By Kirk Starratt
The proposal is not without support, but the vast majority of speakers at a public hearing regarding amendments to allow a mixed residential development adjacent to the Berwick Heights Golf Course in Weston are against the idea.
The crowd at the Kings County council chambers overflowed into the hallway of the municipal complex in Kentville, where people listened in over loudspeakers during the public hearing Thursday, Aug. 2. There were approximately 30 oral presentations and 18 written submissions. The hearing lasted approximately four hours.
Kings County planning manager Chrystal Fuller, who gave an overview of the proposal, said if council approves the amendments to the Municipal Planning Strategy and Land Use Bylaw, the applicant, Fury Farms (owned by Gerry Fulton, the original developer of the golf course), plans to apply for a development agreement. The subject property is located at the corner of Highway 221 and McLean Road.
She said the planned residential community would involve about 200 units. The subject property, about 47 acres, is zoned agricultural with high capability soil. Part of the development would utilize a portion of the existing golf course property.
This would be a cluster-style development. There would be privately managed onsite sewer and water systems, although a number of approvals from the Department of Environment would be required.
Share respect for agricultural land
John Heseltine of Environmental Design and Management Limited, representing the applicant, said they share a respect for agricultural land and share the objective to preserve it. He said the development would include single family and multi-unit housing with substantial open space and trails.
He said the developer appreciates that the cost of upgrades to McLean Road required by the Department of Transportation would be borne by the developer. “It’s located where it is because it’s close to the golf course,” he said. “It complements the type of housing we’re interested in developing.”
Jim Keddy said he isn’t against farmers and he used to be one himself. He said you couldn’t say you can’t do anything else with agricultural land other than farm it. He said he’d take the $4 million or $5 million annually in county tax revenue the project would generate and there’s too much abandoned farmland in this area. “I’m perplexed with some of the local negativity of the proposed project,” he said.
Protect farming way of life
Jason Langille said farming is a way of life for many in Kings County and we must protect that. “We have clear bylaw language now,” he said. “Council needs to enforce it.”
Scott Burbidge said he suggests that council and the province establish a working group on food security and sustainable agriculture. He said that a moratorium be placed on all agricultural land rezoning for five years.
Leslie Wade said the subject property is high capability agricultural soil and there are crops growing there now. She said if councillors vote in favour of this, it would be contradicting their own efforts toward a buy-local movement and would lead her to question their sincerity toward buy-local. “Saving the farmland is about a future for our grandchildren. It’s our valuable resource, our gold mine,” Wade said. “I invite you to do the right thing and respect the opinion of the public on this matter.”
Linda O’Neill, who had a recent zoning map showing that the entire area around the proposed site is in the agricultural district, said we have the third richest agricultural soil in Canada. “You have been the leaders of this parade. Carry on,” she said in regard to council’s recent initiatives to help support agriculture and the buy local concept.
Amanda Grabowski asked councillors, if they approve this development, what they would do next week when other owners of agricultural land show up wanting to develop it.
Belongs in a growth centre
Adrienne Saunders said the golf course development was supposed to be a one-time deal. In response to a statement that the subject land isn’t that great for growing crops, she asked why are there crops such as carrots and grain planted there now.
She said this sort of development belongs in a growth centre or within town limits and she wonders what a group of wealthy people purchasing the housing would think when they’re sitting out on their decks and smell the nearby compost facility.
Irmgard Lipp outlined several petitions relating to preserving agricultural land, including one from Weston-area residents opposed to the development. She said the majority of neighbouring residents are against the proposal and that should be enough for council to turn it down. “We all feel the land use policy needs to be strengthened in Kings County and not watered down more and more,” Lipp said. “We need a new vision with ‘sustainability’ as the key word.”
Council will consider second and final reading of the amendments to allow the proposal by development agreement at the Tuesday, Aug. 7 regular monthly session at 6 p.m.
By Kirk Starratt