Committee OK's controversial Wolfville development

Wendy Elliott
Published on January 2, 2013
Chris Galea wants to put a 71-unit residential and commercial building on this Wolfville property.
Wendy Elliott

By Wendy Elliott

“Business breeds business,” said Pete Luckett. “It’s up to the town to make sure this is developed the right way.”

A proposal for a commercial/residential development at 336 Main St. was approved Dec. 20 by Wolfville’s Community Development Committee (CDC).

The motion included an amendment to the special development agreement granted to Micro Boutique Living Wolfville Incorporated to allow for noise issues to be addressed and clarification to come on the role of the building representative.

Another issue intensely discussed was a safe driveway for the 71-unit development. No conclusion was reached.

In fact, Gordon Williams, manager of the adjacent Hutton building, commented the next day, “nobody knows from last night what we sent to town council.”

Noise concerns arose earlier due to a plan for air conditioning units on the west side of the building.

In a letter to the town, Iris Hutton said she fears they will create noise, which will disturb her 20 tenants next door. Noise from partying was also discussed.

Committee member Jim Morgenstern questioned whether the town’s noise bylaw is enforceable. He said initiatives are underway to try and address that problem.

In his report, development officer Gregg Morrison also noted, that the noise bylaw is not enforced. He did say that air conditioner noise source is stationary, consistent and easier for the developer to ensure makes no undue noise.

Paul Cabilio, another committee member, said he had problems with the details, noting proposed protruding balconies, which will depend on the siting of the driveway. He said they could be six feet from the eastern property line.

Details are critically important, agreed CDC member Scott Roberts, to whether a concept should live or die.

Developer Chris Galea, who is a business professor at St. F.X. University, steadfastly maintained he will build a quality building and will be responsive to community concerns.

“Don’t rely on my word,” he stated, “rely on the agreement.”

Morrison said the town’s hope is that developers live up the requirements of the Municipal Planning Strategy, but “there are no guarantees. You have to be vigilant.”

“You only sign a development agreement once,” added Morgenstern.

Wolfville resident Geri Robertson asked if the town was fast tracking Galea’s development, noting it took longer for another developer to get approval for a five- or six-bedroom project on Prospect Street.

Railtown condo owner Joan Parker noted issues with that property’s development agreement details, particularly garbage handling. Parker added that the roof patio at the five-year old condos is so windy that chairs blew off.

“I don’t see this working at all,” Parker said of Galea’s project.

She also questioned holding a Dec. 20 meeting when many community members who wanted to attend were away.

The 18 people who attended the meeting do not know if the developer will arrange for a northern exit from the property or provide a double driveway.

After Galea suggested that the property owner on the east side, Gary Merks, might agree to a shared driveway, Merks stood up and said he was not interested in sharing. He also agreed with Cabilio that the balconies could be problematic.

Williams felt so strongly about the development that he drove up to Antigonish earlier in the fall and took photos of Galea’s new 35-unit building. He said what he say did not match the developer’s website description and he provided town staff with images.

There were supporters of the development present from the local business community and the Acadia Students’ Union. David Hovell of the Wolfville Business Development Corporation backed it; so did commercial developer Jim Chambers.

Hovell said the development conforms to the planning strategy.

 “Entrepreneurs and investors use the MPS as a basis upon which they make their decisions. Wolfville needs to send a strong signal – that we are open for business.”

“Whatever architectural or bylaw issues may need to be addressed,” said Rick Morse, who spoke for Cochrane’s Pharmasave, “we support the overall scope of the project and trust the CDC will allow it to proceed under normal and proper municipal guidance.”