HotSpots Exemplify HRM’s Urgent Need for the Greenbelting Solution
June 21, 2012
North of St. Margaret's Bay and Highway 103 is a large piece of land connected throughout by lakes and streams. It has been used for decades by hunters, anglers, hikers, canoeists and other outdoor enthusiasts. It has also been used by Resolute Forest Products (formerly Bowater Mersey Paper Company) as a location for tree harvesting. Now, the sale of the land seems almost imminent with Bowater Mersey closing its plant in Brooklyn and with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal’s plan to put an interchange between Exits 5 and 6 at Ingramport. The two situations could open the area to development – which is at odds with the Halifax Regional Municipality’s (HRM) Regional Municipal Planning Strategy (RMPS).
When HRM developed their 25-year “Masterplan” (the RMPS) in 2006, the area in question was not designated as a place for residential growth. If HRM adopted the Greenbelting Solution, released by the Our HRM Alliance on March 19, these lands would remain designated for natural resource use. Residential growth would be focused on the identified “growth centres” of Upper Tantallon and Hubbards. The Greenbelting Solution points out that if the Municipality actually adhered to the RMPS, the Resolute Forest Products/Bowater Mersey land and the four other HotSpots identified below would not be threatened today (a HotSpot can be defined as an area where development puts naturally or culturally significant areas in immediate danger):
II. Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes Proposed Regional Park – As part of the 2006 RMPS, the Municipality planned for a Regional Park at Blue Mountain-Birch Cove. On May 31, HRM’s Real Property Planning Division released an ambitious vision for the Park. However, no timeline was attached. The Province has already made its commitment of land for a Regional Park clear, now it’s time for HRM to do the same. The Greenbelting Solution calls for a connected system of accessible green spaces throughout the Municipality, including in the urban core.
III. Williams Lake, Purcell’s Cove and the “Backlands” – Increasing development pressure threatens the exquisite natural heritage of the area. The Greenbelting Solution calls for the use of an urban containment boundary that would disallow the extension of sewer and water services.
IV. Bedford Basin Reef – The infilling of the Harbour near Crosby Island threatens the only natural coastline left on the western portion of the Bedford Basin. Crosby Island, one of the few islands that had remained in the Harbour, is no longer an island. The infilling now threatens a tidal reef that is home to marine life and migratory birds. The Greenbelting Solution calls for low-impact development – infilling a coastal reef is high-impact.
V. Sackville Rivers Watershed – The impact of development along the Sackville Rivers leads to increased siltation and debris. Inadequate placement of drainage systems, such as culverts, leads to flooding and direct runoff into the Rivers and the Harbour. The Greenbelting Solution calls to increase setbacks to 30 metres and the use of vegetated buffers along water bodies. Both of these measures would help increase permeability of the land adjacent to the water bodies and mediate the impact of runoff.
“It’s fairly simple,” says Jen Powley, Our HRM Alliance Coordinator. “There are places where development should happen and places where it shouldn’t – we simply need to ask whether a certain area is a good place for development ecologically, financially, and socially before deciding to build there.”
With its call to stop expanding sewer and water services and a call to develop within identified growth centres, the Greenbelting Solution of the Our HRM Alliance can effectively deal with the problems faced by HRM and the Province. HRM Staff reports detail that the Municipality already has approved enough lots to deal with 25-30 years of growth.