The CBRM is alleging a Sydney funeral home that recently suffered fire damage has been violating a 15-year-old development agreement it signed with the municipality.
The Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s planning and development department has confirmed it has received a request from Sheldon Chant to repeal and replace the agreement it signed in September 2003.
According to senior planner Karen Neville, Chant’s Funeral Home has been in breach of the agreement because it violated a number of applicable conditions, including the clause that states the border of the property’s west side be left in its present state as a vegetated natural area.
During a presentation to CBRM council’s general committee on Tuesday, Neville said that aerial imagery shows that between 2003 and 2006 the majority of trees were removed from the rear of the property and that fill was brought in to level the area to make extra parking spaces. She further noted that after he purchased an adjacent lot in 2008, Chant removed the majority of trees from that parcel and once again brought in fill to expand the parking lot.
Neville also told council that a CBRM-owned tract of land bordering the funeral home property’s north side was being unlawfully utilized both as a driveway off Alexandra Street and as a parking lot.
She then told council members that if they wish to entertain Chant’s request to amend the development agreement they must schedule a public hearing. But, she added, if council chooses not to amend the agreement it then has three options.
• Seek a remedial court order requiring the owner to comply with the terms and conditions of the agreement.
• Carry out the terms of the agreement at the expense of the owner provided that a 15-day notice is given.
• Terminate the agreement.
If council were to adopt the last option, the funeral home would no longer be a permitted user on the property and the business would be required to immediately cease operations.
Following her presentation, Neville recommended that council pass a motion to hold a public hearing to “consider” replacing the 2003 agreement, with the stipulation that the hearing not take place until Chant submits a revised site plan.
In making her suggestion, she cautioned council that municipal planning staff often struggle with cases where site plan permit and zoning conditions are not carried out by property owners.
“It is challenging when a violation comes into play as enforcement is tricky,” said Neville.
“In regard to following through with that we have to go through the court system so then we’re going through prosecution and that is a very timely manner and not always the most effective way to get enforcement.”
Ironically, the funeral home suffered damages after a fire broke out in the building on Saturday evening. There were no injuries reported in the blaze that fire officials are now considering to be suspicious.
The operation remains closed and police crime scene tape surrounds the property.
Despite that, Neville told council that Chant wishes to proceed with his request to have the development agreement repealed and replaced.
The building which includes a 180-seat chapel, three multi-use visitation rooms and a reception area, was once home to a grocery store that closed in the late 1990s.