CBRM to create new zone for development at former convent

Cape Breton regional council is rezoning one property in Sydney’s residential north end to accommodate development plans for a site that formerly housed a high school and convent.

In 2013, New Dawn Enterprises bought the former Holy Angels High School and 130-year-old Sisters of Notre Dame convent and has been renovating and leasing space to arts and social organizations.

Now, New Dawn wants to add a small restaurant to subsidize its Meals on Wheels program, but the plans don’t meet zoning requirements for the historic residential neighbourhood.

At a council meeting on Tuesday, Coun. Eldon MacDonald said some area residents are already concerned about a shortage of parking in the north end.

He said the need for parking is only going to increase, with a Nova Scotia Community College campus that will be constructed and other projects proposed for the neighbouring downtown waterfront district.

“We’re absolutely going to have to have some kind of a discussion around a comprehensive parking strategy for the downtown with the developments that are currently looking to move forward,” MacDonald said.

Erika Shea, New Dawn’s vice-president of development, says the agency does not want to replace any of the property’s green space with asphalt to add parking. (Holly Conners/CBC)

Erika Shea, New Dawn’s vice-president of development, said the agency has already raised $10 million toward its $15-million redevelopment plans and the buildings are 90 per cent leased.

She said New Dawn does not want to take away any of the property’s green space to add parking.

“As we’ve approached this project, sustainability has been a core principle of our thinking and the redesign of the building,” said Shea. “Within this, the preservation of existing green space has been a priority.”

Michael Ruus, CBRM’s director of planning, said New Dawn has about 120 parking spaces available for its property, but is short about 24 spaces, according to zoning regulations.

He said its reasonable for council to make changes to accommodate the development.

CBRM director of planning Michael Ruus says staff recommend a wide review of parking requirements in planning documents, but creation of a new zone would satisfy New Dawn’s immediate needs. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

“We’re confident that the applicant intends to follow through on what they’ve proposed and happy that they’re making the investment in the communities,” Ruus said.

CBRM planning staff recommend a wide review of parking requirements in planning documents, said Ruus, but creation of a new zone in the north end would satisfy New Dawn’s immediate needs.

With that, Coun. MacDonald said he was satisfied and voted with the rest of council to approve a new zone for the north end that will only apply to the New Dawn property.

The zone, to be called the Arts and Culture Centre zone, will entrench New Dawn’s existing parking spaces and allow for commercial development, but the zoning amendment has to be approved by the province before it takes effect.

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