Nova Scotia

Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes development plans rejected by Halifax

Halifax regional council voted down development plans for the wilderness area on Tuesday.

'You have sent us an amazing love story,' Coun. Jennifer Watts says of 1,400 letters on proposed park

The provincial government designated the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes site a wilderness area in 2009 and the municipality has been trying to establish a regional park around its perimeter for about a decade. (

Halifax regional council voted against development plans for the Blue Mountain Birch Cove wilderness area on Tuesday.

Councillors voted 15-1 in support of a staff recommendation to not let people build in the area, which has long been proposed as a regional park. An earlier facilitator's report backed development.

"You have sent us an amazing love story," Coun. Jennifer Watts said of the 1,400 letters council received on the proposed park.

Watts said people could access the proposed park by bus.

Mayor wants biggest park possible

"I think it's a great step," said Mayor Mike Savage. "We've just given staff authority to go ahead and start negotiating both the boundary and the acquisition of land."

He said when staff have that worked out they will come before council. "Developers should not make an undue profit; on the other hand they should be fairly compensated for the land they own," the mayor said.

He wants it to be "as large as it can possibly be."

The province owns much of the land as a wilderness reserve. Two developers, Susie Lake Developments and The Annapolis Group, own 346 hectares of the more than 1,619 hectares in the conceptual park's area. The Stevens Group runs a quarry in the area. In total, 518 hectares of the area are owned privately. 

McCluskey backs development

Raymond Plourde, wilderness co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, said he's "breathing a big sigh of relief.

"Council quite firmly has set things off — finally — in the right direction. After ten years, I think we're going to start seeing some movement," he said. 

He said when the park is finally realized, it will be "the envy of any city in the country, if not North America."

Coun. Gloria McCluskey was the lone councillor supporting development, arguing residents in her Dartmouth district would not use the park much. She also felt development would be better for taxpayers.

Staff to start talks with land owners

Bob Bjerke, the city's planning director, said staff will now meet with land owners, conservation groups and other government agencies interested in the proposed park. The next report will come within six months. 

"It will be a much more defined program for how to get from where we are now, to really looking at how to really achieve the objectives of the park that have been expressed in the regional plan," he said. 

​The city first flagged the area as a possible regional park in 2006. It included that idea in the current regional plan.

With files from Steve Berry