By Kate Watson
Seriously? Seriously? The same city that talks about attracting newcomers and welcoming new businesses is telling this lovely, locally-run gallery/cafe that it doesn’t belong on Windmill Road?
The mind boggles…
Dear friends, neighbours and customers,
We will be going to court this week, as the city is charging us with violating the zoning bylaws in North Dartmouth. They are seeking to impose a fine of $100/day since our opening, which amounts to roughly $47,000 and growing.
Over the past year, ourselves and our landlord have worked to come to an agreement with the city that would allow us to keep operating in our current location. Despite the fact that we have come close to finalizing a development agreement, they are pursuing their court case against us.
We cannot understand why the city has chosen to go after a small business such as ours. In a province that is trying to grow its economy and reduce red tape, HRM continues to create bureaucracy and foster an anti-small business environment.
We came from outside Nova Scotia, brought our saving, our hopes and our dreams here and decided to invest ourselves in North Dartmouth. We bought a house, started our family and decided to open a small art gallery and café in a neighbourhood that is slowly improving.
We have hosted open mike nights for local musicians and story-telling evenings that celebrate the oral tradition and music of the east coast. Students from John Martin Jr High have exhibited their incredible drawings. Artists from all over Nova Scotia have sold their art to our customers. Not everyone buys a painting, but the art on the walls continues to provoke discussions among those who stop by.
Since the day we opened we have been harassed by the bureaucrats at the city. There has been no outside complaint made against us. We know this from the discovery documents that they provided us for our court case. This malicious prosecution has been driven by the staff of the city, whose salaries we all pay with our taxes and whose job it is supposed to be to improve the city we live in. One staff member even emailed that they should ‘throw the book’ at us. This is despite the fact that we have been told by the city that they believe that our presence in the neighbourhood is a good thing.
They have caused us untold stress and sleepless nights and now they threaten to shut us down by fining us what amounts to a half year of sales and would force us out of business.
The North Dartmouth community has been kind enough to embrace us. We have found a wonderful home in a diverse, vibrant neighbourhood and appreciate the love and support we have found from the residents. It would break our hearts to have to close.
We do not know what the outcome of this week’s court battle will be, so we ask you for your thoughts and prayers and thank you for your support over the past 15 months.
Oliver and Megan Mahon
Owners, The Darkside