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. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Dartmouth is not having it.

More than 150 people gathered at the Zatzman Sportsplex on Monday night to voice their opposition to a proposal to infill part of Dartmouth Cove. The area is part of the waterfront, with a multi-use path along the train tracks connecting Old Ferry Road to downtown Dartmouth.

As the Halifax Examiner reported earlier this month:

4197847 Nova Scotia Ltd., owned by Bruce Wood, applied in March to fill its 2.7-hectare water lot, PID # 00114132 or 1 Parker St., with rock from excavation projects. 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 Halifax city skyline is seen at sunset from Dartmouth. In the foreground there's a rocky outcropping with a log and an old tire. There's another rocky outcropping in the mid-ground, the King's Wharf pier.
Dartmouth Cove in August 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

The project would last six years, starting in August. Coun. Sam Austin, MLA Claudia Chender, and MP Darren Fisher have all come out against the plan. At Monday’s event at the Sportsplex, organizer Jill Brogan, who lives near the water lot, told residents how to make their voices heard.

“We take it very seriously,” Brogan said. “Dartmouth Cove has finally come a long way that we’re not about to let somebody just turn it into a dump and destroy it.”

Brogan directed people to go to the Transport Canada website for the application and follow the steps to provide feedback. In doing so, she said they should focus on marine activities like boating, as that’s the department’s focus, she said. Comments are open until June 10 at 5am.

Austin is bringing a motion to Halifax regional council on Tuesday, hoping to register the municipality’s opposition to the project. The motion also asks for staff reports on maintaining access to HRM’s trail through the property, for which it has an easement, and on a plan to situate pyritic slate sites in the municipality.

He said there have been few issues in his time on council that have riled people up like this one.

“Dartmouth’s really concerned about this,” he said.

Austin said infilling with a purpose, like to build a trail or nearby King’s Wharf, makes sense.

“That’s not what this is. This is cashing in on pyritic slate at the expense of everybody else,” he said.

Chender spoke to the crowd, too, pledging to work with Develop Nova Scotia, a provincial Crown corporation, to see what it can do to hamper the proponent’s efforts. Chender said she walked down to look at the lot recently, and then ended up in the park downtown with the mural featuring Joe Howe’s quote: what is for the public good?

“That’s my litmus test. And from my perspective, it is not. There is no argument that this is for the public good,” Chender said.

Fisher was out of the country and unable to attend Monday’s meeting, but Brogan read a statement he sent instead. His adviser, Megan Blumenthal, was there to speak to it as well. In Fisher’s statement, he claimed Transport Canada told HRM it could regulate infilling with a bylaw. Austin said it’s the first he’s heard of it.

“We have a different interpretation than Fisher,” he said, reiterating that it’s his understanding that HRM can only regulate land-use once it’s actually land.

Residents at the meeting called on Austin to have HRM expropriate the water lot. He said there would have to be a public use lined up, and expropriation was an unlikely route, but he hinted at an in camera motion aimed at negotiating to buy the land.

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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. Where does the idea that publicly owned land under water can be dumped on at the behest of the nearby owner.? Pre-Confederation lots are by definition an anachronism and should be taxed to extinction and taken back into Crown control
    iain T.

  2. I think this issue should be of concern to everyone in the Halifax/Dartmouth area. There is at least one spot on the Northwest Arm where infilling is proposed. If we allow these projects, more will come, and we know how the marine environment will be damaged.

  3. I do not live in the area, but I can sympathize with the home owners on the area. Not withstanding the infill, how are these dump trucks going to access the infill area? The article doesn’t mention that. Possibly through Canal Street? Canal Street is commercial/ industrial now, but that access would most likely be another break in the the trail from Alderney Landing to the Woodside Ferry Terminal.

  4. Oh, here is some uninformed NIMBY in its finest manifestation. The neighbours don’t own the land, or the water lot, but they don’t want their neighbour, the owner, to use it because they fear their property value might suffer, or there might be some dust to inconvenience them for a bit. Worse, they don’t understand the proper environmental management of acid slate, and that this is not a dump (repeating that trope is not responsible), it is both an environmentally acceptable way to manage the excavated rock, that might otherwise represent a problem in another location, to infill what I assume are pre-confederation water lots that have an as of right status for infilling regardless of what type of fill is used. If they can infill their water lot anyway, It’s BEST for us all that they use excavated pyrite slate to do so, because when it is under the low water mark in salt water, it does not produce the acid that can damage our environment.

    1. People have forgotten the damage to the Dartmouth waterfront by Hurricane Juan. https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/news/article/this-day-in-weather-history-september-29-2003-juan-batters-the-maritimes
      The Dartmouth waterfront has been infilled over many generations as anyone would know if they consulted historic maps/surveys. The use of the word ‘dump’ is the language of tabloids looking for a cheap headline. A simple use of math will provide the volume of infill required to fill the property. The science is sound re infill with pyritic slate

    2. How is this not going to be a dump site? The developer has applied to fill in a 2.7 hectare water lot with 99,700m3 of fill, comprising 42% Pyritic Slate and 58% non-acidic Quarry Rock (a pretty vague term, if you ask me) over a period of 6 years. At the end of that period, what is going to happen? Right now, he’s probably hoping that the zoning laws will be changed and he can develop on that piece of property (which he cannot as they stand now). What if they are not? Is he, out of the goodness of his heart, going to cover this fill and build a park for the common good? Nope. He’s going to shake the dust off of his hands and walk away. And downtown Dartmouth will be left with a mass of rock and rubble instead of a cove.

      1. The Dartmouth Ferry terminal is built on infill.
        The Dartmouth Waterfront Park is built on infill.
        Alderney Landing is built on infill.
        The proposed Bedford ferry terminal will be built on an infill.which has been built over several years
        All the excavation of rock in the peninsula is going into the harbour under the rules set out by Environment Canada.
        The cove today is not the cove of 100 years ago which was different from the cove of 200 years ago.
        This is a tempest in a teapot because a lady is angry that her view is now partially obstructed by the Kings Wharf development – a development that is less danger to the harbour waters than the former shipyard which polluted the narbour when blasting lead based paint off ship hulls.
        The angry lady told a meeting ” “We’ve already put up with a lot of infill in our yard to the extent that our yard is no longer going to be a yard anymore,” she told the crowd. She seems to be referring to the Kings Wharf towers.
        The boulders protecting the railway line and the homes were not there 30 years ago.
        The development of subsidized and market rate units at the lot on Alderney drive, vacant for over 40 years, will require the disposal of pyritic slate and the Cove is just a kilometre away.