Nova Scotia

CBRM council votes down extension on waterfront development, library

Cape Breton regional council voted against extending a private waterfront development deal that would have included a new public library. The mayor says that means CBRM is now free to pursue other options.

Mayor Amanda McDougall says council now free to look at library options that don't involve waterfront

CBRM has received three new bids to develop the municipality's prime waterfront property in downtown Sydney. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cape Breton regional councillors are going back to the drawing board on a proposed new library for Sydney, N.S., after voting against extending a waterfront development deal struck three years ago.

In 2018, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality granted Harbour Royale Development of Sydney the exclusive right to develop municipal land around the former Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club.

The company also proposed building a new public library on the site, but earlier this year, councillors said the proposed $32-million building was too expensive.

That agreement expired last month, and at a meeting on Tuesday, council voted against an extension.

Mayor Amanda McDougall said the municipality is now free to pursue a library building on its own and to negotiate with the developer for a new waterfront deal that does not include a library.

"It was made pretty clear when we were discussing it initially ... that many council members want to pursue other options to make sure that we do indeed get a library as soon as possible," she said.

"I will reiterate a thousand times, every single person on this council feels the exact same way and now we all have to go out and dig as deep as we possibly can to find some options."

Mayor Amanda McDougall says the budget is boosted by some large sewer and water infrastructure projects that come with federal-provincial funding at no cost to CBRM. (Cape Breton Regional Municipality/Zoom)

McDougall said despite years of discussion on a proposed new library, council does not have any set plans on how to proceed.

"We will require more discussions as a council on this and advice from staff," she said.

During a discussion on Harbour Royale's request for an extension, councillors were advised by the municipality's solicitor that questions about options and possible legal liabilities surrounding the expired deal would best be answered in camera, or out of the public eye.

Council went in camera for 45 minutes and when they returned to open session, voted down the extension with no discussion on why or what would happen next.

In an interview, the mayor said council respected the Harbour Royale deal "wholeheartedly" while it was in force, but she could not say whether she or others have any concerns about legal liability now.

"These are things that I can't talk about," McDougall said. "When the time comes, we can have those conversations publicly, but for the time being, I will not be commenting on anything legal."

Harbour Royale president Marty Chernin said he was disappointed in the council decision and had not yet decided on next steps.

"We needed more time to put things together because of delays of the municipality and other things," he said. "I'm going to regroup with my partners and see what our next move is," he said.

In a letter to the mayor in June, Harbour Royale president Marty Chernin hinted that he was willing to press ahead with development on the municipal waterfront land. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

The company had been planning to put up an apartment building and an office building, but was waiting for CBRM to decide on the library before finalizing site plans, Chernin said.

Work on the other developments may go ahead, but he said it's too soon to say in what form.

"They're prime sites for development, so we'll see what else we can come up with," he said.

Harbour Royale spent a "substantial amount of money" on the project, but Chernin would not say whether the agreement with CBRM included compensation for that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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