Nova Scotia

Big Pond residents relieved after court rejects RV park

A group of residents in Big Pond, N.S., is relieved after winning a nearly two-year battle to prevent development of a proposed recreational vehicle park in their rural neighbourhood.

Nova Scotia Appeal Court throws out CBRM's request to overturn UARB ruling against proposed RV development

Big Pond residents won their case against a proposed RV park development at a Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board hearing earlier this year, and won again at the Court of Appeal this week. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

A group of residents in Big Pond, N.S., has won the fight against a proposed recreational vehicle park in their rural neighbourhood.

Last winter, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality narrowly approved a Calgary developer's plan to build an RV park along the shore of Bras d'Or Lake that would eventually accommodate more than 500 RVs and 64 tents.

The residents got that overturned by the province's Utility and Review Board earlier this year. The UARB ruling said CBRM council had failed to reasonably protect neighbouring residents from the potential noise and visual impact of the proposed development as required under the municipality's own rules.

On Monday, CBRM took that ruling to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and lost.

Helen Doherty, one of the Big Pond residents who opposed the RV park, said the Appeal Court decision took less than an hour.

"We were silent, as we were asked to be, in the court, and respectful, and waited until we left the courtroom, and then we cheered, and cried, and it was very emotional, because we worked very hard over the last two years," she said.

No surprise

The outcome wasn't a surprise, said Doherty, but the speed of the unanimous decision wasn't expected.

She said the panel of three judges listened to CBRM's presentation, which took about 30 minutes. After that, they asked if the developer had anything to say.

Doherty said Chris Skidmore's lawyer declined, and the judges then declared a 15-minute break.

When they came back, the Appeal Court judges said they would not need to hear the residents' presentation, because they had unanimously agreed to throw out the municipality's application, Doherty said.

The judges also said they would provide their reasons later in a written judgment, she said.

The residents say they aren't opposed to development, but an RV park would not have fit in with the rural neighbourhood, and they say it would have ruined the barachois pond attached to Bras d'Or Lake. (Ceilidh on the Lakes RV Campground/Facebook)

The residents aren't opposed to development, Doherty said, but an RV park would not have fit in with the rural neighbourhood and they say it would have ruined the environment in part of the Bras d'Or Lake.

"I wish Mr. Skidmore all the luck and I hope that he finds an appropriate location," she said.

"This location just wasn't appropriate."

Doherty said the residents are relieved the nearly two-year battle is over.

"If the judges award costs, we of course would accept it, but I believe all of us are really glad to be out of this fight," she said.

CBRM moving on

CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke said the municipality is moving on.

"The voice of the people has been heard through the process and we respect that process," he said.

Clarke said it is up to the developer to decide whether to look for another site in CBRM.

He said staff will help with that, if asked.

According to his lawyer, Calgary developer Chris Skidmore is considering his options after losing a bid to build a recreational vehicle park near Big Pond, next to the Bras d'Or Lake. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Skidmore's lawyer, Chris Conohan, said in an email that his client is disappointed with the Appeal Court ruling, but respects it.

He said Skidmore is considering his options, but an RV park appears to be out of the question on the land in Big Pond, unless council changes its planning documents.

"That is not in Mr. Skidmore's control, obviously, and in the absence of a revised strategy that would permit this type of development, Mr. Skidmore will simply have to explore other business opportunities that will suit that land without a bylaw change," Conohan said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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