HANTS COUNTY, N.S. — The Forest Lakes Country Club, a massive development between Mount Uniacke and Windsor, is filling in a bit slower than developers expected, but representatives say they’re hopeful the project will accelerate in the coming years.
Ralph Bastarache, vice president of sales, said their level of growth is in line with other developments across the province.
“Currently we have built or are building 14 homes, with two resident families living on site,” Bastarache said.
“We’re in the midst of three custom builds for people. We have eight homes currently on the market and a 12-unit condominium building that we have sold eight out of 12 units,” he added.
“Are we in line with other developments? Yes, but just like all of the other developments in the province, we’re a little bit behind schedule,” he said. “Developments encounter a number of speed bumps and roadblocks along the way, whether it be environmental, permitting — sometimes the weather can throw curve balls.”
Bastarache said Forest Lakes is a long-term project, with a development agreement that allows them to establish 2,700 housing units inside the 6.9 hectare site.
“We’re a little bit behind where we would like to be, but are we hugely concerned? No,” he added. “Are we looking to accelerate the pace? I think we have done that over the past 12 months and I see that continuing.”
Bastarache said one of the things that has slowed down growth is the speed that some title deeds are being transferred.
“Just getting all of the paperwork through the county offices… there were delays getting the permitting process and getting those PIDs (Parcel Identification Number) created,” he said, adding that there is a bit of a learning curve for both the development team and the municipality.
The proposed Highway 101 interchange, which would connect Forest Lakes to the highway, remains on hold, until more people start living in the development, Bastarache said.
“Is that something that’s going to happen in the next 12 months? No. As our resort grows and there’s more amenities and more residents, there will be a need,” he said adding that it’ll likely be more than five years before the interchange is required.
Bastarache said Forest Lakes would likely do a cost-share arrangement with the province and federal government when the time is right to build the interchange.
The village centre, a planned commercial zone that includes amenities, shops and services, which would be located near the interchange, is also going to take some time to develop.
“The village centre (and the interchange) are very inter-related. It makes sense for the village centre to grow and expand once there is easy access to it via the 101,” he said.
“We’re planning a wide range of shops and services — everything you would need to support a community of 2,700 homes or more than 5,000 people,” he continued.
Bastarache said they already hire local workers for golf course work and maintenance, and said more people will become employed as the site develops.
“But once that commercial centre gets activated, there’ll be need for hundreds of people from the local community to join us here,” he said.
“We’re not rushing to get this done, we’re taking time to get it done right.”
Adapting the concept
Joanne Cheevers, director of marketing with Forest Lakes, said the overarching vision of Forest Lakes remains intact — it’s a resort community surrounded by nature.
“Our core philosophies are a lifestyle that is top notch in this area of Atlantic Canada,” Cheevers said. “Have we pivoted our plan of what we were going to do? Sure, we’ve evolved, listened to what our clients have said both locally, nationally and internationally.”
Cheevers said the design and scope of some of their buildings and neighbourhoods have changed based on feedback.
One of those changes includes scaling back the size of some of the designs in their country collection of homes, going from 2,400 square feet for some models to much smaller, some around the 1,500 square feet range.
“A lot of folks told us they were looking to downsize and didn’t need such a monster of a home,” she said.
“Wanting something that’s under 2,000 square feet — something that’s designed for aging in place with a master bedroom on the main floor,” Cheevers said.
“I think you need to (adapt) in order to survive, especially where this project is a longer term one for Nova Scotia,” she said.
Amenities already available
Cheevers said the development already has a number of things in place for residents and members of the wider community to enjoy.
“We do have the trail network up and running and we’ve organized guided hikes on that with an environmental specialist who will talk about the flora and the fauna,” Cheevers said.
On Feb. 24, there will be a guided snowshoe walk through the trail network.
The lodge, the main structure when entering Forest Lakes via Highway 1, is a communal space, where residents can rent out or larger activities can be hosted.
The boathouse is also fully operational, where residents can access Cochrane Lake via canoe or kayak.
The 18-hole Jack Nicklaus designed golf course is expected to come online in 2019.
The land was initially purchased in 2007 and has been an ongoing project since that time. The first resident of Forest Lakes was welcomed in 2017.