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Habitat for Humanity heads for Mahone Bay

Land on Fauxburg Road will support multiple families
by Lisa Brown

 MAHONE BAY - The next Habitat for Humanity home on the South Shore will be built in Mahone Bay and it likely won't be the only one.

 The town agreed to donate almost three acres of land on the Fauxburg Road to the non-profit housing program November 8.

 The motion, passed unanimously by elected officials, stipulates that the group put as many residences on the property as possible within bylaws and guidelines.

 Habitat spokesman Derek Smith assured council they plan to fully utilize the large property.

 "It certainly is our intention to put more than one house on that land," he said. "From my perspective, we want to put as many homes there as we can put there."

 Now that the land is secured, Habitat will conduct further tests to determine how many homes can be built there. It could eventually end up with two homes, a duplex, a duplex and a single-family dwelling or even two duplexes.

 Habitat for Humanity constructs homes - largely using volunteer labour and donated materials and services - for selected modest-income families who must contribute 500 hours to the build. The screened applicants become responsible for the no-interest mortgage and utilities.

 The property on Fauxburg Road is unserviced, so any homes built there will require wells and septic systems.

 The project was not without detractors. It was standing room only in the council chambers as those for and against the land deal filled the seats.

 A couple of people suggested subdividing the property and only giving Habitat some of the land. Norman Whynacht said he supports Habitat for Humanity, but questioned if the town could afford to dispose of such an asset for a dollar.

 The estimated market value of the property is $67,000.

 Mayor Joe Feeney suggested there has been no interest in the property to date.

 "We are seriously in need of young families in the town," he said. "It's an opportunity for us to participate in a worthwhile project to give an opportunity for a family to have access to housing that they will own.

 "We have made attempts to promote development within town. A lot of that has been very difficult. It created all kinds of issues two or three or four years ago," he added.

 Mark Eikens said he has nothing against Habitat for Humanity, but encouraged council to delay making a decision for 30 days to give other causes a chance to make offers on the property.

 "There are more deserving causes within the town, within our community," Mr. Eikens said. "I feel that to allow the land to pass to another body just for one dollar is truly a gift. ... Once you've given the land away, it's gone forever."

 Richard Boone, who lives on Pond Street, said he and his partner feel the project is similar to low-income co-operative housing.

 "To us, you're just bringing in a bad element into the town," Mr. Boone said. "Because the town doesn't have a police force, which I think it should, on site, this type of property often requires police. One house may not, but I guarantee you if it grows, you'll have a problem."

 Councillor John Bain refuted that, pointing out that Habitat for Humanity will be screening applicants for any homes built on the property.

 "They know the applicants, which is quite unlike a piece of property being sold in Mahone Bay in a subdivision and not having any idea who's coming into this town, so I really think some of those comments are quite unfounded," Councillor Bain said.

 Mr. Smith said Habitat hopes to begin building on the site by September 2012 and have the first family move in by April 2013.

 Speaking after the meeting, Mayor Feeney said he's hopeful people will get behind the project.

 "It is a volunteer town," he said. "And it is a Christian organization and, with a town with five churches, I think there are a few Christians in town."

posted on 11/23/11
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