBC

He also said he will not go ahead with development on his own parcel of land even though he has the permits to proceed.

"I'm not doing anything in this municipality anymore," he said. "It's not worth the time and aggravation ... I spent over 3½ years on this already, so that's it."

History of CBRM development

Chernin said his Sydney-based company has built more than 400,000 square feet of commercial space in CBRM.

In downtown Sydney, that includes the Commerce Tower, Royal Bank building, justice centre, TD Bank building, 500 George Place, the former Joe's Warehouse restaurant and the L.H.C. Office Building.

Harbour Royale also built the multi-storey Concentrix call centre building in Glace Bay.

'We do have to follow procedures'

Mayor Amanda McDougall said people need to realize the municipality operates under special rules.

"When you're doing business with a municipality, it's not like doing business with another business," she said.

"We want to be as business-friendly as possible, but we do have to follow procedures."

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

She said Chernin's latest proposal included an exchange of public and private assets on the waterfront, and that meant the deal had to be open to public scrutiny.

"We have to do things in the public realm. We need to make sure things are open and transparent, so when one agreement expires, the next thing you need to do is open it back up to the public and see if there's any other interest and make sure again that that transparency is there," said McDougall.

'Incredible amount of change'

The mayor said she hasn't heard of any other possible development offers, but a lot has changed downtown since the last request for proposals was issued, such as the Nova Scotia Community College development at the other end of the downtown waterfront.

"There is an incredible amount of change happening ... and maybe there are some creative ideas out there like we anticipate," McDougall said.

"All you have to do is take a look around and see apartment complexes [and] new development happening throughout the CBRM to know that this is a place you can invest."

The request for proposals is expected to go out soon.

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