Reversing rezoning decision not an option, says mayor
SACKVILLE TRIBUNE- POST
Sackville Mayor John Higham says the general location of a new ambulance station was pre-determined and the town had no role in assessing or deciding on the sites that were identified.
Higham said ANB issued a tender for a new facility back in 2017, which included specific criteria and geographic locations that would provide efficient access to the highway as well as surrounding communities. He notes ANB – as well as the developer of the facility Parsons Investment – was provided with all the information on “current conditions and factors” of the property during the consultative process.
“At the end of the day, management of their risk assessment and the decision to proceed is entirely up to them,” Higham writes in his response to Dietz’s letter.
He says rezoning for the property was approved by council last spring.
“With the rezoning process complete and new facility under construction, reversing the decision to locate the facility from the present position is no longer an option.”
Higham points out that, as a municipality, the town manages risk as best it can, given the potential liability issues. He explains that, in the event of a 1-in-100year storm being forecast, the town plans ahead for where its assets can best be situated.
“Similarly, I suspect Ambulance New Brunswick will mobilize their resources to be able to continue to deliver services to communities.”
Coun. Bill Evans, who raised similar concerns about flooding at last year’s public hearing during the rezoning process, says he too thought it was a “bad idea” to construct a facility in that location due to the risk of “islanding.” But he was assured by town planning staff that both the developer and ANB were made aware of the potential risks and, from there, the decision was up to them.
“We don’t get to say no to things just because we think it’s a bad idea,” says Evans.
He says currently the town has no restrictions on developing in a flood zone, other than having to raise the height of doors and windows to higher-than-floodplain level and not allowing basements in new developments. So there was nothing controversial about approving a rezoning on that property from commercial to institutional last year, says Evans.
Flood-risk zoning bylaw outdated
Dietz says the town is currently working under a flood-risk zoning bylaw that is outdated, however, which does not allow developers or planners to adequately assess the risks associated with the possible impacts from coastal flooding.
She urges council to update its zoning bylaw and associated regulations, including adopting a new flood-risk map, and start to consider placing stronger development restrictions on that zone.
“No you don’t have to totally stop development . . . but if you want to develop that area, you should really look at the kind of development you’re considering; so that if it does get flooded, it’s not such a terrible thing.”
The proposed design for the Exit 506 area that was developed just last year calls for new parks, walking trails, bicycle lanes, streetscape improvements, as well as the potential for new commercial and residential development. Dietz says while the town could still move forward on the parks and trail components, she would suggest any new apartments or businesses should not be going up in that area.
Dietz, who has assisted with regional flood-risk mapping over the years and has served as a climate change adaptation specialist for the provincial government, the regional services commission and numerous municipalities on various projects related to reducing risks, says the community needs to have greater discussion on the topic.
Higham says the town has recently asked the Southeast Regional Service Commission to review the latest LIDAR data and, if needed, to propose any changes to the hydrographic zone, with particular attention to the area covered by the Exit 506 plan.
“Pending the results of this analysis, council may want to further evaluate our existing municipal plan and zoning bylaw – both in terms of mapping and development requirements/restrictions.”