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Save Rural HRM Asks Council for Bylaw Change

Halifax Regional Council received three succinct presentations on September 6, 2016 from opponents of HRM’s recent decision to start refusing to issue building permits for any lot without 100 feet of frontage on a public road. Kim Young, an owner of Birkshire Developments Inc. and a founder of Save Rural HRM, was also supposed to present to Council on September 6, but was unable to do so due to a miscommunication from Council.

 

 Introduction

Halifax Regional Council received three succinct presentations on September 6, 2016 from opponents of HRM’s recent decision to start refusing to issue building permits for any lot without 100 feet of frontage on a public road. (See “Opposition to Frontage Bylaw Growing Rapidly," Eastern Shore Cooperator, September, 2016).

This frontage bylaw has been on the books since 1996, but HRM officials had not been enforcing it until they suddenly began rejecting requests for building permits this spring, citing the previously unused bylaw. Eastern Shore residents quickly formed a group, Save Rural HRM, to protest the devastating economic impact of this sudden change in enforcement.

Save Rural HRM has asked for an emergency meeting of the Council to repeal or suspend the bylaw, but the Mayor denied this request. Instead the Council offered opponents two 5-minute time slots at the regularly scheduled September 6 meeting.

Kim Young, an owner of Birkshire Developments Inc. and a founder of Save Rural HRM, was also supposed to present to Council on September 6, but was unable to do so due to a miscommunication from Council.

 

Kim Young’s Written Statement to Council

Good Morning Your Worship, Councillors, Ladies and Gentleman,

My name is Kim Young and along with my husband Mike Young, we are the owners of Birkshire Developments Inc., which is a general contracting construction company. I also represent the Save Rural HRM group which has been formed to unite landowners, affected businesses and all concerned HRM citizens.

As we all know, the core issue is the refusal of HRM to issue residential building permits on lots that are 10+ hectares and do not have a minimum of 100ft frontage on a PUBLIC road. As there was no notification, consultation, or grace period when this by-law was suddenly enforced, after lying dormant for 20 years, the economic devastation is far-reaching. The other issue that is also having a negative affect is the changes to the Lot Grading Bylaw.

It is mind boggling to me that I even need to be here today to speak on these issues and the negative impact they have had on my company, my clients (the Robbins), and other stakeholders.

Builders are laying off tradespeople in the busy season. Do you know how it feels to have to lay off employees in the height of the building season because the work you had scheduled for the next five months has just been pulled out from under you? Do you know the burden you feel when you know those employees have families to feed, mortgages to pay? How about keeping your own company’s financial commitments on track until you can get new work in the door again? Do you know that there are on average 50+ people involved in the building of one home?

Employment in the rural areas has already suffered as a result of lost contractor jobs contributing to the further deterioration of an already fragile industry in rural HRM.

These are real hardships.

Professional real estate agents, lawyers and surveyors are blindsided when by-laws that lay dormant for 20 years are suddenly reinforced without any consultation or notification.

Landowners have had their hopes and dreams of building homes or passing on land to loved ones destroyed by callous policy enforcement.

Over the years it has become increasingly problematic to economically create rural lots for family members or for sale.

The creation of 10+ hectare lots was the only option many rural landowners had, and now these lots are all but worthless. They had been advised to create the 10+ hectare lots and others have purchased these 10+ hectare lots with the full belief and understanding that HRM would issue Development Permits, as this was the case until a few months ago.

So what are these landowners to do now? The hundreds of 10+ hectare lots previously created are now nothing more than small woodlots. The potential monetary losses due to this bylaw enforcement are estimated in the millions.

Let’s talk about the Lot Grading By-law. Our understanding is that the changes to the by-law were not to extend to developments beyond the Urban Service Area and more specifically exempt areas that are not located within an area where sanitary sewage system is provided or is to be provided anywhere in the Municipality.

Do you know the burden this has placed on the backs of the landowners? This has added at least 6 weeks to the build time and anywhere from $4,000 - $8,000 in engineering and additional excavation fees. Is a lot grade required in urban areas – absolutely. On rural lots – not so much. Again this has been another by-law created without proper discussion or input by the stakeholders.

You as our Councillors were elected by people just like me. We are everyday folks, trying to live good lives and be productive members of society. We rely on you to be our representatives and our voice. The needs of the Urban areas are vastly different from the needs of the Rural areas. What I am hearing from the hundreds of folks that have come forward since we made this 10+hectare issue public is that HRM is broken. You folks are failing us. The rural areas have been oppressed since amalgamation and the continuation of the enforcement of this by-law is further credence to the continual decline of rural sustainability.

Regional Council, you have shown apathy and indifference while it seems you wait for the problem to quietly go away with the looming municipal elections. You are standing behind policy and the need for Staff Reports. We can already tell you what the problem is and how to fix it. Your citizens want to work, they want to build, they want to create economic activity and Councils' response has been "no". Real lives are being destroyed while Council sits idly by.

We have asked for an emergency meeting on this issue. We have been denied. We have invited every one of you Councillors to our public meetings and other than Councillor Hendsbee, we have not seen or heard from any of you. Shame on you folks.

Staff have been asked to answer questions that they couldn’t answer.

How are you as our elected representatives going to respond to this crisis?

1. Will Council call an emergency meeting to have this 10+ hectare issue rescinded immediately?

2. Will Council amend this by-law with consultation with stakeholders before the staff report is issued in November?

3. Will Council amend the Grading by-law to exclude rural lots (as I believe was the initial intent of the change)?

I eagerly await your responses.

Thank you.

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