Nova Scotia’s environment minister has dismissed two appeals of his department’s decision to allow a developer to build a causeway over a wetland in Dartmouth.
The Department of Environment and Climate Change announced in a news release on Friday that Minister Timothy Halman has dismissed appeals from Bill Zebedee and the Ecology Action Centre related to the Eisner Cove wetland.
“Our natural areas and wetlands are necessary for our health, our environment and our economy, and I understand why people want them protected and are passionate in their resolve to fight for them,” Halman said in the release.
“However, private property owners have the right to request alterations. Such requests are carefully weighed and considered to determine all possible environmental impacts and are only approved if we have full confidence that any impacts will be mitigated. In this situation, the property owner fulfilled its obligations under the Environment Act. I am satisfied that Department staff and subject matter experts exercised due diligence in reviewing this application and providing the appropriate terms and conditions to the property owner.”
Zebedee and EAC appealed the province’s wetland alteration approval, which allowed the developers, A.J. LeGrow Holdings and Clayton Developments, to fill in about 8,000 square metres (0.8 hectares) of the 12-4.-hectare wetland with a road.
The appellants wanted the approval withdrawn because, they argued: the developers’ application was incomplete; the proposal “threatened wood turtles that live in the area;” it would impact two or more hectares of wetland; it’s a “wetland of special significance;” and “the requirement for monitoring means the applicant did not properly assess the area of the wetland which would be disturbed.”
The province, in its release, refutes each point.
With respect to the turtles, the release said, “several surveys found: no evidence of wood turtles has been found at the project site and an independent ecologist also determined the area is not a suitable core habitat for wood turtles due to low shrubs that make movement difficult; no natural nesting area; peat soil, which is not typically good wood turtle habitat; and the area does not have the specific type of watercourse that wood turtles need for winter hibernation.”
The wetland “does not meet the criteria to be considered a wetland of special significance,” the province said.
Zebedee and EAC now have 30 days to appeal the decision to Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
Zebedee, a member of the Save Our Southdale Wetland Society, said he’ll be consulting with the society’s board about whether to take the appeal to the courts, but he’s already heard from people willing to pitch in to cover legal expenses.
“I still think that there’s a lot of merit in my submission that was presented. And I still think that the minister is completely off base,” Zebedee told the Halifax Examiner.
The controversial development proposal is one of the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing special planning areas, where it’s taken over the municipality’s responsibility to approve or deny development applications.
The Eisner Cove proposal would see about 1.200 homes built in the area. While it’s yet to be approved, Housing Minister John Lohr did approve early tree removal at the site. Opponents have been protesting that decision, and four were arrested at the site last week.