A group of residents working to protect Dartmouth Cove from infilling say that area should be included in a proposed infilling bylaw that will go to Halifax regional council this week.

A proposed bylaw going to council on Tuesday wants to restrict infilling in the Northwest Arm in Halifax.

Specifically, the proposed bylaw wants Halifax regional council to direct the CAO to “initiate a process to consider amendments to the Regional Centre Secondary Municipal Planning Strategy, the Halifax Municipal Planning Strategy, the Regional Centre Land Use By-law, and the Halifax Mainland Land Use By-law to restrict water lot infilling on the Northwest Arm.”

As the proposal notes, there are 155 water lots on the Northwest Arm. The Regional Centre Land Use Bylaw defines a water lot as “any lot or portion of a lot located on a lake or on the Halifax Harbour, the title of which is separately conveyable, and that is normally fully or partly submerged under water.”

Pre-confederation water lots can typically be infilled with various natural material (rocks and soil) and become land if the owners obtain the proper approvals. Due to a lack of municipal jurisdiction, zoning is typically not applied to water lots. However, once a water lot is infilled and joined to the shoreline, it then falls under municipal jurisdiction from the aspects of land use control.

The water lots within the Northwest Arm cover a combined area of 51.56 hectares. Consequently, infilling activity tends to have a more direct impact on community character and recreational activities in the Northwest Arm than it would elsewhere in the harbour.

Issues related to the infill of water lots along the Northwest Arm have been the subject of continued interest by both Council (Attachment A) and the public. In general, concerns have been expressed about the following matters:

  • restricting the navigability and use of the Northwest Arm for sailing and other boating activities by narrowing its width; and
  • potentially negative environmental impacts

However, jurisdiction around those two matters falls to Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

A woman wearing a blue and white paisley shirt speaks to a room full of people seated in red chairs, many of whom are wearing masks.
Jill Brogan speaks to a packed room at the Zatzman Sportsplex, where people gathered Monday night to voice their opposition to a plan to infill Dartmouth Cove. Credit: Zane Woodford

Meanwhile, a group called Save Dartmouth Cove says that area should be included in the proposed bylaw, too.

As Zane Woodford reported in May 2022, Bruce Wood, owner of 4197847 Nova Scotia Ltd., applied to fill its 2.7-hectare water lot at 1 Parker St. in Dartmouth with rock from excavation projects. Woodford writes:

According to Property Valuation Services Corporation, the property was sold in April 2021 for $800,000. The numbered company was incorporated the month before. The application, made under Transport Canada’s Navigation Protection Program, was posted online last week.

“The Project Area will be infilled with approximately 99,700 cubic metres (m3) of material, including approximately 41,900 m3 of sulphide-bearing material (i.e., pyritic slate) from local excavation projects and approximately 57,800 m3 of non-acidic quarry rock,” the application says.

Residents then met later that month to protest the infilling at the cove.

In July 2022, Woodford reported that one of Premier Tim Houston’s “personal friends” Tom Hickey was appointed to run Invest Nova Scotia. Hickey is the CEO of Atlantic Road Construction and Paving Ltd. That company’s CFO is Bruce Wood, who applied to infill Dartmouth Cove.

Hickey resigned from his role with Invest Nova Scotia in August 2022.

‘Stark absence’ of Dartmouth Cove on proposed bylaw

On Friday, Save Dartmouth Cove shared this post on its website, writing that the “stark absence” of Dartmouth Cove in the proposed bylaw is an “evident oversight”:

While the Northwest Arm’s situation has received significant attention, it’s disheartening to note that the proposed bylaw makes no mention of Dartmouth Cove, a vital and beloved part of our community.

The priority of the Northwest Arm’s proposed infill in this bylaw, while Dartmouth Cove remains unmentioned, raises a compelling question. Why should one proposal for infill be addressed within the bylaw, while another equally concerning proposal affecting Dartmouth Cove is left unaddressed?

The stark absence of Dartmouth Cove in the proposed bylaw is an evident oversight, one that our united community has the power to correct. After all, all three levels of government, including Halifax Regional Municipality, have publicly opposed infilling in Dartmouth Cove. Therefore, there seems to be no valid reason for its exclusion from the new bylaw. Failing to include Dartmouth Cove would contradict the earlier public stance of all levels of government on this matter, undermining the collective commitment to preserve this vital part of our community.

The group is asking that people write letters to their councillors asking to include Dartmouth Cove in the proposed infill bylaw.

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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