HRM’s planners have stirred up a hornet’s nest of opposition with their surprise decision this spring to begin denying building permits for certain rural lots, citing a regulation that had been on the books since 1996 but never enforced. The regulation requires that a building lot, regardless of size, have at least 100 feet of frontage on a public road. For many years, the department routinely issued permits for lots without such frontage. And the department now claims that each and every one of those nine decisions was a mistake.
If this decision stands, local builders and property owners stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. Local builders have already been forced to start laying off workers because of denied permits. And people who once thought that they would pass on large lots to their relatives are now discovering that properties are virtually worthless because HRM will no longer issue building permits for their land.
Opposition to enforcement of the 100-foot frontage bylaw is growing rapidly. Local builder Mike Young and his wife Kim Young called the first emergency community meeting; attendance at the second of such meetings doubled the first, and attendance at the third meeting doubted the second. The group now has a name, Save Rural HRM, and a Facebook page.
The group sent Mayor Savage and all HRM Councillors an invitation to attend their 3rd meeting. Since Regional Council is not scheduled to meet until September, they asked the Mayor to call an emergency Council meeting to deal with the frontage bylaw problem, by repealing it or suspending it. Back in April, Council passed a motion from Councillor David Hendsbee ordering the Planning Department to prepare a report on the implications of enforcing the 100-foot frontage bylaw. Planning was supposed to submit the report to Council on July 28, but the delivery date has slipped to at least November. The Mayor has refused to call an emergency meeting of Council, and he did not show up for the Save Rural HRM meeting.
Regional Council has since agreed to hear from two representatives of Save Rural HRM, Andy Robbins and Kim Young, for five minutes each at the next scheduled meeting September 6. The group continues to reach out to new allies: attendees at an August 29strategy meeting included Jim McIntosh, President of the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors and Suzanne Gravelle, the Regional Director for Halifax/Dartmouth of the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors.
On September 8th, the group will be holding a public meeting at the Petpeswick Yacht Club starting at 6:30 pm. Organizer Kim Young sent out an email with a broad agenda:
“If you are concerned with HRM council making decisions in isolation, with a complete lack of stakeholder consultation in creating future policy, with bylaws that strangle growth, with property values that have plummeted because of this latest bylaw enforcement, with the steady erosion of services, or the lack of adequate representation in HRM Council, please take this opportunity to voice your concerns at our meeting!”
And finally, Save Rural HRM is planning a protest march on City Hall before the upcoming municipal election in October.
[Note: The Cooperator will be covering this fast-moving fight with regular articles and updates on its Facebook site and its website. You can also comment on the issue on the Cooperator Politics Facebook page.]
By Richard Bell