A major Saint John developer is slamming the cumbersome bureaucracy at city hall and promising to never launch another residential project inside the city limits.
Mac Blair, the developer of the Drury Cove subdivision, said there is simply too much red tape from the city's engineering and public works departments.
Blair's upscale residential development could eventually grow to 500 homes. But he said he's frequently fighting with the city over issues like paving.
"I can't see why anybody would propose a large scale development like this on any land inside the city," he said.
Blair said real estate developers face countless hurdles to get approval to build roads and other infrastructure when they begin projects in Saint John.
"The steps that you have to take simply don't warrant the investment in time you have to take to get there," he said.
Blair said the city needs to recognize the added tax base his development is creating.
There are now office buildings and homes on his property that are assessed at more than $30 million. Those buildings and houses translate into new tax revenue for the city.
Before the development, however, the same land earned the city just $7,000 in taxes.
Blair said Saint John's municipal government must start finding ways to work with its developers instead of throwing up roadblocks to development.
"We could earn a living doing all kinds of things. Do we want to propose something in the city of Saint John and fight [an] uphill battle for two to three years to make it happen? Is it worth it? I don't think so," he said.
Mayor surprised over criticism
Saint John Mayor Ivan Court said he was surprised to hear about the developer's concerns with the city’s bureaucracy.
"No complaints have come across my desk or across council's. None of this information's been brought forward," Court said.
Blair also said he wants a new mechanism for taxing unsold building lots.
He said the provincial government raises the assessment to market value as soon as the lot is registered.
When the economy is slow, the developer has to carry the additional financial burden. For the same reason, he says, builders like him have stopped constructing homes "on spec."