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Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park

Following the public presentation of the Facilitator’s Report on June 20, 2016, the municipality recognizes the need for additional context regarding the background, current status and next steps associated with the Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park.

Frequently Asked Questions
Background
Current Status
Next Steps


Frequently Asked Questions

What has been the process to date with respect to creation of the Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park?

Why was the format of the facilitator’s public presentation different from a Public Information Meeting?

How can the public provide input with respect to the Facilitator’s Report?

What are the next steps for the Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park?

Will there be future opportunities for public input regarding the Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park?


What has been the process to date with respect to creation of the Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park?

In order to proceed with any creation of the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park the municipality must work with all property owners to determine what lands can be acquired for park designation. The conceptual park boundary contained within the Regional Plan includes municipal, provincial and privately-owned lands. There are 15 private property owners with land contained within the conceptual Regional Park Boundary that is currently in Map 11 of the 2014 Regional Plan.

For the past 20 months the municipality and two of the private property owners (Annapolis Group Inc. and Susie Lake Development) have been working with an independent facilitator in an effort to reach a consensus on possible park boundaries.
The municipality and the property owners agreed upon the facilitator’s Terms of Reference (which were ratified by Regional Council) and jointly selected the facilitator, the Honourable Justice Heather Robertson. The facilitator then held numerous meetings with the parties involved and there were also many hours of discussion in the absence of the facilitator to advance the negotiation. During these meetings a great deal of information was exchanged, ranging from various park boundary concepts and development considerations of the landowners to property valuation methodology and potential infrastructure costs.

Per the Terms of Reference, this process culminated in the submission of a Facilitator's Report by Justice Robertson followed by the facilitator’s public meeting to present her report as information to the public, and to collect all comments from the public in writing.

Why was the format of the facilitator’s public presentation different from a Public Information Meeting?

The format of the facilitator’s public presentation is unique to the negotiated process agreed upon by the facilitator, the municipality and the private property owners.

Justice Robertson’s public meeting held on June 20, 2016, followed the process outlined in her Terms of Reference, which specified that all comments regarding the Facilitator's Report must be documented and submitted in writing for the benefit of all parties. This was not a staff-led public presentation, or what residents might typically experience when attending a meeting held by the municipality. This was a meeting led by the facilitator that included an opportunity for municipal staff representatives to explain the format of the meeting and present information about the background, process and next steps. A representative from the property owners engaged in the facilitation process presented their proposal regarding the conceptual park boundary.

It is important to note that Public Information Meetings held by the municipality follow a much different format that includes opportunity for questions and answers with staff and the recording of verbal comments by attendees that are then included in a staff report.

How can the public provide input with respect to the Facilitator’s Report?

Regional Council sought public feedback on the Facilitator's Report regarding negotiation of the proposed boundaries for a regional park in Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes over a four-week period from June 6 to July 4.

Approximately 1500 individual written comments were submitted during the public comment period.

As part of the Terms of Reference for the facilitator, all comments regarding the report had to be submitted in writing to the Municipal Clerk. The comments received will help inform Regional Council's decision on next steps.


What are the next steps for the Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park?

A staff recommendation report, along with the Facilitator's Report and all written submissions (large file 25MB-approx 1575 pages), (see supplementary note regarding cross referencing within the submission package) received during the public comment period, will be forthcoming to Regional Council in the fall for their deliberation and direction to staff.

Will there be future opportunities for public input regarding the Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park?

Yes. Public engagement would be a significant component of next steps regarding the Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park.

Should a decision be made by Regional Council to consider such matters as amending the 2014 Regional Plan (to change the conceptual Blue Mountain Birch Cove Regional Park boundary) or initiate a secondary planning process for the Highway 102 West Corridor Lands, there will be opportunities for public input.

As is typically the case for proceeding with plan amendments and secondary planning processes, the municipality ensures that residents can provide feedback for consideration by Regional Council (e.g. Public Information Meetings, Public Hearings, etc).


Background


Milestones

  • Originally the municipality's Regional Plan, approved by Regional Council in 2006, outlined the creation of a public wilderness park around the Birch Cove Lakes and the Blue Mountain area, with the conceptual park boundary set out in Map 13 of the Regional Plan.
  • The lands within the conceptual park boundary are owned by a mix of private and public entities
  • In September 2007, Annapolis Group and Susie Lake Developments requested initiation of the secondary planning process for their lands along the Highway 102 West Corridor, a portion of which fell within the conceptual park boundary in Map 13 of the Regional Plan.
  • In 2009, the Province of Nova Scotia designated Crown land within and just west of the proposed park boundary as protected wilderness area taking one step towards creating the park.
  • In July 2009, Annapolis Group and Susie Lake Developments submitted a request to Regional Council to initiate a Secondary Planning Strategy for their lands.
  • On November 16, 2010, Regional Council directed staff to:

    • Undertake a watershed study for the highway 102 West Corridor Lands and await completion of Halifax Water’s waste water functional plan;
    • Negotiate boundaries for the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park, in relation to the Highway 102 West Corridor Lands, through a facilitated process with an independent facilitator; and
    • Defer the review of criteria under Policy S-3 of the Regional Plan to determine whether to initiate a secondary planning process for the Highway 102 West Corridor Lands.

