Forest Lakes Country Club development ramping up

Construction photo for article

As featured in the Hants Journal.

LAKELANDS — It may not look like much yet, but in a decade or two, hundreds of houses, condos and businesses will be popping up at the Forest Lakes Country Club resort community in West Hants. 

Kristi Wenaus, VP of Sales and Marketing of Forest Lakes Country Club, said approximately 50 per cent of homebuyers are full time residents, while the remaining are part time. Wenaus said Forest Lakes is best described as a “resort community,” but she says it’s not gated. “We have Europeans who are moving here full-time and I have some Nova Scotians who’ve bought and will be living here part time and in Florida in the winter,” Wenaus said. “It’s not necessarily just Europeans who will be part time.” The village centre will be the commercial hub of the development, with amenities including a grocery store, liquor store, café, a gas station and a hotel for visitors.

“People won’t want to drive all the way to Bedford or Windsor; they want to stay to have a nice meal,” she said. “Part of our development agreement with West Hants is to put this village centre in place.”

Wenaus said the maximum number of residential units in the development is approximately 2,700, which will be a pretty significant boost to the area’s population.

She said the development would likely be 50 per cent single-family homes and 50 per cent multi-unit.

“We’re just waiting to see what the market tells us,” she said. “Right now we’re finding that our duplexes, our side-by-side homes, are very popular.”

It could be 10 or 20 years before the entire development is finished.

One community at a time

There are three communities located within the development that are getting ready for people to move into now.

The Woodlands has 62 units, with smaller lot sizes.

The second community, called Springview Heights, has larger lots.

Another section of the development, called Eagle’s Paradise, which is attracting mainly European buyers, has a village feel.

Wenaus said European clients are attracted to the resort because of the Canadian wilderness.

“The idea of Canada for them is wide open spaces, close to nature, pristine and a true connection with the earth,” she said. “That’s key for them.”

The close proximity to an international airport, with direct flights to and from London, Frankfurt and New York, doesn’t hurt either, she said.

Not a gated community

Wenaus said there’s a misconception out there that Forest Lakes is a gated community.

“It’s not the Nova Scotia way. The entire community will be open and accessible, just as any other area,” she said. “Down the line, should we find that the market demand is looking for a small gated portion, we could create it, but that’s not really in the current plan and not in the nature of the development.”

Wenaus said homes start around $300,000 and go all the way up to $2 million. Lots start at $93,000.

The entire development takes up 1,800 acres (728 hectares), spanning from Highway 1 to Highway 101 and from the edge of Lily Lake in the east and Cameron Lake in the west.

The development has already gone through an extensive planning approval process with the Municipality of West Hants, which means all that’s left is to build.

“We’re nine years in, which gives you an idea of how long it takes to acquire the land and put the master plan in place,” Wenaus said.

Terra Firma, the development company that designed Forest Lakes, is owned by Bradley and Donald Marr, brothers from Fredericton, New Brunswick.

“They looked all over Nova Scotia to find the right piece of land for development of this scope and size,” she said. “We don’t have anything like this in Atlantic Canada.”

Wenaus said the brothers have been successful in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, and they saw an opportunity to bring this type of development to the east coast.

“These type of resort communities of this scope and scale have been very successful all over Canada and all over the world. We know the model is proven, they just look for markets that haven’t adapted it yet,” she said. “It’s also a bit of a legacy project for (Bradley and Donald Marr), to have this in Atlantic Canada, which is home to them.”

Wenaus said Terra Firma wasn’t allowed to develop their plan in HRM because of a moratorium on development.

“They weren’t even looking at developments of this size and scope; it was completely shut down,” she said. “The beauty of it (is) we are still close to Halifax. It’s not easy to find 1,800 undeveloped acres.”

Memberships to the Nicklaus designed golf course will be limited to residents of Forest Lakes only, however visitors can pay for a round of golf. “World class” tournaments are also expected to take place when it’s complete.

Surrounding communities invited in

Wenaus said Forest Lakes is trying to incorporate with their surrounding communities, like Lakelands and Ardoise. They hosted a tree lighting ceremony last winter and invited area residents to join in.

“We reached out to the neighbouring schools, which we provide sponsorship support to,” she said. “We recognize that the amenities we’re providing here, from the village centre, to the walking trails, to the golf course, are open to all of those community members. Our arms are wide open.”

Wenaus said, despite the price tag, Forest Lakes isn’t exclusively for the top one per cent.

“You can own a beautiful, brand new home here for $350,000,” she said. “If you’re in the one per cent, we’ve got a home for you, but this is a community for locals, for Nova Scotians and everyday full time residents. Kids will go to school, people will retire here, it’s not for the international elite alone.”

What’s in it for West Hants?

A staff report from the Municipality of West Hants, written in 2011, highlighted some of the revenues and expenditures that could go along with the development.

The staff report, written by former director of planning Lynn Davis, said primary expenditures would come from policing, fire services, road maintenance and staffing.

However, the report also estimates that increased tax revenue will offset those costs.

The report estimates revenue to increase annually by $200,000, based on 100 new homes each year.

It adds that more research would be required to identify the potential commercial tax revenue.

Former Chief Administrative Officer Cheryl Chislett stated at the time that “over the duration of the construction phase and based on the projected full build-out, West Hants could see policing costs considerably increased.”

At an estimated cost of $120,000 per officer annually, five additional officers would cost a minimum of $600,000 per year.

Upon project completion, policing costs could increase by more than $1.6 million,

assuming 14 additional officers were required.

The former CAO also noted at the time that the magnitude of this project, especially during the construction stage, would require that municipal staff resources be reviewed, particularly in respect to building inspection.

The staff report also said that existing schools should be able to handle the increased population.

The area is served by Brooklyn District Elementary and West Hants Middle School, which is located in Brooklyn, and Avon View High School, in Windsor.

Highway 101 off-ramp in the works

Forest Lakes Country Club is planning to be bookended by two primary entrances, one on Highway 1 in Lakelands and the other on Highway 101, between Exit 3: Mount Uniacke, and Exit 4: Ellershouse.

Kristi Wenaus, VP of Sales and Marketing of Forest Lakes Country Club, said based on a traffic study conducted, they expect more than 50 per cent of the traffic using the new Highway 101 interchange will be residents outside of the Forest Lakes development.

“We certainly can pay for the interchange all on our own, however, we do believe there’s an opportunity for the provincial and federal government to provide support as well,” Wenaus said. “We’re in negotiations with the province right now.”

Wenaus said construction could start on the new on/off-ramp in 2017-18.