Musquodoboit Harbour residents unhappy with proposed tax on sidewalks

Proposed area tax rate charges residents ‘arm and a leg’

4 min read
caption This sketch of a small town business centre with a sidewalk was included in Musquodoboit Harbour's community development plan.
Musquodoboit Harbour Community Development Plan

Musquodoboit Harbour residents have been waiting for a long time for sidewalks in their Eastern Shore community.

However, Halifax Regional Municipality’s plan on how to pay for those sidewalks has not been welcomed by those residents.

Days after property assessments were released, the area tax rate plan regarding public discussion of how to fund the sidewalks was sent to residents in January.

Many residents have seen their property values increase by large amounts in recent years, making the additional tax a major concern.

David Hendsbee (District 2), councillor for the area, said the timing couldn’t have been worse. 

The tax is pending community and regional council approval. The municipality’s Rural Active Transportation Program for 17 rural communities was first proposed in February 2022. 

The proposed tax rate is $0.033 per $100 of taxable assessed property value. It would be applied in perpetuity to property owners annually starting after the sidewalks or multi-use pathways are complete in rural areas. 

“We shouldn’t have to pay extra for this. We’ve already been paying taxes and kind of getting the shaft as far as the value goes,” said Tegan Rowlings, the curator at Musquodoboit Harbour Railway Museum. She added that the taxes the community has paid have not resulted in adequate funding for the community.

“Since I’ve been here, my assessment has tripled in that time,” said Colin Cameron, who helped complete Musquodoboit Harbour & Area Chamber of Commerce & Civic Affairs’ community development plan. The plan showed that 68 per cent of the residents who were polled wanted sidewalks in 2016.

“We’ve paid enough into the pot that HRM should be able to put in sidewalks without charging us an arm and a leg,” he said.

Cameron said he likes Sheet Harbour’s tax plan. Sheet Harbour, a community on the Eastern Shore, annually taxes property owners depending on how far you live from the sidewalks. Those living closest to the sidewalks pay $25 annually, the residents who are the second-closest pay $15 annually and those who live the farthest away from the sidewalks in the community pay $5 annually.

caption This map shows Sheet Harbour’s tax plan for sidewalks.

“It’s increased people walking, new businesses have opened up, makes it really appear like a desirable community to live in rather than the place you just drive through,” said Cameron.

Katherine MacLellan, an active transportation planner for HRM, said Musquodoboit Harbour is identified as a rural growth centre.

“By supporting the pedestrians in that area, you can encourage pedestrian movement in a safe way,” said MacLellan.

“The cost of living is really high right now and people are feeling a lot of financial strain and a lot of insecurity around the future,” said MacLellan. “It’s a hard conversation to have and I think it’s understandable that that upset is there.”

The sidewalks may not be approved until the spring and MacLellan said it will probably be another two years until sidewalks are built.

Issues without sidewalks

Cameron, 72, recalls twisting his ankle while walking through Musquodoboit Harbour by the RCMP station. He said he sees a high schooler in a wheelchair and an older man who walks from the senior apartments to Tim Hortons daily, both of whom have difficulties.

A mother and stepmother of two 12-year-olds, Rowlings struggled walking them around Musquodoboit Harbour growing up.

“It was definitely treacherous trying to push toddlers around the community and keep them safe,” said Rowlings.

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Thomas Scott

Thomas is in his fourth year of journalism at the University of King's College. He loves sports and has reported on a variety of them for years....

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