Council to take more time on proposed bylaw

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Would restrict government offices to downtown

Amherst is going to ask its business advisory committee to look at a proposal to restrict government offices to the downtown.

AMHERST – Amherst has opted to get input from its business advisory committee before making a final decision on a proposal that would limit future government offices to the downtown.

“We’re going to refer to the downtown business advisory committee so we can get some input from them before we make our decision,” Mayor Robert Small said following council’s April session on Monday. “They asked if they could provide some input into the matter and that’s one of the reasons why the committee is in place, to provide advice to us on matters pertaining to the downtown.”

In March, council passed a proposed amendment to its land-use bylaw through first reading and was set to vote Monday on second reading that, if approved, would put the restrictions in place.

Before the vote could be held, Coun. David March introduced an amendment to refer the proposed bylaw to the business advisory committee for input. The amendment passed with only Coun. Terry Rhindress and Deputy Mayor George Baker voting against it.

“We’re looking forward to discussing this within our committee and passing on the wishes of the downtown business community to town council,” committee chairman Mark Casey said. “That’s what our committee is for, to provide advice to the town council so we’re looking forward to the opportunity to weigh in. We don’t have a stance on this.”

Prior to the meeting, the town hosted a public hearing on the proposal. While several business people were there only Kevin Nelson voiced his opinion.

“I know you want revitalization, but this isn’t going to work,” Nelson told council. “You’re not going to dictate to the province where they can put their offices. If you  pass this, you’ll see nothing in Amherst.”

The mayor said he brought the matter forward to get input from the community.

“We’ve seen what happens in other communities when nothing is done. You see the government offices go where they want and quite frankly it takes the core out of the downtown,” the mayor said. “We want to look at ways to sustain our downtown and at the same time allow for growth. It’s not like there’s a big list of government offices going to move to Amherst. When I brought this forward it was with the understanding that it’s better to do something or try something rather than doing nothing.”

During the council meeting, Baker said he could not support enacting the bylaw since councillors were elected to represent the entire community.

“I think government has heard from us many times before that we want government offices downtown, but I don’t think we can tell them where to locate,” Baker said. “We’ve heard from people who don’t like this and I don’t think we should proceed.”

When preparing the bylaw, town planner Jason MacDonald said he looked at legislation in other municipal units and found that Yarmouth has a bylaw restricting all offices to the downtown. He said other towns and cities, including Moncton, have been encouraging government offices to locate in the downtown, but stop short of making it a policy or bylaw.

The Centre First Downtown Action Strategy recommended that all offices be restricted to the downtown core. MacDonald said a previous public hearing at the committee stage had no input and the planning advisory committee recommended against the measure.

dcole@amherstdaily.com

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Centre First Downtown Action Strategy

Geographic location: AMHERST, Yarmouth, Moncton

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  • Charlie Joseph
    April 30, 2013 - 21:46

    I live in what these dinosaurs call the downtown. It is not at all that great a place. You can get stumbling drunk at a variety of places, watch arrests on Friday, Saturday and Sunday by a nearby fast food spot, but I fail to see this great downtown community, other than Dayles. It is up to PEOPLE to decide where they want to shop, live, and these PEOPLE - to decide where their department would best fit in. Imagine if we had a Federal or Provincial department considering diversifing from major metropolitian cities (as Canada Revenue did years ago) the first thing you do is look at infrastructure and the ability of the potential build site to accommodate your needs. How many properties in the old downtown could sustain parking requirements alone? I am sure the people of Truro are thanking Amherstonians for electing people who make it so easy to see why dealing with them is far easier than Amherst. Thanks for nothing, Amherst. Maybe repairing the streets and sidewalks should be your focus, not dictating to potential job creators where they should go. They might just tell Amherst where our braintrust on council should go. Kudos Councillor Rhindress and Deputy Mayor Baker

  • Bill
    April 30, 2013 - 18:33

    Way to go "George" a politician who is listening to the people. A wonderful concept. This plan was stupid and you should feel good about yourself for not supporting it. As I have said a before a government job anywhere in the county,is better than no government job. Keep up the good work and sensible thinking George.