A company in Lucasville will be allowed to continue to store school buses on its property following a decision from a community council this week.
Halifax’s North West Community Council, comprising councillors from the Fall River, Bedford, Sackville and Hammonds Plains areas (districts 1, 13, 14, 15 and 16), met Monday evening.
On the agenda was a public hearing on a proposal for 1155 Lucasville Road, next to the Timber Trails Mobile Home Park. The property owner, Blaine and Tracey Hefler’s Slate Holdings Limited, has allowed the former school board and now the Halifax Regional Centre for Education and its contractors to store school buses on the property since 2005.
“The existing School Bus Yard has been in existence in contravention of zoning for approximately fifteen (15) years and has expanded over time,” municipal planner Shayne Vipond wrote in a report to the community council.
“In order to bring the property into compliance, the current use must be ceased or the by-law must be altered to add the School Bus Yard as a permitted use in the zone.”
Vipond advised the committee that the applicant originally wanted to change the property’s zoning to a mixed industrial designation, which “would also allow a range of industrial uses not currently permitted on the site.” Community opposition to that idea led to a modification of the proposal, which sought to change zoning for the whole area to allow “School Bus Yard” as an approved use under the mixed use designation.
The bylaw amendments limit the school bus storage to 25% of the lot and prohibit maintenance and fuelling of school buses on the property.
There was still opposition to the revised plan on Monday, however, with three residents of Lucasville — an historic African Nova Scotian community — speaking to the community council.
Debra Lucas, chair of the Lucasville Community Association, told councillors there’s no need for industrial uses in the community.
Iris Drummond, also with the community association, raised concerns that the whole community of Lucasville wasn’t notified of the proposal. As a result, the association only became aware of it last week.
“We are all part of Lucasville within the Lucasville boundaries and this issue can impact us,” Drummond said.
Drummond argued the community council should defer the vote pending a meeting with a broader swath of the community.
In the staff report, Vipond wrote that 464 letters were mailed out in the notification area around the proposal. Vipond told councillors staff just can’t reasonably circulate 1,000 letters or more to reach the entire community.
Planner Thea Langille noted HRM is only required to advertise a public hearing in the newspaper, but they also post a sign at the site of the proposal and maintain a website for each proposal.
Coun. Pam Lovelace noted the newspaper ad didn’t mention the community of Lucasville, nor did it mention the exact address. Langille said that’s because the hearing is in regard to a change for the entire land-use bylaw.
The third member of the public who spoke, Natalie Downey, was concerned about the precedent created when the municipality retroactively approves a land use like this one.
“I’m just tempted to go out and build on my house and then ask for the permit later,” Downey said, “because that’s exactly what people who have the money then to hire consultants to do the work to work with the city are able to do that the average citizen, or average member of Lucasville, would not have the privilege to be able to do.”
Coun. Lisa Blackburn, whose district includes Lucasville, said the restrictions included in the land-use bylaw changes should mitigate the residents’ concerns.
“I would say that these restrictions will protect the community more than it’s being protected right now,” Blackburn said.
The committee voted unanimously in favour of the motion to allow the bylaw change.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the community council held a public hearing on a proposal for a dog run near the corner of Hammonds Plains Road and Glen Arbour Way.
The owners of the site, including Tier Too Properties Ltd., have proposed to build a doggy day care on the site, with an outdoor area for the animals. The day care is permitted under the land-use bylaw. The outdoor area is not.
Two people spoke to the community council in opposition citing concerns around noise, stench and rodents.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the proposal.