FALL RIVER: The councillors for the area peg a decision by Halifax regional council on a property frontage bylaw as sending a positive message to the rural parts of the municipality as a whole.
Lisa Blackburn, the representative for Upper/Middle Sackville-Beaver Bank-Lucasville, and Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley councillor Steve Streatch told The Laker in a recent interview that the decision will help property owners in rural HRM.
The bylaw came to the forefront after some landowners in the Eastern Shore had purchased properties on private roads, with the understanding that there were three or four other houses around them and so they could build a house there too. However, they discovered when going for a building permit that they couldn’t and were denied a building permit as a result. Now they were owners of a plot of land they could do nothing with.
“When it came to council, it was a list of about 80 properties that would be exempt from the bylaw,” said Blackburn. “After some debate and discussion it was passed that they would be exempt.
“We did that with the understanding that there are still some 900-plus properties that are impacted by this bylaw and that we have to draft something to help protect them.”
She credited HRM staff for moving very quickly on the file, and getting it resolved for the first 80-plus property owners.
The fight began in the spring of 2016 when HRM stopped issuing development permits for plots of 25 acres or more that did not have at least 100 feet of frontage on a public road. A bylaw requiring this frontage had been on the city’s books since 1996. However, city officials had ignored this and were issuing building permits for such lots in several rural areas of HRM.
Streatch said council sent a very “positive message” to the former county areas.
“I was pleased that a unanimous decision was passed and that my council colleagues agreed we had to go back and right a wrong that was put in place over 12 years ago,” he said. “For all intense and purposes, what happened in 2006 when the regional plan was conceived it was in an effort to help prop up development and increase population and residential numbers in the core.”
Streatch that push inadvertently had a negative effect that was recently reinterpreted by staff that caused hardships for rural residents.
Blackburn said the trick is that many property owners don’t even realize they fall under that bylaw, and may never find out.
“We’ve taken care of the initial properties that were impacted hard by that,” said Blackburn. “Now it’s time to create something that will help the 900 others impacted by this.”