HALIFAX REGIONAL MUNICIPALITY – In early April, Halifax Regional Council approved a two hundred and fifty million dollar expansion to Bayers Lake Business Park, which will be built on eighty hectares (one hundred and ninety seven acres). Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) will sell the land to the developer, Banc Developments. Almost doubling the Park’s retail space, a project this big deserves careful consideration and public consultation. Instead, Council approved a quarter-billion dollar development in a private meeting, with no public input.
Bayers Lake was originally planned as a light industrial park, similar to Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth. Lacewood Drive was extended to Bayers Lake to encourage retail development and big box stores like Costco were soon tenants. Retail space grew beyond expectations, creating huge traffic problems that Bayers Lake’s roads simply can’t handle. To relive congestion a new entrance to Bayers Lake is currently under construction, the Washmill Lake underpass.
The high cost of the Washmill Lake underpass partially explains why Council approved this new expansion. The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Business Park Plan for Bayers Lake recommends that “HRM should maximize development potential of the remaining lands in Bayers Lake to provide income for necessary transportation upgrades”. The road upgrades in Bayers Lake are necessary only because of poor planning and inadequate transportation options. A municipality shouldn’t have to rely on income from new development simply to provide appropriate infrastructure in an already built-up area.
Expanding Bayers Lake could also impact the planned Blue Mountain/ Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park, which will be next to Bayers Lake. The Park is part of a provincially protected wilderness area. Once again the Business Park Plan provides insight on HRM’s priorities: “Regional Park considerations should not prevent development, or impact significantly on the development potential of the commercial lands [in Bayers Lake]. For example, visual impact standards from Birch Cove Lakes may need to be relaxed.” The report is clear: development is a priority; the integrity of the park is not.
How exactly will expanding Bayers Lake impact the adjacent park? Have standards for this development been relaxed? We simply don’t know.
Does the public support this big, new development in Bayers Lake? Council never bothered to ask. Instead they amended planning documents and approved the development in a closed-door session. Council is allowed to consider land sales in private, but it’s not clear they are allowed to amend land use controls in private just because they are selling the land. Regardless, another major decision at City Hall was made in secret. Minor variances for garages receive more public consideration than Council gave a quarter billion dollar development. So much for transparency.
photo by Ben MacLeod