After rejecting the proposal earlier this year, HRM’s North West Community Council approved a four-storey development for Beaver Bank on Tuesday night.
WM Fares Architects submitted the development application on behalf of AG Property Holdings Limited and 4378018 Nova Scotia Ltd. Augustus Ghosn owns the first company, and Boston, Jeremy, and Mark Ghosn own the second.
The Ghosns want to build 46 one- and two-bedroom apartments in a four-storey building on Beaver Bank Road, near the intersection with Windgate Drive.
In January, the North West Community Council, comprising councillors in Bedford, Sackville, Beaver Bank, and Fall River, held a public hearing on the proposal. HRM planners recommended in favour. But after hearing from the public, the community council voted unanimously against the proposal.
There’s no video of the meeting. According to the minutes, 10 people spoke, and nine of them raised concerns about traffic.
After the vote, HRM lawyer Andrew Gough asked councillors to outline their reasons for voting no. The minutes summarized those reasons:
- Lack of traffic infrastructure to support the development with emphasis on the Beaver Bank Road and Windgate Drive intersection;
- Lack of available medical facilities, schools, and other needed community amenities; and
- It was noted that the development does not fit the community landscape and there are potential environmental implications and issues surrounding storm water.
The Ghosns appealed the decision to the provincial Utility and Review Board. The UARB heard from two people who also spoke at the public hearing, and received written submissions from HRM and the Ghosns’ lawyers.
Utility and Review Board tells council to reverse course
In a July 21 decision, the UARB allowed the developers’ appeal. The board found “no objective basis” for the community council’s reasoning on any of its three points.
The board — Roland Deveau, Julia Clarke, and Kathleen McManus — noted a traffic impact study that found the development “would have a negligible impact on traffic volume.” It wrote that the HRM staff report found “the adequacy and proximity of schools and community, or public, facilities were met by the application.” The board found there was “no reasonable basis upon which Community Council could find that the proposed development is not compatible with adjacent or nearby land uses.” And the board declared “that stormwater and other potential environmental issues have been addressed.”
The board noted that “HRM did not actively oppose the appeal.” The municipality’s lawyers argued councils aren’t bound to follow staff recommendations, and that doesn’t mean the decision wasn’t consistent with the municipal planning strategy for the area.
“The Board concludes that Community Council’s decision does not reasonably comply with the intent of the MPS. The appeal is allowed and the Board orders North West Community Council to approve the development agreement,” the board concluded.
Area councillor shares community concerns
The community council held a special virtual meeting Tuesday night to do what it was told.
“While I am disappointed to be back here, I am not surprised,” Middle/Upper Sackville—Beaver Bank Coun. Lisa Blackburn said.
“I want to thank the members of the community that took the time to write, to call, to attend the public hearing, and even took the next step and registered to speak at the Utility and Review Board hearing.”
Blackburn said the Beaver Bank community isn’t opposed to development.
“In fact, we look forward to it. The problem is that we don’t have the infrastructure to support it,” Blackburn said.
“The community is one road in, one road out, and I know many folks are tired of hearing me say that, but this summer has taught us how incredibly dangerous that situation is.”
Schools in the community are already with portable classrooms and more are coming. The provincial Beaver Bank Connector Road is still just a pipe dream. And transit service has not increased, rather it has been cut back in our community. We have a new subdivision of close to 300 homes currently being built. There are four other apartment buildings being constructed in a half-kilometre stretch of Beaver Bank Road. And all of this density is being developed by-right, meaning the land is zoned for these projects. None of these projects will provide the much-needed affordable housing, and will mean many more cars on Beaver Bank Road.
Blackburn argued her vote against this proposal was not anti-development.
“It was me acknowledging that there is plenty of development currently taking place in the community under the existing zoning and by-right. It’s my job to take a holistic view of how all of these developments will impact our community, and I certainly don’t regret standing up for Beaver Bank.”
The community council voted unanimously in favour of the motion to approve the development, per the UARB’s direction.