By Belle Hatfield
Yarmouth town council has called for a public hearing on proposed planning amendments to address climate change. Amendments to the town’s municipal planning strategy and land use bylaws are being proposed to address expected impacts of climate change. The public hearing will take place at 7 p.m., before council’s regular council meeting on Thursday, Nov 14.
The proposed changes will mainly affect development on Water Street. They 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 what could be catastrophic damage to infrastructure and property.
Planning changes would place more restrictions on development in areas sensitive to future flooding, mostly along Water Street.
The plan recommends that a new climate change sensitivity zone be added to the municipal planning strategy and that the land use bylaw include more restrictive development standards in that 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). The 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’s climate change action committee 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.
The climate change study report is available online at http://townofyarmouth.ca/agenda/files2/00600/628/mps_lub.pdf