Nova Scotia

Protesters have close call with heavy machinery at Dartmouth work site

Protesters are upset the machines were moving in to do the first phase of land clearing for Mount Hope Village, an 875-unit housing project. The site is in the Eisner Cove wetland, an area the protestors say should be protected.

Attainable housing project should go elsewhere, protesters say

This still image taken from a video shows the scene when a protester climbed on top of a piece of machinery that was in use removing trees near Highway 111 in Dartmouth. (Tara Lapointe)

A small group of people protesting against developing the Eisner Cove wetland for housing had a close encounter with heavy machinery at the Dartmouth, N.S., work site on Monday.

Two pieces of machinery were set up in a wooded area on the edge of Highway 111 and the operators started up the gear with protesters standing next to it.

"I moved to block one of the machines because I thought if I stand in front of it, he'll stop because that's what normal people do," said Susan Van Iderstine, one of the protesters. "But he didn't stop, he came right for me."

A security guard quickly grabbed Van Iderstine and pulled her away as the treads of the machine came close to touching her.

The second machine had another protester climb aboard its long arm while it was in operation. The chaotic situation came to an end with no one suffering any injuries.

Protesters are upset the machines were moving in to do the first phase of land clearing for Mount Hope Village, an 875-unit housing project, with half of those described as "attainable" housing units. The site is a wetland, an area the protesters say should be protected.

Protesters waved signs Tuesday toward oncoming traffic at the Mount Hope Village site. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

"We are making bad choices here because there are many other places to put housing in HRM like vacant lots, unused buildings, there are sites all over the place," said Van Iderstine. "We do not need to make this choice."

The company behind the project, Clayton Developments, has been given all the approvals necessary to do the work.

Nova Scotia's Department of Environment and Climate Change says there is no evidence of wood turtles or any other endangered species within the wetland area.

'Endangering workers and themselves'

The two machines the protesters encountered were pulled from the site on Tuesday.

"It's really a safety issue as much as it is a development challenge when you have people endangering both workers and themselves by taking reckless action," said Jason Brunt, president of Clayton Developments Ltd. 

"We decided to pull out of the site mainly due to the behaviour of that group and we are just waiting until it is safe to return."

The protesters returned to the site on Tuesday and say they will continue to go back to wave signs to passing motorists on the busy stretch of highway.

Some work has already begun at the Mount Hope Village housing site. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Police were called to the scene Monday afternoon and came back on Tuesday. No one was arrested.

"Our primary focus is everyone's safety and we will continue to monitor the situation," said Const. Nicolas Gagnon, acting public information officer with Halifax Regional Police.

Brunt says he doesn't know when crews will go back in to continue the work to get the project started. 

Mount Hope Village will be a mix of townhouses, semis, quadruplexes and apartment buildings.

Brunt says if machinery can get back into the site soon, the first units could be ready in about one year. The remainder of the project could be completed in five years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across Nova Scotia for 30 years.

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