ANTIGONISH, N.S. - It became official during town council’s regular monthly public meeting June 18; the Town of Antigonish will join their close neighbours, the Municipality of the County of Antigonish, as well as the Town of Port Hawkesbury and the Cape Breton counties Inverness, Richmond and Victoria, as a member of the Eastern District Planning Commission (EDPC).
“It has been four or five years now since the One Nova Scotia Report came out and encouraged us to work with our neighbours and other municipalities regarding shared services, I think this exemplifies that,” Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher said, after the meeting.
“We’re working together with five other municipalities. I believe, from the proposal that Mr. [John] Bain has put forth and what we signed on for, the amount of services we’re going to get will be extensive,” she added, noting too the town is looking at “a lot of developments coming up.”
An agreement of three years has been signed between the town and EDPC. Boucher said the length is a good balance of allowing sufficient time to access the partnership and being able to move off, if it’s not working.
“Whenever you bring someone into an organization like this, the partners are a bit hesitant as well,” she said, starting with looking at the term from the perspective of the other municipalities and EDPC.
“Everything has been going well for them so what are the repercussions of bringing another unit in there? What’s the extra cost? Resources which will be needed?
“And from our point of view, we’re going from a planner on staff to being part of a commission. We’re not going to have someone right here five days a week. It [three years] was a good compromise.
“I don’t know if one year [would be enough], there will probably be some hiccups along the way. They’re working very hard to make the transition as seamless as possible but, one year, I don’t think would be enough to have a good picture of what it could be and the possibilities of being in the commission, but three years is good for us.
“If it’s not working out from our perspective, we can bow out and look somewhere else. If it’s not good from the commission’s point of view, they can bow out and go in another direction as well. So [the three years] could work out well for both; I’m going on the premise it will work out for both the town and commission and we’ll be going forward.”
In a press release sent earlier in the day, Bain, EDPC director, talked about adding to the commission membership which has happened on three occasions since they started out in 1991 with Inverness and Richmond.
“Each new municipality brought their own unique challenges and complexity of issues to the table but, at the same time, deepened our bench strength,” Bain said. “The addition of the Town of Antigonish will continue this positive trend.”
The release noted the town’s other partnerships in the region; Eastern Strait Regional Enterprise Network (ESREN) and Eastern Region Solid Waste Management, emphasizing their importance and suggesting it’s a growing trend across the province.
“For partnerships to work well, there must be mutual benefit for all involved,” town chief administrative officer (CAO) Jeff Lawrence said. “We anticipate that this change will help all partners capitalize on and build upon each other’s strengths and continue to foster an atmosphere of co-operation and dialogue in our region.”
Boucher talked about building partnerships while maintaining a municipality’s independence.
“The past has taught us that creating larger regional governments is not a necessary condition for creating thriving, viable communities in our province,” she said. “I think this new message is a very meaningful shift in that conversation that encourages collaborative resource allocation to improve services where it makes sense, while balancing our ability to retain our local autonomy and community identity.”
At the beginning of the meeting, long-time town director of planning and building services Sean Day gave council an overview on a proposed development on Church Street. With EDPC, that position will no longer be part of town staff and, in the release, Boucher referred to it as “bittersweet.”
“We really do have a fantastic planning and building services staff who have left an enduring, positive mark on the town and have shaped the character of our community,” she said. “They should be proud of those accomplishments.”
She acknowledged Day’s work in the meeting and again with reporters afterwards.
“The service Sean Day has given to the town over the last 20 plus years has been phenomenal,” she said. “There are not too many people who don’t talk about the look and feel of Main Street and that has a lot to do with Sean’s guidance over the last 20 years. He has definitely left his footprint on our town; in our neighbourhoods, downtown, the infrastructure and developments he has approved and worked with over the years have been very good, and he has done so while managing to maintain a small town feel. We thank him for sure.”
The move also affects the planning advisory committee (PAC) for the town, reducing its number of citizen members from seven to three. The one student representative from St. F.X. will remain and the number of council members jumps from two to three.
CAO Lawrence said the move is in being more consistent with other EDPC members.
“I think what is more important is that we try and have a balance,” he said of what should be a goal when forming the committee.
“We’re in a contract with the EDPC and it’s going to be more streamlined, what they [the committee] look at,” he said.
“But I think council really needs to look at the applications that come in and try and make sure they have a good cross-section from the community. I’m glad they decided to keep the St. F.X. student rep because, again, that’s half the population for the town,” he said, referencing the university population.
Boucher said with all the discussion and work that has taken place, the move to the commission, which officially takes place the first of July, should be a smooth one.
“Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Bain have been communicating and working very closely over the past few weeks to ensure that the transition proceeds smoothly and that our residents and interested developers do not see a lapse in planning and building services,” she said.
“We will be ready to hit the ground running and we are looking forward to charting a new path with the commission.”
Meet and Greet
The town will be hosting a meet and greet with EDPC staff July 3in council chambers, from 2 to 5 p.m. Beverages and light snacks will be served.