Nova Scotia

Cooke Aquaculture's big fence 'a silly way to behave,' official says

Shelburne County locals are complaining about a four-metre-tall fence Cooke Aquaculture has started to build around a property that once was a dumping ground for unused equipment.

'I call it the Trump wall,' says neighbour of business's Sandy Point Road property

Debbie Belong stands next to one of the four-metre poles erected for Cooke Aquaculture's fence on Sandy Point Road. (CBC)

A woman in Shelburne County is hoping Cooke Aquaculture cancels its plan to build a four-metre-high steel fence around its property on Sandy Point Road, just outside Shelburne, N.S.

If it doesn't, Debbie Belong says her view of the harbour will disappear.

"I call it the Trump wall," she said.

Cooke Aquaculture uses the property to contain any excess, unused material for its salmon farming operation. Unused salmon pens sit on the water while buoys, small tanks, stacks of hoses and other material are closer to the road.

Belong believes the fence is payback for complaining about the mess that had been piling up on the property, which is directly across the road from her home.

"It was a total eyesore," Belong said of the property.  

'You've got to do something about this'

David Levy, the deputy warden for the Municipality of the District of Shelburne, agrees.

"Several weeks ago, they dumped the piping that they use around the cages. They put it there temporarily and didn't inform anybody and it made a dreadful mess," said Levy, who also acts as a liaison between Cooke Aquaculture and the community.

David Levy has become the unofficial mediator between Belong and Cooke Aquaculture. (CBC)

"It was spilling into the road and it just looked awful." 

Levy has become the unofficial mediator in the dispute between the Belongs and Cooke Aquaculture. 

"I contacted Cookes and I said, 'Look, you've got to do something about this. This is a silly way to behave,'" said Levy.

Then a crew showed up

Belong soon learned to be careful what she wishes for.  

After the mess was cleaned, a crew showed up last Thursday and started driving four-metre steel poles into the ground. 

Belong says if the fence goes up, the view of the harbour she's enjoyed for 40 years will disappear. (CBC)

"I won't see any mess, but I won't see anything else, neither — including my harbour view that I've had for more than 40 years," Belong said. "I don't think anything more than an eight-foot fence is necessary."

Support from neighbours

Belong shared her frustrations on Facebook and received some supportive feedback from neighbours. They worry the large fence will be an unattractive landmark on an otherwise scenic drive along the well-known Lighthouse Route on the South Shore.

In an emailed statement, Cooke Aquaculture said the company recognized a need to upgrade its maintenance facility and started "improving the landscaping" back in the spring.

"The work includes the installation of a fence and other projects, including landscaping, all designed to improve the site's appearance and to meet improved operational demands. All work is being carried out in compliance with all applicable regulations," the statement noted.

Debbie Belong says a 2.5-metre fence would suffice. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

Meanwhile, David Levy said he's been in negotiations with Cooke about what would be an appropriate height for a fence. Levy admits it was his suggestion they clean up the site and build a fence but he didn't expect it to be so high.

"For some reason they decided that the most effective way to get rid of the problem was to hide it in its entirety," said Levy.

"I said, 'I don't think there's any need for a 14-foot fence. I think six or eight feet would be more than adequate."

'They owe her respect'

No work on the project has been done since Friday. To Belong, that's a good sign. But Levy isn't sure Cooke will erect anything shorter than what's there now.

Levy said Cooke officials told him the materials were already purchased and the crew was hired. He said he told them it would be smarter to waste some of the money spent instead of doing something "this aggravating." 

"I think they owe her respect as an adjacent property owner. And be cognizant that it's wise for a business that wants community support respects community wishes wherever possible," he said.

About the Author

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.