Nova Scotia

McCain’s heiress says she is blocked from opening businesses in Peggys Cove

Eleanor McCain, a musician and daughter of one of the founders of the McCain Foods empire, says she’s run into roadblocks opening businesses in Peggys Cove. And she wants the province to intervene before the iconic coastal village enters tourist season.

McCain says she has made major renovations to some of the six properties she owns along Peggys Point Road.

But only one, a gift shop, is zoned as commercial. It opened this year.

The Peggy’s Cove Commission has denied McCain’s requests for exemptions for the remaining five while a new land use ordinance is being drafted.

The province has so far refused to intervene.

McCain owns two parcels of land in Peggy’s Cove, where she plans to open several businesses and art spaces. (CBC)

“I find it very disheartening and disappointing to have a government that is unresponsive and unwilling to support finding creative ways to open up these businesses. I don’t think that’s what we’re facing as Atlantic Canadians, McCain said.

“I think this is a problem for all Nova Scotians because, fundamentally, Peggys Cove isn’t just a provincial icon, it’s a national icon.”

The committee is responsible for planning and development decisions for the area to ensure that commercial opportunity is balanced with the need to preserve the community. There are about 30 permanent residents in the village and they receive more than 700,000 tourists every summer.

McCain has a home in nearby Hackett’s Cove and said the area has long been close to her heart. Therefore, in 2021, she and Paul Hansen purchased two lots containing the six buildings for $1.6 million.

McCain said she plans to open businesses in three of the buildings and nonprofits in the other three, including a museum and art gallery. The old schoolhouse built in the 1800s would become a performance space, McCain said.

But the PCC has denied McCain’s requests to allow the non-compliant premises to operate this summer, including a takeout restaurant where previous food companies operated for years.

“Repurposing under the existing bylaws would send the wrong signal to anyone who participated in the consultation on the revised bylaws and is now awaiting the final document,” committee chair Nicole Campbell said in a February letter about McCain’s request.

The proposed urban development plan addresses everything from housing size to regulations for building materials. It would also mean converting some residential zones along Peggys Point Road to mixed use for commercial, residential and community purposes – and McCain’s buildings would all meet the requirements.

An aerial view of part of the village of Peggy's Cove shows colorful houses set against rolling hills and the sea
Most of the buildings on the other side of the road in this 2021 image were part of McCain’s Peggy’s Cove land purchase. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

McCain said it’s not fair to ask her to wait when multiple other companies go against the current bylaws. Letters from the Commission shared with CBC News show they are investigating at least one company that McCain brought up with them.

“The process is actually harboring that idea of ​​neighbor against neighbor right now and that’s one of the main issues here, which is a shame,” McCain said.

“If you have a committee that has a conflict of interest, that has a lack of enforcement… things like that happen.”

CBC News contacted Campbell and the committee for comment, but did not receive a response by the deadline.

Councilor resigns

The committee consists of the area councilman, a representative from the Department of Business, the county planning director, and residents of Peggys Cove.

Area Councilman Pam Lovelace resigned from her seat on the committee in May to protest the situation. When she first started attending meetings after winning the district in 2020, Lovelace said she was surprised that committee meetings weren’t public, with only limited minutes online.

“The lack of transparency is completely unacceptable and I no longer want to be a part of that,” Lovelace said.

Both Lovelace and McCain have called on the county to step in and allow zoning waivers before the new ordinance goes into effect, which could take months as a second community meeting on the rules has yet to take place.

A white woman with dark hair stands on a dais in an ornate-looking government chamber.  Behind her is a long table with chairs, flags and two gilt-edged portraits.
Economic Development Secretary Susan Corkum-Greek says the Peggy’s Cove bylaw process must unfold before any changes can be made to the law governing the area and the commission. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Susan Corkum Greek, Nova Scotia’s economic development secretary, told reporters Thursday that she can appreciate McCain’s “frustration” but that the process should be this way.

When asked about enforcing the current bylaws, Corkum Greek said this is a “central challenge” because the legislation governing the commission, which was passed in 1962, does not provide it with those tools.

The law “is outdated and inadequate, and absolutely needs to be modernized,” Corkum Greek said, adding that she hopes to review the legislation before the next provincial election.

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