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Surplus land draws new interest

·2 min read

ST. MARY’S – A tiny dirt road near Sonora – a mere afterthought for any mapmaker – has suddenly become an important topic for local decision-makers.

In December, the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s issued a formal expression of interest in acquiring a tiny strip of surplus land – once an access road to the St. Mary’s River – after receiving a memo from the Real Property Services Acquisition and Disposal division of the provincial Department of Transportation and Renewal.

Last week, elected officials heard that the province had withdrawn its offer pending examination of an expression of interest by another government department. What’s more, a local developer has also come forward, inquiring about the land’s availability.

At council’s Jan. 20 committee of the whole meeting, Warden Greg Wier wondered whether council should step back.

“I think if a land developer would like it and it would help build a couple of homes and give us some tax revenues, I think it would be a good idea to let them have it,” he told his fellow councillors.”

Deputy Warden James Fuller added, “It may be good for the tax base, [but] I think we should just wait and see. We may be out of the running anyway. And, if we are, let’s just see what the developer is developing.”

Councillor Everett Baker agreed: “There’s not much we can do right now anyway.”

The Nov. 18 letter from the province stated: “We are informing you that the land … identified as PID 35231786 on Property Online, Old Ferry Road/Gegogan Ferry Road, at St. Mary’s River, Guysborough County… is surplus to the needs of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. Please advise if you have any interest in acquiring the property.”

Last month, the municipality’s Director of Finance Marian Fraser explained: “Any time the province has land it no longer has a need for, it always sends out a notice to the adjoining municipalities and any other levels of government to see if there is interest. In this case, council did express their interest and put in a formal notice to acquire it.”

The most recent Surplus Crown Property Disposal Report shows that the province earned nearly $161,000 on the disposal of 31 pieces of real property to private and public sector interests during the fiscal year ending March 20, 2020. Of these, the Crown conveyed surplus land only once to a municipality – the County of Shelburne – for $1.

Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald told The Journal: “It’s always good for the municipality to have land, especially if there’s water access. It could be used in conjunction with development. So, if there is a piece of development that would increase our tax base, we might eye it for development.”

Council has directed municipal staff to inform the private interest that the decision is still with the provincial government.

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal