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The design concept for two multi-unit buildings being proposed in the Millidgeville neighbourhood of Saint John. Image: Submitted/City of Saint John

Council Gives First Approval To Proposed Development

By Brad Perry Nov 15, 2022 | 5:11 AM

The issue of attaching sunset clauses to developments has returned to Saint John council once again.

It comes as a local developer seeks rezoning for a 64-unit development in the Millidgeville neighbourhood.

Kemal Debly plans to build a 40-unit residential building and a 24-unit residential building on Cambridge Drive.

It is part of the larger Cambridge Estates development the well-known developer has been working on since 2004.

Council approved the first and second readings of the rezoning application on Monday night, but not before a discussion about so-called sunset clauses.

Construction deadlines have been attached to some recently approved developments after councillors expressed concern about other projects that had seemingly stalled.

The move would allow council to repeal any related rezonings in the event a project is not completed.

“I’m asking to go forward with this without a barbed-wire collar around my neck,” said Debly, comparing a sunset clause on the development to “working with a loaded gun to my head.”

Debly said he does not want to make a commitment only to “end up swinging in the wind” because of issues beyond his control, such as supply chain delays.

But the developer came forward with a compromise. Debly said he is willing to have a three-year sunset clause for the extension of Cambridge Drive and water services, which is required before the development can go ahead.

He also committed to preparing the footings for the two apartment buildings — along with the five one- and two-unit buildings being considered in a future phase — within that timeframe.

Debly said this initial investment, estimated to be in the range of $1.2 million, would show he is committed to the project.

“You are getting the excavation completed on those buildings,” he said.

Coun. Brent Harris said he sees the proposed development put forward by Debly as a “slam dunk.”

Every part of the development has been thought out, he said, and every negative engagement has been answered.

“I’ve never seen this level of effort and I really hope we’re paying attention because this to me is the gold standard of what developers in our city can do,” said Harris.

Coun. Greg Norton said no one will question Debly’s reputation or ability to see a project through.

But he questioned how council can distinguish between developers like Debly and those who have “held parcels of land hostage” by not proceeding with approved developments.

City manager John Collin said discussions around a sunset clause policy will take place at council’s next strategy planning session in December.

Coun. Gary Sullivan said he would have no problem approving this project with a three-year sunset clause for the road and water extension.

“When I sit here at a public hearing, I take the public hearing at face value and what we have in front of us. Part of what we have in front of us is experience,” said Sullivan.

Council will consider any sunset clauses when they vote on the third reading of the rezoning at a later date


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