Nova Scotia

Supreme Court justice upholds former minister's reasoning in dispute over rock wall

The process followed by a former environment minister to determine if a property owner's seawall conforms to provincial rules was sound, according to a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice.

Property owners objected to neighbours' wall on James Beach

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice found the decision by then-environment minister Iain Rankin that this rock wall on James Beach does not violate provincial rules was sound. (Jack Julian/CBC)

The process followed by a former environment minister to determine if a property owner's seawall conforms to provincial rules was sound, according to a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice.

Three property owners from Black Point in Pictou County — Maryn Lynn, Sandra Lynn and Beth Skerrett — pursued the review challenging a decision by then-environment minister Iain Rankin regarding a seawall constructed and maintained by Wayne and Helen Chisholm.

The seawall protected the Chisholm property on James Beach from erosion.

At the time, Rankin, who is now premier, said staff from his department investigated the situation and, following site visits, determined the wall did not violate any provincial legislation.

In a ruling released this week, Justice Ann Smith found that Rankin's conclusions were reasonable.

"The record amply demonstrates that the minister, through his staff, thoroughly investigated whether any of those statutes were violated by the Chisholms' 2020 activities. They concluded that they had not. The minister reasonably therefore concluded that no violations had occurred."

While the applicants argued that the work conducted by the Chisholms violated the Beaches Act, Smith found that James Beach is not a public beach above the mean high water mark, meaning it does not attract all the protections of the legislation.

Environment Department staff also determined the wall, which is made of armour stone and extends into the water, was not a threat to endangered species. Smith agreed with that determination.

While the applicants and others had also previously voiced concerns about the wall creating an impediment for people walking the beach, the Chisholms created a passage prior to the judicial review.

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