Amherst to consider restricting government offices to downtown

Darrell Cole
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Land-use amendment passes first reading

Amherst is considering restricting new government offices to the downtown under a proposed amendment to the land-use bylaw.

AMHERST – Amherst is going to take a look at restricting government offices to the downtown core through a proposed amendment to its land-use bylaw.

“Government office uses are the single largest occupier of floor space in the downtown, and their continued presence is critical to the future viability and vibrancy of the downtown core,” Coun. Dave March said last night during Monday’s March council meeting.  “The municipal planning strategy contains objectives and policies that identify the downtown as the favoured area for office employment.”

Council passed first reading of a proposed bylaw to amend the land-use bylaw that, if passed through second reading, would restrict government offices to the downtown.

March said the Centre First Downtown Action Strategy recommends that all office uses be restricted to the downtown, but such uses are also permitted in the highway commercial and limited commercial zones.

The planning advisory committee is recommending the amendment not be adopted and a public participation session on March 19 had no members of the public in attendance.

In his report to council, Amherst’s director of planning, Jason MacDonald, said he doesn’t believe government offices will be built outside the town or in other communities if Amherst restricted government offices to the downtown.

He said other government offices, including the Registry of Deeds, Access Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Geomatics Centre, have all left the downtown for Robert Angus Drive or Willow Street.

“Do we want a strong downtown core that is the heartbeat of the community, or do we want more urban sprawl on the edge of town that is unrecognizable from any other urban strip in Nova Scotia?” MacDonald asked in his report.

Several councillors stressed they are not in favour of singling out one area of the town to the detriment of another.

“Although it’s desirable to have all government offices in the downtown, I’m reluctant to be heavy-handed about this,” Coun. Robert Bird said. “This is only first reading ad it will be important to get input before we make any decisions. We don’t want the impression to be that council is going to insist on this without consultation.”

Deputy Mayor George Baker said council is responsible for the betterment of the entire town, not just the downtown.

“My concern is we need to look at the whole town, not only downtown. We have taxpayers in the whole community,” Baker said.

Following the meeting, Mayor Robert Small said he wants to get public feedback before making any decisions. He said the town is evaluating whether the idea is important enough to Amherst residents to require changing the land-use bylaw, or should things be left as they are.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell



Organizations: Nova Scotia Geomatics Centre

Geographic location: AMHERST, Willow Street, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Truth
    March 29, 2013 - 10:45

    No Bill, Brian Skabar is the reason we lost the jail. You must be the only person in Cumberland to have forgotten that!!!!

  • GLM
    March 28, 2013 - 19:23

    The Town of Amherst should be more concerned with loss of jobs the town has suffered in the past year, many of which were government jobs. Lets not hinder government or any other potential business from putting up shop in Amherst, but rather lets encourage and welcome those who are willing to sink their finances and their time into setting up a business in our town .

  • Linda Moore - Amherst Town Square
    March 28, 2013 - 14:46

    We, as a large extended family, with various business's in this Town pay huge taxes and have been huge financial supporters of anything and everything that goes on in this Town as well as the County. It has been a tremendous challlenge to keep our business's in this Town without the support of downtown. I as well as the rest of my extended family strongly oppose this proposed bylaw and strongly suggest that the Town start considering the Town as a whole and not just downtown. This sort of mentality has gone on far too long and has been a detriment to our Town as a whole. We were never advised of this meeting that passed the first reading with no one there and as a large taxpayer why weren't we?

  • Huge Baloney the sequel
    March 26, 2013 - 14:04

    Jason Macdonald hasn't apparently even done his homework. Access Nova Scotia was never downtown in the first place. Before moving to their present location amidst the urban sprawl, they were at the Superstore. Before that they were on Albion Street in the old Department of highways building. It just makes me uncomfortable if someones spouting off statistics that they should actually be informed about what they're trying to express.

  • DJ
    March 26, 2013 - 12:25

    I think this idea should be explored further. The Town may want to speak with town officials in Yarmouth as I understand they did something similar to this with their Land Use By-law. It would be great to have all government office workers and professional services in the downtown core. This may even lead to the expansion of other businesses like restaurants in our downtown which would help bring tourists through this town as well.

  • jason
    March 26, 2013 - 10:52

    The municipal planning strategy contains objectives and policies that identify the downtown as the favoured area for office employment. So who decided this and is it accurate. Personally i prefer Amherst as the favored area for office employment as a resident and taxpayer, and would hope those elected to look after the economic growth of Amherst would attempt to serve all of Amherst not just their misguided agendas that always seem to have hidden motives.

  • Huge Baloney
    March 26, 2013 - 10:16

    Urban sprawl. Urban sprawl? Really and truly this is the most pathetic statement I've ever heard. The population of the town has decreased since world war 2, and Mr. Macdonald is worried about urban sprawl. The mayor and council need to roll up their sleeves and get to work and generate some growth in the local economy instead of wasting their energies: and our tax dollars on these ill conceived schemes. If someone wants to come to town and set up an office, these clowns should welcome them with open arms instead of trying to dictate where they locate. Lets hope they don't get lost in the urban sprawl.

    • Robert Bird
      March 28, 2013 - 16:40

      Looking forward to all of you joining us clowns at the next meeting...

  • Jason
    March 26, 2013 - 10:13

    bad idea...and probably unenforceable.....

  • Nick
    March 26, 2013 - 09:04

    If you want people to come to the downtown core do not restrict people from coming downtown. Simple logic goes a long way. Come on people!!

  • Lisa
    March 26, 2013 - 09:02

    That is like telling all the fast food restaurants that they must be located on South Albion. You cannot dictate where business, whether they be privately owned or government offices where they should be located. Do you not think that the government offices look at their location based on their clientele? If the wheel isn't broken, why are you attempting to fix it?

  • nfn
    March 26, 2013 - 07:11

    Yes... what are you people thinking, just put them in the new town hall, the old police station or the old rcmp office, if this motion is passed then what you are doing is driving these gov't offices from town, pass this and there will be no future gov't offices coming to the town, yet another dumb move by certain people with all the authority. I know of a business that wanted to locate in the Industrial Park but the skids were put on this, another smart move.

  • Steve
    March 26, 2013 - 04:51

    Looks like they can't make another decision. No doubt they are going to have to hire another consultant for $20,000 to make the decision for them. But what's another $20,000 when they voted themselves over $100,000 in pay raises after they got elected and so what if they were $250.000 over on their new office building. The residents of Amherst have unlimited resources to fund the incompetence of their local mayor and councilors.

  • sparky
    March 26, 2013 - 01:15

    Ok, who's friend/ uncle/ other relative on the council owns office property downtown? This is the only way that this makes sense. Spreading things around the town helps to diversify and improve the whole town, not just downtown. JMO

  • Mr. Chow
    March 25, 2013 - 22:53

    Hmmmmm what government jobs are they talking about. Last time I checked all the government jobs that are down town are leaving to other cities in Nova Scotia. I really think the Town Of Amherst government, should be more worried about getting jobs back here rather then tell them were they can be in this town. It is just a matter of time before the theatre is closed what next. Right now the down town really is a lost idea.

  • Bill
    March 25, 2013 - 21:34

    What are you people thinking. A government job anywhere in the town or county is better than no Government jobs. Remember the jail, Maybe this is why you lost it!!!!!!