If he builds it, they will come

A New Brunswick man plans to build high-end homes on his property to attract top medical talent to Saint John

With about 5,500 patients, Darrell Gallant of Saint John, N.B., may be Canada’s busiest family doctor. That’s because Saint John has trouble attracting doctors. There are very few nice homes, he says, near the Saint John Regional Hospital, forcing on-call doctors to spend hours commuting to the suburbs.

Gallant has a solution: his 37-hectare property, with its views of three rivers, a golf course, and pristine Rockwood Park, is a 30-second drive from the hospital. And this spring, he plans to build more than 150 high-end homes on his property in the hopes of attracting top medical talent—last month, there were reportedly 11 vacancies for physicians at the hospital. Gallant says as many as 50 doctors have expressed interest in the development since he began planning it a decade ago.

But if city council goes ahead with its plan for Rockwood Park, Gallant thinks the views from his property would be ruined. The city is eager to increase population density in the park and will soon vote on whether to rezone parts of the park across from Gallant’s potential subdivision, which would allow buildings up to five stories. In that case, he may not build at all. Doctors, he says, don’t want to live across from “a ghetto.”

Though Mayor Ivan Court told Maclean’s that medium-density buildings are unlikely, the report his council acted on recommends more density. Apartment dwellers, according to the report, would “act as stewards,” keeping a watchful eye for people dumping garbage. “That’s such a bag of bulls–t,” says Gallant. “If you put 1,000 people in the park, there’s going to be a lot more trash.” The report also claims that more houses in the park would help the city recoup some of the $5.6 million spent upgrading water and sewage lines in 2004. Gallant is promising millions in tax revenues with his plan—and, of course, a cure for the doctor shortage.

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