Bayers Lake expansion approved behind closed doors

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

4 comments

  1. Is there any kind of recourse available to the public to ensure the legality of this decision? What can I do at this point? Where is the accountability? Could you put together an article addressing how a Haligonian can go about doing anything about this? Who is Council accountable to? Why has nothing been done yet about closed-door Council meetings? Why is Peter Kelly still the mayor? We’ve already forgotten about his Power Promotion illegality? What about his private meetings with developers (which are, according to the rules, illegal)? Wasn’t Jennifer Watts pushing for more Council transparency? Was she in on this meeting? So many questions! And no answers.

  2. I’m not sure if a plan amendment was involved…my feeling is that it’s HRM land that was already designated for industrial/commercial purposes.

  3. Adria is so perceptive, keep asking questions ( of your councillor) – perhaps with a smaller Council next year we will be able to follow what is happening more closely. I will be calling the Mayor as his # is posted below the announcement for this expansion which he quotes is needed by the public – I don’t think so…..
    I think the only use for this land is the new Lacewood Bus Terminal – perfect spot – the business park will be better served as will the workers and clients for places like Access NS.

    The development is underway – boundary lines cut and trees down – make one last visit before its too late. The mountain bikers will be in among the blasting experts!

  4. HRM Regional Council have concluse Private Negotiations with Banc Developments for the sale and development of 180 -190   acres in Bayer Lakes Business Park. 
    The north section of this  development borders on the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes Wilderness Area, which includes a trail head leading into Susies Lakes. Originating in Fairview, this trail can be traced back to 1933. Presently  there is no legal access. The HRM owns 37 acres immediately behind Kent  Building Supplies, the site in question.
    Bruce E Smith, a Board  Member of the Halifax  North West Trail Association, will be making a  presentation to the Chebucto Community Council on August 8 at 7:00pm, at the  Keshen Goodman Library.
    The  specific request to Our Councilors  will be to save this 37 acres from development and to secure it as a  Wilderness Area for future generations.  Perhaps it could be  incorporated into the proposed BMBCL Regional Park.
    We encourage you, your friends and other concerned citizens to attend in support of  saving this Trailhead and providing legal access to Susies Lake.
    If  you have any question, please contact Bruce at:  902 209 2010 besmith@eastlink.ca

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