Town won’t entertain Spyglass Hill purchase

The town of Rothesay won’t be exploring purchasing the 85-acre parcel of land to preserve popular recreation spot, despite receiving over a dozen letters from residents.

An 85-acre parcel of land overlooking the Kennebecasis River currently has a $3 million price tag, and includes Spyglass Hill, a well-known spot for hiking, biking and other outdoor recreation despite being located on private property.

At a recent town council meeting, Rothesay Deputy Mayor Matt Alexander said there are “many competing issues” for the town’s tax dollars, including a new recreational arena, a tunnel to connect walking trails on either side of the highway, and a new wastewater treatment plant— the latter of which has a ballooning price tag of over $30 million.

“There is no available money to purchase Spyglass Hill,” Alexander said, adding such a project would require the town to either raise its tax rate or apply to the municipal capital borrowing board for funding.

Last fall, the town lowered its tax rate by one cent in light of double-digit property assessment increases. The year prior, the town dropped it by four cents. The tax rate is currently $1.19 for every $100 of assessed value for residential properties.

“Maybe it will be purchased by someone who preserves it as a greenspace,” Alexander said, adding the private landowner has expressed frustration with people “tresspassing on land, tearing down no trespassing signs, and littering.”

In several letters to council, though, residents pleaded with the town to step in and keep the land, with one letter writer— their name redacted in town council documents— saying “I feel that the Rothesay I know and love is being slowly destroyed.”

In any case, the town won’t be meeting with residents to discuss their vision for the space, which is zoned for single-family residential homes and has been billed as a prime development location.

Coun. Don Shea said there’s no denying the “significant public interest” in the stretch of land.

“Once land is gone, it’s gone,” he said, “they don’t make land anymore.”

Shea said a public meeting is required in order to “bring together residents of different views,” but his fellow councillors didn’t agree, and his motion to schedule such a meeting didn’t receive any support.

Some of the letters also criticized the town’s secondary plan, which maps out development in Rothesay’s Hillside neighbourhood, addressing the area between Rothesay Netherwood School and the Riverside Country Club, known as Hillside North, and the area from the country club to Fox Farm Road, called Hillside South.

Alexander said the secondary plan is a “long-horizon” plan which took four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop.

Rothesay mayor Nancy Grant said development of that part of town is expected to occur over the next 40 years.

Alexander added he “appreciated the passion” of the numerous letter writers.

“Perhaps there is an opportunity for them to come together and create an initiative to preserve the lands,” he said. “However, I do not see how, at this time, it would be feasible for this town to purchase and preserve the lands.”

Marlo Glass, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal