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A Halifax councillor’s motion aiming to rezone three Purcells Cove backlands properties has passed.

As the Halifax Examiner reported last month, the three parcels for sale sit right next to the wilderness park recently created by the municipality and the Nature Conservancy of Canada — a 153-hectare (or 378-acre) park, twice the size of Point Pleasant Park. They paid a combined $6.6 million for that land.

The land next to the park, totalling 55 hectares (or 137 acres) is for sale for $4.5 million. The ad for the properties on ViewPoint touts them as a development opportunity, opening with an all-caps “ATTENTION” to developers and investors. The properties skirt the shorelines of Colpitt and Williams lakes.

The three parcels for sale, with Williams Lake at the top and Colpitt Lake at the bottom. Photo: ViewPoint Credit: ViewPoint

Even though the high-priced properties have been on the market since November, Coun. Shawn Cleary, whose Halifax West Armdale district covers about half the land in question, doesn’t like the idea of any more development happening in the area.

“Williams Lake just really can’t take any more development,” Cleary said in an interview last month.

“It wouldn’t be too heavily developed, but any development in the area wouldn’t be appropriate.”

Cleary’s motion, drafted last month, seeks a report on rezoning the land. Two of the parcels are zoned for housing development, while the largest and closest to the park is partially zoned urban reserve — meaning it can’t be developed currently but could be in the future.

Cleary wants the whole area zoned urban reserve, and argued that zoning, combined with the city’s Green Network Plan, would provide adequate protection for the land.

The Halifax and West community council met via teleconference on Wednesday afternoon and the draft minutes were posted online Thursday morning.

According to the minutes, Cleary’s motion was seconded by Coun. Lindell Smith and passed. There are no details in the minutes of any debate or a breakdown of the vote.

In a news release on Thursday, the Ecology Action Centre applauded the vote.

“We are very pleased this next important step is being taken,” Karen McKendry, wilderness outreach coordinator for Ecology Action Centre said in the release.

“Current zoning is not in step with the conservation vision for the Backlands. Progress has been made on securing some lands for nature conservation and public access, but many spaces in this urban wilderness area are still in need of protection from incompatible development.”

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Thanks for reporting on this folks!
    As I understand it, this motion will produce a staff report that considers the implications of rezoning it to “urban reserve” . So you can still write to the city ( and express your support for the rezoning. it is by no means a done deal.
    ask the clerks to send your note to the staff-members who are preparing the report and copy Hfx and West Community Council.
    A short note saying you value the integrity of the backlands, you love the area in its wild state, and that no more should be allowed to be developed is all you need to say!
    And if you haven’t checked out the parcel in question, it’s beautiful: drive to the dead-end of Drysdale road and walk down the steep slope – path is on the right. cross the brook and keep following the path, take it to your right after the brook. – it will fork again a few times after that, but all the forks are enchanting.

  2. Such great news! This wilderness haven may indeed be protected for all to enjoy. Thanks to Councillors Cleary and Smith and all who voted in favour.

  3. Too bad Cleary & Smith didn’t show the same interest in the Halifax Common. Cleary’s legacy is 25-storeys at the Willow Tree and Smith’s will be 23-storyes beside it on the Cruickhank’s Funeral Home property. Wilderness areas are important to create and protect but so is urban public open space. The western side of the North Common will be walled off from sun and sky with even more wind. Privatizing public space for developers’ profit.

  4. Great! Not only should it be protected, but it should also bought by the municipality to prevent this nonsensical threat from ever happening again!