By Richard Bell
What do you call a construction & demolition debris (C&D) recycling plant if you can’t get HRM’s Planning Department to approve its construction? How about a Used Building Material retail outlet?
Since March, 2015, local residents have been engaged in a bitter struggle to prevent HRM from approving Kiann Management Limited’s application for a zoning change to allow the company to build a C&D recycling facility on a plot of land (PID 40740276) on Highway 7 in Porters Lake near the Lake Echo border.
The company, owned by Lawrence Bellefontaine, filed for the bylaw change in 2015. Local residents quickly organized as the Concerned Residents of Porters Lake, Lake Echo, Preston, and Mineville Area, and succeeded in forcing Bellefontaine to suspend the application in the fall of 2016.
But in the end, Bellefontaine decided to push forward. On April 4, the HRM Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council (HEMDC) voted unanimously to accept an HRM staff report recommending against the rezoning application. The company then appealed this decision to the Utility and Review Board (URB).
On June 13, Paul Allen, the executive director of the Utility and Review Board came to the Lake Echo Community Centre to explain the Board’s procedures, how to access the document file on the case, and how to participate in the upcoming hearing on the zoning rejection, which was then scheduled for July 15.
But as Allen began what was otherwise an excellent presentation of a very complicated process, he let slip a development that stunned the crowd.
Because it turns out that while the Concerned Residents had been focused on stopping Bellefontaine’s zoning change request, Bellefontaine had quietly launched a completely different request on January 25, 2017 for a development permit (158372), on the same piece of land, to build a “Used Building Material retail outlet.”
With no public notice, HRM Planning refused the permit on May 15, 2019, leading Bellefontaine to file a different appeal with the URB.
Because Bellefontaine had appealed, HRM was required to turn over its correspondence since January 25, 2017 about the “Used Building Material retail outlet,” the first 64 pages of which popped up on the URB website on June 18, 2019.
On October 5, 2018, HRM Development Officer Sean Audas gently explained in a letter to Bellefontaine and his attorney why the development permit “is not permitted under the current zoning.”
The application said that people arriving at the facility would be greeted by a weight scale. Audas wrote, “When I travel to retail stores, I cannot recall ever being greeted by a weight scale at the entrance.” But when Audas went to C&D facilities, “I am greeted by a weight scale, similar to the one you propose.”
Audas was also troubled by the claim that there would be only “incidental and minimal alteration” of products intended for sale. The application referred to the use of “excavators, loaders, shears and forklifts. Using this equipment seems to be outside the scope of incidental and minimal alteration. The only piece of equipment that I can recall seeing at a building supply outlet is a forklift.” The heavy equipment, however, is “associated with C&D facilities used to sort, alter, and other wise process C&D materials.”
But Audas did not administer the final coup de grace until May 15, 2019. Referencing his letter of October 5, 2018, he concluded, “This proposal does not meet the definition of a ‘used building material retail outlet’ and the application is refused.”
Since the meeting in Lake Echo, the URB has pushed the dates for both appeals far into the future: the hearing on the zoning appeal will be on November 4, 2019, while the hearing on the development permit appeal will be on November 26, 2019.