By Belle Hatfield
Major changes to the town of Yarmouth’s municipal planning strategy and land use bylaws to address the impacts of climate change will be considered by council at its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 10.
Water creeps close to a parked vehicle during a recent high course tide. Climate change studies suggest the sea level will continue to rise over the next 100 years.
BELLE HATFIELD PHOTO
The planning advisory committee has recommended the changes, which will mainly affect development on Water Street.
The changes flow from the town’s Municipal Climate Change Action Plan
The plan answers some of the development concerns associated with climate change. Yarmouth's waterfront is increasingly in danger of flooding. The town's climate change adaptation plan is attempting to minimize catastrophic damage to infrastructure and property.
Before recommending the plan go forward to council, the planning committee did a lot of soul searching about one issue in particular. What to do about the bulk oil storage facility that now sits on the waterfront, almost at sea level just south of Water Street Tim Horton’s outlet?
Committee members wrestled with the idea of making the petroleum storage facility a non-conforming use to ensure there could be no expansion. The goal, however, is to eventually encourage the owner to vacate the site in favour of another in a less environmentally sensitive area.
Given the urgency to pass the climate change plan (it must be passed before Dec. 31, 2013 in order for the town to participate in federal gas tax revenues) and the ultimate goal, which is to reach a deal with the owner to move the facility, the committee opted to approve the planner’s recommendation without amendment. The amendments address the issue of new development of petroleum bulk storage in the proposed zone.
Planning changes would place more restrictions on development in areas sensitive to future flooding, mostly along Water Street.
The plan is recommending that a new climate change sensitivity zone be added to the municipal planning strategy creating more restrictive development standards in the zone. The zone includes almost all of Water Street.
Data being compiled by the Atlantic Climate Adaptation Solutions project suggest that by 2100, if Yarmouth were to be hit by a monster storm, water levels would be 1.25 metres higher than those reached during the historic Groundhog Day storm in 1976.
The prediction for a 100-year storm event is that sea levels would reach six meters above current sea level. To put it in perspective the top of the marginal wharf is 4.3 metres above sea level.
Several factors are at play including both sea level rise and sinkage (Nova Scotia is sinking). Add that to more violent storms, and predictions are that sea level in Yarmouth will be at least one meter higher within the next 90 years.
It is with this backdrop that the Town of Yarmouth has been developing its climate change action plan to identify actions that can mitigate the effects of these changes on existing infrastructure and adaptations that can protect future developments.
The plan is a stipulation of the 2010-2015 Gas Tax Agreement. In order to access funding municipalities have to address the impacts of climate change in their communities.
If council approves the plan, it will go forward to a public hearing, probably at the November meeting of council. The climate change study report is available online at http://townofyarmouth.ca/agenda/files2/00600/628/mps_lub.pdf