Sackville businessman disappointed town declined offer for highway commercial development

Katie Tower
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The owners of Sackville RV are upset over council’s decision to demolish the former DNR building.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – A local businessman is questioning town council’s recent decision to proceed with the demolition of the former DNR building in Sackville’s highway commercial area.

Bruce Dobson of Sackville RV said he and his brother/business partner Rodney had made an offer to the town earlier this year, proposing a plan for the property that would have saved the structure and put the site to use.

“Our plans for the property was to expand our business by moving our modular homes there,” said Dobson.

He said this would have not only freed up space on their RV lot, which is located off the highway at the Cattail Ridge exit, but would have also been a great location to place some roadside signage to bring more visibility for their businesses. Their Cattail Ridge location is not easily seen from the highway.

“It would have increased traffic into Sackville,” he said, “and it also had the possibility of creating jobs.”

The town acquired the former Department of Natural Resources building and the 31,000-square-foot property it sits on in Sackville’s highway commercial area in 2010 from the province at a cost of $62,500.

The town is not able to sell the property, at 6 Milton Lane, until 2015, as part of the agreement made with the provincial government when it purchased the surplus lot.

But Dobson said the offer he and his brother made included signing an agreement with the town to rent the building until such time as they were able to take over ownership next year. As well, they also proposed to do repairs on the building, including a new roof and siding, and pay all the taxes on the property in the meantime.

“Instead, their response is to tear it down,” he said.

Town council authorized staff last month to go ahead with the demolition of the structure. This followed a review that had been conducted on the building, which had determined that the cost of upgrades, repairs, and remediation for a mold issue would be too cost prohibitive to maintain it. The building had been vacant since 2007, when DNR closed a number of offices across the province.

Phil Handrahan, Sackville’s chief administrative officer, acknowledged that the town did consider an offer from the Dobsons for the DNR property but staff and council felt that their proposed plans for the property was limited in what it would bring for economic development to the town.

Handrahan also pointed out that he had suggested to the Dobsons that their proposal would need to be fleshed out a bit more before it could be agreed to, including a visit to the planning office to discuss a rezoning (the property is currently zoned institutional and would need to be rezoned to highway commercial before the Dobsons could proceed) and possibly a traffic study, since the entrance to the property is not located directly off the highway or Main Street.

“There’s a whole lot more details to it than that,” he said of the offer. “They indicated they had thoughts on what they wanted to do . . . but we were anticipating something further from them. They had a lot of work to do before they had something concrete.”

Handrahan said the town is certainly open to proposals for the property, saying the building is still standing at this point but has a number of deficiencies needing attention.

“If someone has a proposal that makes good sense, that would increase development . . . we would certainly welcome that,” he said. “But it’s not just about flipping properties. That’s not going to do us good in the long term.”

Organizations: Department of Natural Resources, Town council

Geographic location: Sackville, Cattail Ridge

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