Regional councillors roundly rejected a June report that would have allowed development in the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes area.
At their Tuesday meeting, councillors agreed with a staff recommendation to reject the June report, refuse a request to start the development process for some lands and to look at alternative options for establishing a park in the area.
The recommendations from city staff were released in August and are in stark opposition to the earlier facilitator’s report. The facilitator’s report, authored by Justice Heather Robertson, was widely-criticized for putting the developer’s interests over the city’s.
Councillors had expected Robertson to find a compromise between the two main companies that own land and the city. The municipality wants to turn the area into a regional park that will buffer a provincial wilderness area but the developers want to turn the land into a suburb. The land owned by the Annapolis Group and Susie Lakes Development cannot be developed under current zoning rules.
In total, 15 companies own land where Halifax wants to develop the park.
Coun. Gloria McCluskey was the only councillor who voted against all three of the city’s counter-recommendations. Coun. David Hendsbee joined McCluskey in her opposition to the move to continue the ban on development in the area. Coun. Matt Whitman was absent.
McCluskey said she couldn’t support the staff recommendations without knowing how much it would ultimately cost.
The June report called for the city to start secondary planning on some of the privately-owned land. That process would have opened the door to development.
Coun. Reg Rankin has previously supported starting secondary planning and had a motion on the floor calling for it. However, he ultimately sided with the majority of his colleagues.
How much it will cost to establish the park, whether the park will meet its initial proposed boundary and when the park will be established are all still unknowns. Staff will return another report to council within six months to set out a more detailed plan for how to create the park.