It’s still in early stages, but a development proposal for the banks of a Dartmouth wetland is moving ahead.
Halifax regional council voted on Tuesday to start a process to allow development on what the municipality calls the Southdale Future Growth Node. To people in the area, the site between Highway 111 and the Woodside Industrial Park is known as Eisner Cove Wetland.
The land was identified during the Centre Plan process as a potential area for new residential development, called a future growth node. In the fall, Clayton Developments and Zzap Consulting applied on behalf of the owner of most of the land, A.J. Legrow Holdings Limited, to develop a total of 700 homes on the site through a mix of detached homes, townhouses, and apartment buildings.
In the staff report to council on Tuesday, planner Ross Grant wrote that the developers are proposing “attainable housing” on the site.
“This market-based approach includes building compact units on smaller lots with the objective of lowering the cost of housing, making them attainable to a wider range of households compared to larger buildings and lots,” Grant wrote.
“The submission also includes trails, including around the wetland area, in addition to dedicated park space for the required parkland contribution.”
Coun. Sam Austin, who represents the area, said during Tuesday’s meeting the development proposal could lead to the preservation of the wetland.
“I look forward to having a discussion with the residents for the future of this one, and how we can preserve the best of the environment there while also providing some badly needed housing and connecting better over to our friends on Baker Drive,” Austin said.
Biologist David Patriquin isn’t sure that’s possible.
A member of the Nova Scotia Wild Flora Society (NSWFS), Patriquin wrote a blog post on Tuesday about the value of the land:
“Eisner’s Cove Wetland” is a near pristine, approx. 15 ha forested wetland located within a densely settled area of Dartmouth. NSWFS has organized several visits to the area in the last 5 years or so.
There’s a lot of carbon sequestered and a lot of biodiversity in this wetland, also in the adjacent forested land. The area has informally maintained trails and is a treasured natural area get-away to many nearby, and even further away.
This type of wetland requires acidic, low pH, low calcium conditions and low levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. It would be very difficult to avoid significant input of nutrients and road salt from a residential landscape as currently envisaged. A wider buffer zone might remove most nutrients (including calcium from liming, which will reduce acidity/increase pH), but would not absorb the salt.
Patriquin noted that the proposed development “lies on land sloping into the wetland on both sides.”
In an interview, he told the Halifax Examiner that it looks from the plans like the buffer zone in the site plan is only 20 metres — not enough to protect the wetland. Even a 100-metre buffer wouldn’t keep road salt out of the wetland, he said.
“The housing development is going to destroy it. There’s no question about it,” Patriquin said.
“It should not be developed, especially on that sloping line.”
The land used to belong to Innovacorp, a provincial Crown corporation.
“That was public land, basically, that was sold to developers, without much thought,” Patriquin said.
Now that council has initiated the planning process for the site, HRM and the developer will complete “required infrastructure, environmental, culture and heritage and site context assessments,” conduct public consultation, and then create a “high-level site-development concept plan.”