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A lack of infrastructure is holding back much-needed housing development in the west Cape Breton community of Inverness, says the MLA who represents the area.
Allan MacMaster said he is frustrated that a proposed 80-unit residential housing project is on the shelf because the developer doesn’t know when or if the required water and sewer infrastructure will be in place.
MacMaster, who has represented the Inverness electoral district since 2009, said Antigonish-based Dunmore Development Ltd. began discussions with the Municipality of Inverness County almost two years ago and was prepared to move ahead with the project but stepped away due to the uncertainty over water and sewer access.
“It’s a well-known fact that it is hard to find housing in the community of Inverness — but if the infrastructure isn’t there the community can’t add more housing, ” he said of the former coal-mining town that along with being a popular seaside tourist stop has also become a major destination for golfers from around the world.
“From my own experience, and this goes back to my last election campaign in 2017, there have been lots of people calling my office to talk about housing in Inverness and there are lots of employers who would like to hire people to work in Inverness but often times there is not enough housing for people to live and that has presented a problem for employers.”
Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie, whose electoral district includes nearby Mabou and Port Hood, said the six-member council has identified housing as a major issue in an area that has been one of Cape Breton’s shining lights in terms of economic development.
“We realize that Inverness is a rapidly growing community,” said MacQuarrie, noting that the cost of extending sewer and water services to the location of the proposed housing development is estimated to be around the $3-million mark.
“Our staff have had several meetings with representatives of the developer and we will be discussing the issue further at our upcoming Committee of the Whole meeting.”
MacQuarrie noted that the municipality has already dealt with the issue of unpleasant odours emanating from the Inverness wastewater treatment plant and that funding is already in place for other infrastructure projects such as the Whycocomagh/Waycobah wastewater treatment plant.
She added the municipality is awaiting federal and provincial approval for funding to totally upgrade the Inverness treatment plant and that well exploration is also ongoing.
For his part, MacMaster encouraged the municipality to expedite whatever funding application processes it has to undertake in order to secure the necessary funding.
“About $1.5 million in provincial funding has been earmarked to create affordable housing as part of the project, but applications for federal funding are not going forward because there hasn’t been enough information about the municipality’s plans for the project,” he said.
“Infrastructure is expensive but it can be paid off over a long period of time — people cannot live in housing that does not have water and sewer access.”
MacMaster, who also serves as opposition house leader in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, said he was pleased that provincial Municipal Affairs Minister Chuck Porter agreed to his request that department representatives meet with the municipal council to discuss the multi-government funding application process.