Nova Scotia

Annapolis Group to sue HRM for $119M over Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes rejection

A Halifax developer whose development plans for the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes area were turned down by the city last year says the city's actions have forced it to sue the city for $119 million.

'This is not where we wanted to be, but we were forced here,' says's company's vice-chairman

View of proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park. Last fall, municipal council voted not to permit development in the area. (Halifax.ca)

A Halifax developer whose development plans for the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes area were turned down by the city last year says the city's actions have forced it to sue the city for $119 million.

The company must give the municipality 30 days notice before filing the papers in court.

"The city put us here," company vice-chairman Robert Gillis said in an interview. "This is not our choice, this is not where we wanted to be, but we were forced here."

Robert Gillis is vice-chairman of the Annapolis Group and president of Thornridge Holdings Ltd., the parent company for Annapolis. (CBC)

The move comes following the city's rejection last year of development plans by the Annapolis Group. The company owns 965 acres east of the more than 4,000 acres in the conceptual park's area.

Gillis said his company spent 10 years trying to make the development happen and made compromises and changes to the proposal. The plan called for the development of housing and Annapolis was willing to include 300 acres of its land for parkland.

Negative feedback

Gillis accused the municipality of intentionally dragging out the negotiation process. He noted a facilitator's report recommended approving the development. That report said the land could feature a regional park and the proposed development by Annapolis.

However, public criticism was swift and furious.

A subsequent staff report recommended against the development and, ultimately, council voted down the idea.

Jeopardizes prosperity

While environmentalists and supporters of protecting the area from development heralded the move, Gillis said the city is treating businesses unfairly. The decision to pursue legal action isn't a case of sour grapes, he said.

"We think development is good for the city of Halifax. It will create jobs, it creates tax revenue [and] supports infrastructure, so that's our position," said Gillis.

He said the $119-million figure is based on "fair value of the lands." He would not say when the company made the decision to go the legal route.

A 'fundamental disagreement'

In an email, municipal spokesman Brendan Elliott said the vision for the area as a park "has never progressed beyond the conceptual stage, despite the best efforts of both the municipality and Annapolis."

He said there's a "fundamental disagreement" over the value of the land and differing visions over what a park would look like.

"At this point the park as conceived in the planning strategy is simply an aspiration, although the municipality continues to explore all options to make a park in this area a reality," he said.

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca