Nova Scotia

Golf course development ruining lake near Hubbards, locals say

Property owners on Fox Point Lake, near Hubbards, N.S., say a nearby golf course development — which sold at auction for the minimum bid — is ruining their water quality and way of life.

Aspotogan Ridge Golf Course recently sold at auction for minimum bid

Chair of the Fox Point Lake Home and Lot Owners Association, John McNeil, says water tests show phosphorus and nitrogen levels are higher in the part of the lake near the golf course. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Some people who own property on Fox Point Lake near Hubbards, N.S., say a nearby golf course development — recently auctioned off for the minimum bid — is ruining their water quality and way of life.

The Aspotogan Ridge Golf Course was marketed on its website as a "first-rate ecological golf course" on the Aspotogan Peninsula. It went on the auction block on Feb. 16 after the owner said he couldn't pay two environmental fines totalling more than $540,000.

An investigation by Nova Scotia's Department of Environment in 2014 and 2015 found Aspotogan Developments Ltd. and Aspotogan Ridge Inc. guilty of nine counts of breaching the province's Environment Act.

Investigators found the companies — both owned by Barry Publicover — filled wetlands with rock and installed culverts, pipes and sod without provincial approval.

"My children swam here, my grandchildren swam here, and now I can't go in the lake myself," said Stephen Lawlor, who lives on Fox Point Lake year-round.

Lawlor said he managed to swim a couple of times last summer when the water cleared briefly. Then it was back to "algae blooms" and a "stench in the water."

"It's swampy," he said.

The stream that runs into Fox Point Lake looks brown in this photo by year-round resident Nancy MacDonald. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)
In February 2018, the water looks clear at Fox Point Lake, but some locals worry that will change if the development project starts up again. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Resident wants the project to 'die'

"I'm sickened by it," said Nancy MacDonald, who has been coming to the lake since she was a little girl and now lives there full time.

"We don't feel that we can cook or shower or wash in the water," she said.

"I'd like to see this thing die," said Nancy's husband, Hardy MacDonald, of the development.

A sign at the Aspotogan Ridge Golf Course development site says the course will open in the summer of 2018. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

The project — which was supposed to include an 18-hole golf course and 500 residential units — could still go ahead. 

A sign on the property said the golf course will open in the summer of 2018.

Sold for minimum bid

Auctioneer Joshua Santimaw said the property — 29 lots in total — sold for the minimum bid of $1,150 at a public auction at the Bridgewater Justice Centre. It was sold to a Belgian company called Land Invest Group NV, which had previously invested in the project.

Taken together, the 29 lots, totalling more than 202 hectares, have a maximum assessed value of $2,192,600, based on Nova Scotia's Property Online database. 

It is unclear whether the company will have to pay the outstanding tax bill or environmental fines. 

Land Invest Group NV did not respond to the CBC's request for comment.

Either way, "somebody has to be responsible" for paying those fines, said Lawlor.

Conditions on the lake are "getting progressively worse," he said, adding you really need to live there to witness the "devastation."

Nancy MacDonald, Hardy MacDonald and John McNeil say they've experienced algae blooms, brown water and smelly water at Fox Point Lake. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

Monitoring underway

In response to complaints from the community, the Municipality of the District of Chester and the Aspotogan Heritage Trust contracted the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation to monitor the lake water.

John McNeil, chair of the Fox Point Lake Home and Lot Owners Association, said that after three years of monitoring, results are fairly positive, but they do indicate there has been "stress" put on the lake and "we just hope the lake has the ability to rebound."

McNeil said he first noticed a brown colour in part of the lake in 2006. There was "a lot of exposed earth" and "huge flows of sediment" coming into the water due to the "extreme nature" of the land clearing at that time, he said.

McNeil said he can live with a golf course next door, but he wants to live "in harmony" with that golf course.

It is unclear if the company that bought The Aspotogan Ridge Golf Course development at auction will have to pay the environmental fines. (Phlis McGregor/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nina Corfu

Associate Producer

Nina Corfu has worked with CBC Nova Scotia since 2006, primarily as a reporter and producer for local radio programs. In 2018, she helped launch and build a national website for preteens called CBC Kids News. Get in touch by email: nina.corfu@cbc.ca

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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