Nova Scotia

Proposed infilling on Halifax's Northwest Arm prompts calls for moratorium

Environmental activists and Halifax regional council want a moratorium on the infilling of water lots along the Northwest Arm until there are new federal policies in place to automatically review the environmental impact.

Owners of $3M Birchdale Avenue home want to put 7,650 cubic metres of fill into water lot

Transport Canada is accepting public comments on the proposal until July 22. This map of the area, which highlights the Birchdale Avenue property, says it was prepared for Andrew Metlege and was submitted with the application package. (Transport Canada)

Environmental activists and Halifax regional council want a moratorium on the infilling of water lots along the Northwest Arm until there are new federal policies in place to automatically review the environmental impact.

"There are lobster in the arm, minke whales at the mouth of the arm and eel grass along the shoreline that help with coastal climate change," said Nancy Anningson, coastal co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre.

"At the very minimum when an application for an infill goes into Transport Canada, I think it should have an obligation to contact Fisheries and Oceans to trigger a project review."

Anningson's call for changes comes on the heels of an application for infilling that was posted on Transport Canada's website on June 22 for 1454 Birchdale Av. in Halifax. The Metlege family bought the property at the end of May.

The home is assessed at $3,062,500. The application is for the infilling of a waterlot that is 1672 square metres and that was linked to the property before Confederation. According to the application, the infilling is "to protect the shoreline, reclaim land lost to erosion, and maximize the use of the property."

Proposal would extend property by 45m 

The owners want to start the work the first of September and use dump trucks and excavators to put 7,650 cubic metres of fill into the water lot, extending their property 45 metres out into the arm. The public has until July 22 to comment.

The Metlege family declined to comment on their infilling application.

According to Anningson, if all pre-Confederation water lots are infilled, the mouth of the Northwest Arm would be cut in half and the surface of the water would be reduced by 31 per cent. She does not believe the property currently has erosion issues and does not think the infilling would do anything to address that issue.

The Ecology Action Centre says the Northwest Arm in Halifax is a diverse ecosystem. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

An official request for an environmental assessment of all water lot infilling along the Northwest Arm was submitted to the federal environment minister by the Ecology Action Centre and seven individuals.

Anningson has also asked Fisheries and Oceans to do a specific review of the Birchdale Avenue proposal. She's not sure why the owners are going ahead with this proposal since municipal rules adopted in 2007 prevent development on infilled water lots, except for docks and gazebos.

"This is utterly unnecessary, it makes no sense," she said.

Coun. Shawn Cleary is also puzzled by the move. The issue of infilling was discussed at a regional council meeting on June 8.

"Not only do our municipal rules not allow you to develop on that land, but you can't use it to develop abutting land," said Cleary.

Regional council voted in favour of writing to the federal minister of transportation to support the call for a moratorium on applications to infill water lots along the Northwest Arm. There's also a petition circulating about the issue.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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