A major firm is making a last-minute attempt to open up the Purcells Cove backlands to development. The backlands were zoned “urban reserve” in the 2006 regional plan. That designation prevents the area from being developed for the 25-year lifetime of the plan, or until 2031. At that point the area will be reassessed for its development potential.
A required five year review of the plan commenced in 2006, and has wound its way through at least four committees, and has included significant public consultation along the way. The finalized review document, revising the plan, was placed on regional council’s February 11 agenda for a “first reading.”
Typically, first readings are non-controversial, and are intended merely to let all councillors and the public know that the issue will be debated at the next meeting. But at the meeting, councillor Brad Johns, who represents Upper Sackville, argued that the first reading of the revised plan should itself be delayed to the next meeting. Johns said that proceeding would be unfair since three suburban councillors were absent from the meeting—David Hendsbee and Barry Dalrymple were on city business and Linda Mosher is on medical leave. That delay was approved.
But wilderness activists noticed that the agenda also included a letter from a law firm representing the unnamed owners of 10 parcels in the backlands, with the bulk of the property owned by just one firm: Clayton Developments, which is also one of the largest contributors to councillors’ election campaigns. The letter, dated after the deadline for public comment on the plan review, was sent to councillor Stephen Adams, who somehow managed to get it included in the council agenda packet.
The letter asks that council rezone the backlands to “rural commuter,” which would effectively open the entire area to low- to medium-density development. The suspicion is that some councillors believe they will only have the votes to approve the rezoning request if the missing councillors are present. Adams did not return a call for comment.