WATERVILLE - With the Kings County municipal airport in Waterville set to close at the end of March and the sale of about half the land to Michelin becoming official, plans are in the works to establish a business park on remaining county-owned property.
In a report to council Jan. 5, chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan said two proposals were received Dec. 10 for engineering services work relating to the detailed design. County engineering staff has developed a concept plan for the project site.
Engineering services work under this request for proposals includes a traffic impact study and tender-ready detailed design based on the concept plan. This would allow the municipality to procure all necessary permits for construction.
MacEwan said the property would essentially transition from an air business park to a regular business park. He said there is a need for commercial and light industrial land in Kings.
“We want to be in a position to move ahead with the transition when the airport closes,” he said.
He pointed out that the proposal doesn’t infringe on the neighbouring drive-in theatre.
The two proposals received were from Stantec Consulting Ltd. and WSP Canada Inc., both based in Dartmouth. Municipal staff scored the proposals with Stantec receiving 89 out of a possible 100 points and WSP receiving 97. Stantec’s price for the design work before HST was $59,898 while WSP’s price was $39,695.
Council agreed to move $25,000 from the Street Resurfacing Operating Reserve to help pay for the work and awarded the job to WSP.
Although he didn’t give specifics, MacEwan told council some businesses have expressed interest in the location.
Coun. Pauline Raven said she’s heard a rumour that there’s interest in establishing a chicken processing plant on the property, but MacEwan said this isn’t the case.
Coun. Bob Best, who represents the area, said he’d like to see something like a beef processing facility established.
“We had some inquiry about businesses moving here. We’d better be ready for them,” he said. “We don’t need to lose anything else in Kings County, we need jobs.”
MacEwan said whatever locates there is a discussion for further down the road but the use would have to match the zoning. The portion of land to be purchased by neighbouring Michelin for a possible future expansion has already been rezoned for industrial use.
“This is looking at the infrastructure,” he said. “We’d like to take advantage of these next few months to get the detailed design work done.”
MacEwan added that he’s hopeful that part of the existing airport taxiway or runway could be used as a public road.
Raven said there was no staff report indicating what led to the request for proposals being issued and she wants “enough background to feel comfortable with the direction we’re going.” She said what locates there would have an impact on infrastructure.
“My question remains: a design for what?” Raven said.
MacEwan said council gave him direction during an in-camera session dealing with litigation in September 2014 to move toward the establishment of a business park. Council voted to go in-camera to get clarification on past direction to the chief administrator before emerging about 10 minutes later to approve the motions.
Coun. Kim MacQuarrie said the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce is supportive of council identifying land for an industrial or business park. The only downfall is that the proposed site isn’t close to a highway exit. She suggested writing to the province about getting access to Highway 101 in closer proximity.
Regarding the on-site road network, engineering and public works manager Scott Quinn said it’s safe to assume they would have to be prepared for 18-wheeler traffic.
There is some central sewer capacity already on site and wells could be drilled if required, he added, as businesses locating to the site wouldn’t necessarily be intensive water users. The municipality would have a better idea of what types of businesses could be supported once specific land uses are determined.
Coun. Peter Muttart questioned whether council should consider rezoning before seeking expressions of interest. He said the municipality hasn’t let the public know the subject land would be available for development. They could get an expression of interest from a residential developer, for example.
Muttart objected to the decision to move funds from the Street Resurfacing Operating Reserve to help pay for design work, saying there are “enough streets around here that need resurfacing.”