By Richard Bell
There is little more precious in Nova Scotia than access to the coast. Estimates of Nova Scotia’s coastline range from 7,500 km up to 13,000 km. And estimates of the amount of that coastline in private hands range from 87% up to 95%. Even worse, there is little legal provision for protecting public access to the coast.
So it’s not surprising that a controversy has arisen over a land claim in West Lawrencetown that opponents fear will put an end to historic access to the western end of Conrad’s Beach, a provincial beach that is also accessible on the eastern end from Conrad Road.
The claim in question covers two parcels of land along a road called Moss Close. Calvin and Caren Mofford, who own a home on Moss Close, have filed a “quieting of title” claim for parcel G (PID 40024143, 8.30 acres) and parcel E (PID 41081001, 22,651.20 sq. ft.) Both parcels are adjacent to the provincially owned Conrad’s Beach. The “quieting of title” process involves going to court in order to get the court’s approval to eliminate uncertainties in property boundaries.
In an April 18, 2018 letter supplied to the Cooperator by the Mofforts to CBC’s Radio Information Morning responding to a story on their “quieting of title” request, the Mofforts wrote that they had had the land surveyed, and were “only claiming the land that our surveyor has indicated is already ours.” Part of their motivation was to “safeguard the natural elements of the dune areas that lie landward of the public beach. These dune areas are a notable wildlife habitat and a potential nesting site for the endangered piping plover.”
However, members of the West Lawrencetown Residents’ Association were alarmed at the Mofforts’ “quieting of title” application. Their primary concern is preserving public access to the beach via Moss Close, which they claim is a public, provincial road.
The Mofforts categorically reject the claim that Moss Close is a public road, and have posted a “private road” sign at the entrance off West Lawrencetown Road. In their letter to CBC, they wrote, “Moss Close is a private road shared among the residents of the mediate area pursuant to a series of rights-of-way that run with the adjacent properties….The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Reneweal has already addressed this issue and, after viewing the relevant evidence, has declined to designate Moss Close as a public road.”
The Residents’ Association has put together an impressive file of declarations from long-time residents, documents from provincial transportation departments, and maps dating back to the 1920s that clearly show or declare Moss Close as a public road.
But in 2015, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal threw up its hands in the face of conflicting surveyor findings about the nature of the road, and referred the issue to the courts to “review the information and make a legal determination that will bring closure to this long outstanding issue.”
The next step in the legal process will take place on May 11. A local resident who had concerns about the application has applied to participate in the “quieting of title” process. At the upcoming hearing, the judge will decide whether this resident has standing to participate in the case.