St. Mary’s set to unveil its blueprint for the future

·3 min read

ST. MARY’S – The final pieces of a municipal planning puzzle are falling into place, and the big picture of St. Mary’s future should be clear for both residents and potential investors by mid-February, says Chief Administrative Officer David Hutten.

The municipality – which last updated its municipal planning strategy and land-use bylaw in 2006 – is only a few key tasks away from a brand new one, pending provincial government review, which Hutten says will help usher in a new era of strategic economic development and prosperity for the area.

“I’m estimating that these [documents] will be through the [St. Mary’s] council readings, and ready for the province by mid-February,” he tells The Journal. “These are focussed with a vision of where we’re going and how we’re going to get there, formulated in a way that makes it easy for all residents to understand.”

Just as importantly, he says, the new strategy and bylaw will be a crucial blueprint for staged, sustainable economic and commercial growth in a municipality that’s already attracting intense interest from outside investment.

“I can say for the record that we’ve already talked to some interested [real estate] developers that are looking very seriously at St. Mary’s,” he confirms.

“We’ve been talking with them about specific areas and projects.”

Hutten first reported “incredible interest” from land developers looking to build new housing in the area in November, when St. Mary’s was recording some of the most robust property sales in recent memory. Deed transfer tax revenues were $64,088 during the first quarter of the fiscal year, ending June 30, 2021, compared with $14,161 during the comparable period in 2019-20. The municipality also registered 17 building permits, with an assessed value of $1.6 million, compared with 10 worth $718,000 in the period two years earlier.

“What we’re trying to do right now is find out what is tangible for the very near future and how we can get that action going,” he said at the time. “The current demand and the amount of title and deed transfers that have happened over the past couple of years for the east coast isn’t going away. I think it’s only going to increase with [high-quality] lifestyle and [low] cost of living.”

Since then, growth prospects have only intensified.

“These are living documents that actual real players and stakeholders at the table are looking at and giving us their feedback on so that we can work as closely as we can with them to make sure that they are applicable to their needs moving forward. We’ve made sure that our [land-use bylaw] is prepared for that, rather than having to go through a whole series of amendments after it is passed,” says Hutten.

Actual specifics will remain sketchy, until after municipal and provincial approval, but research conducted by the Halifax-based consultant Fathom Studio last year listed better marketing and branding, expanded open spaces and parks, improvements to downtown Sherbrooke, new commercial developments and affordable housing as the top priorities for the future of St. Mary’s.

Meanwhile, council has approved $15,620 in funding to Upland Planning of Dartmouth to provide the most current geographic profile of the area for the new municipal planning strategy and land-use bylaw.

“We’re in the final stages now,” says Hutten.

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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