By Richard Bell
In its most recent brief sitting, the Legislature failed to consider putting a moratorium on building floating homes in Nova Scotia, despite a formal request from HRM City Council to enact such legislation.
The issue came into focus last summer when residents of Greenough Drive in Porters Lake learned that the new owners of a narrow causeway linking the street to Porters Lake Provincial Park were considering building floating homes along the causeway. Residents quickly pulled together petitions to both HRM and the province raising a number of concerns, including the environmental impact of a flock of houseboats on a lake that was already suffering from pollution.
Opponents of floating houses were disappointed by the failure of the Legislature to act. But in an emailed reply, MLA Kevin Murphy assured the community that the province’s Department of Municipal Affairs was actively working on the issue, and had already had discussions with officials in British Columbia and Ontario, both of which have legislation regulating floating homes
In an interview with the Cooperator, Murphy emphasized the unexpected complexity of the task. “As I’ve been saying all long, this is a very complicated issue that has no quick solution,” Murphy said. “A moratorium is not off the table, but the Department of Municipal Affairs has to get to a place of good understanding of the issues, they have to educate themselves first.”
Murphy said that officials from Municipal Affairs were most interested in how British Columbia had handled the issue. “In British Columbia, the path they followed was to have Municipal Affairs change the Municipal Government Act to empower municipal units to take authority over floating homes. That’s kind of what they’re looking at here.”
Murphy said that British Columbia has published a document outlining what their process was for developing legislation. “They had to work with all three levels of government and 24 stakeholder groups to bring forward a set of recommendations,” Murphy said.
Under normal circumstances, Murphy said that it would take Municipal Affairs a few months to consult with the relevant stakeholders and come up with regulations. “But Municipal Affairs is in charge of emergencies,” Murphy said. “The primary agenda for everyone across all departments right now is protecting public health and safety.”
In the past week, the Cooperator received reports that a piece of heavy equipment had been seen on the causeway. An on-site visit showed clear evidence in the mud that a large, treaded vehicle had traveled from the parking lot next to the boat-launching ramp down the length of the causeway to the area abutting the provincial park. However, there were no signs of any serious excavation or digging.
In an interview with the Cooperator, Scott Brogan, one of the two owners of the property, said that he and his partner Igor Yushchenko were continuing to look at options for developing the property. Although he did not want to discuss any particulars, Brogan said, “Our intent is to keep the community appraised as we reach any milestones. But right now, we’re just not there. We are still exploring options that address our desires and the desires of the community too. We’re still trying to find some common ground.”