  • On September 17, 2013, Regional Council approved the Terms of Reference for an independent facilitator and authorized staff to enter into discussions with private property owner representatives. See staff report.
  • In March 2014, the Honourable Justice Heather Robertson accepted the appointment as facilitator, following the completion and acceptance by Regional Council of the Watershed Study.
  • 2014 Regional Plan incorporates the conceptual park boundary in Map 11

    • The province owns the majority of the public lands within Map 11.
    • The lands owned by the province have been designated as a wilderness area under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act.
    • The private lands contained within the conceptual park boundary are owned by a number of different land owners.

Goals for the Proposed Park

Near Urban Wilderness Recreation - The Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes area has been referred to as “the municipality’s Keji”. The lakes, stillwaters and forests will offer the public an opportunity to leave urban life behind and be immersed in natural forest, lakes, streams and bogs within a stone’s throw of the city. Short trail loops, longer hikes, mountain bike trails, lakes for swimming, skating, fishing and two canoe routes will allow the public to use the park for an hour or more, or for an entire day.

Water Quality Protection - The proposed park is a means to protect headwaters of both the Birch Cove Lakes and Nine Mile River Watersheds. This helps assure better water quality for those communities downstream and the natural environment.

Bio-diversity Protection - At a time when bio-diversity is declining owing to impact from human beings, the large tract approach preserves a variety of ecosystems native to the area. Significant lands on the interior of the proposed park have already been protected by the Province of Nova Scotia as Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes (BMBCL) wilderness area.

Wilderness Corridor Protection - Residents value our natural environment. It is part of who we are. Studies show disconnected natural areas are not sustainable. The municipality’s geography affords us the opportunity to protect wilderness corridors whereby both flora and fauna can be preserved near urban areas of the city while being connected to the rest of the province. Links to other natural areas serve to strengthen bio-diversity.

While many other cities aspire to this objective, the municipality has the means to do so by protecting and/or connecting large tracts of wilderness. The BMBCL wilderness corridor has the potential to connect to the Pockwock, Big Five Bridges and Western Common wilderness areas. This is a key objective of the Regional Plan.


Facilitation of proposed boundaries for Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park


In 2013, municipal staff met with representatives of two private property owners (Annapolis Group and Susie Lake Developments) that were seeking to proceed with secondary planning process for their lands along the Highway 102 West Corridor. Initial efforts to reach an agreement on specific lands designated within a conceptual park boundary resulted in a willingness to move forward with formalized discussions using an independent facilitator. Under the Council-approved Terms of Reference, the role of the independent facilitator was to:

• Work with the municipality and the property owners to determine how they wish to engage with each other; including the sharing of confidential information with the independent facilitator and non‐confidential information between the parties;
• Obtain parkland concepts from the municipality and development plans from the property owners, and advise these parties on areas of common agreement;
• Assist with coming to common terms between the municipality and the property owners on parkland boundaries and financial terms, and conditions for parkland designation that are acceptable to the parties;
• Prepare an independent Facilitator’s Report that identifies areas of common agreement on parkland boundaries and (if necessary) areas of disagreement. The report will also indicate the methodology and approach used to determine the value of the land.
In March 2014, the Honourable Justice Heather Robertson accepted the appointment as facilitator. The conceptual park boundary addressed in the Facilitator’s Report is for that area of the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park covered by the private lands that are owned by Annapolis Group Inc. and Susie Lake Development only.

Current Status

Facilitator’s Report
To fulfil the commitment of the facilitator, as part of the Terms of Reference, a meeting was held by Justice Robertson on June 20, 2016, to present the report as information to the public. This was not a staff-led meeting of the municipality, or what residents might typically experience as a Public Information Meeting with an opportunity for questions and answers. The facilitator’s meeting included an opportunity for municipal staff representatives to explain the format of the meeting and present information about the background, process and next steps. A representative from the property owners engaged in the facilitation process presented their proposal regarding the conceptual park boundary.

Regional Council is seeking public feedback on the Facilitator's Report regarding negotiation of the proposed boundaries for a regional park in Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes. The feedback will be used to inform Council’s decision on next steps. A hard copy of the report may be obtained by contacting Planning Services at 902-490-4472.

As part of the Terms of Reference for the facilitator, all comments regarding the report must be submitted in writing to the Municipal Clerk by mail, P.O. Box 1749, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J 3A5; by fax, 902-490-4208; or by e-mail, clerks@halifax.ca.

Deadline for feedback: Written submissions must be received by the Municipal Clerk’s office no later than 3 p.m. on Monday, July 4, 2016. For any written submissions exceeding three standard letter sized pages in length, thirty-five copies must be supplied to the Municipal Clerk’s office.

Next Steps

The public is encouraged to provide written submissions regarding feedback on the Facilitator's Reportby 3 p.m. on Monday, July 4, 2016.

A staff recommendation report, along with the Facilitator's Report and all written submissions from the public, will be presented to Council for deliberation and direction to staff.

Regional Council may decide whether or not to initiate the process to consider amending the 2014 Regional Plan to change the conceptual Blue Mountain Birch Cove Regional Park boundary that is currently shown in Map 11. As typical for any such potential amendments, public engagement would be initiated by the municipality.

Regional Council will address the request to initiate a secondary planning process for the Highway 102 West Corridor Lands, as this decision had been deferred by Council in November 2010. Should a decision be made by Regional Council to initiate a secondary planning process it will follow the usual course for all secondary planning processes, including detailed studies and public engagement.