Updated April 21, 2017
|A staff report providing an update regarding the Proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Regional Park was submitted to Regional Council on April 5, 2017. The report has been added to the April 25, 2017 Halifax Regional Council Agenda.|
a) Discussions with the Federal and Provincial governments;
b) Discussions with all private land owners that own property located within the conceptual park boundary in Map 11 of the Regional Plan;
c) Discussions with land conservation and community groups; and
d) Reviewing the potential use of land use planning tools and conservation easements.
Staff is further directed to report back to Regional Council within six (6) months and then on an annual basis, staff report to Council on progress achieved in implementing the established Blue Mountain/Birch Cove Regional Park.
Since November 2016 Parks and Recreation staff have been proceeding with Regional Council’s direction. A report to update Regional Council of staff’s progress along with recommendations for further action by HRM staff to advance the establishment of the park is expected in April 2017. Highlights will include updates on discussions with federal and provincial governments, discussions with the private land owners around the perimeter of the wilderness area, discussions with land conservation groups and subsequent land capability, demographic analysis, and potential land use planning mechanisms. HRM staff will be placing an emphasis on minimizing costs to the municipality and these methods will be reviewed and discussed with individual land owners. Regardless of the tools that may be used, it should be recognized that HRM is largely at a disadvantage in obtaining lands or access to lands for reasons that include the following:
The impact of these factors will be known to a greater degree as HRM advances its discussions with land owners.
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.
In 2015/16 the municipality and two of the private property owners (Annapolis Group Inc. and Susies Lake Development) worked with an independent facilitator in an effort to reach a consensus on conceptual park boundaries. The municipality and the property owners agreed upon the facilitator’s Terms of Reference and together selected the Honourable Justice Heather Robertson as facilitator. Justice Robertson 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, Justice Robertson submitted her report which was followed by a June 20, 2016 public meeting to present her report and collect written comments.
A staff recommendation report, along with the Facilitator's Report and all written submissions received during the public comment period, was presented to Regional Council September 6, 2016 for their deliberation and direction to staff.
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).
A) Public Service Delivery
• Provide Near Urban Wilderness Recreation - The Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes area has been referred to as “the municipality’s Keji”. The lakes and forests will offer the public an opportunity to leave urban life behind and be immersed in a natural habitat within minutes of the city. The recreation program would include short, moderate, and long hiking, cycling, swimming, skating, fishing and canoeing. The public would have the ability to use the park or for an entire day.
B) Natural System Protection
• 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.
C) Community Shaping
• Connecting Openspace- While many other cities aspire to this objective, 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.
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.
A staff report to update Regional Council is expected in April 2017.