Mayor Savage weighs in on protecting Birch Cove Blue Mountain area

Click to play video: 'Halifax mayor weighs in on ongoing debate to protect wilderness park'
Halifax mayor weighs in on ongoing debate to protect wilderness park
WATCH ABOVE: Mayor Mike Savage responds to Nova Scotia environment minister Margaret Miller's request to reject latest regional park proposal. Global’s Alexa MacLean reports – Jul 29, 2016

Halifax mayor Mike Savage has weighed in his thoughts on a letter addressed to him by Nova Scotia environment minister Margaret Miller regarding the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes development report.

A copy of the letter sent to the mayor and the clerk’s office on June 30 was obtained by Global News.

READ MORE: Province slams Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes report

In it, Miller asks that the municipality reject the latest facilitators report on the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes regional park boundaries.

Miller takes issue with the “substantial development” proposed around the cluster of lakes that were originally supposed to make up the core of the regional park.

Mayor Savage says he’s happy the provincial government has brought their thoughts to the table.

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“I think that there’s somewhat of a common consensus on this, certainly my view has always been that we need to protect the Birch Cove Blue Mountain area,” Savage said Friday.

In the letter, Miller says the June report on the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes doesn’t represent what the municipality said would be created.

READ MORE: Company involved in Birch Cove Lakes development made donations to sitting politicians

More than 1,000 acres of developer-owned land in the area has yet to be purchased by the city, even though in the 2006 Regional Municipal Planning Strategy, the municipality committed to creating a regional park at Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes.

“Our goal is to buy as much land as we can, protect that and make sure there’s no development on the lakes,” Savage said.

Savage said the green infrastructure goals of the municipality extend beyond just the Blue Mountain Birch Cove area.

“We’re looking at the area known as the ‘back-lands,’ which will be a significant investment. We’re looking at 100 wild islands to see how we can play a role in maintaining the green belt across HRM and making sure these areas are available to everybody,” Savage said.

A report released in June was supposed to facilitate a settlement between land owners who want to develop the area into suburbs, and the city — which wants to purchase the land and follow through with the regional park.

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But many believe the report sided with the developers, including minister Miller.

“Justice Heather Robertson [the facilitator] is as bright a person as we have in the province. Somebody I know well and like a lot. But I don’t agree with the result of the facilitator and I think we have to go back and figure out what the boundaries are for this park and protect more of it,” Savage said.

Council deferred a motion by District 12 Councillor Reg Rankin to proceed with public consultations and initiate the secondary development process.

The ongoing debate is scheduled to be back in council on September 6.

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