Pin It

Bedford waterfront 

Sustainable infill?

I am writing to request a formal correction to the commentary “Bad development,” (Sustainable City by Chris Benjamin, August 19).

1. The piece was written without contacting the Waterfront Development Corporation Limited or Halifax Regional Municipality to obtain relevant background information on the file.

2. And it contains the following factual errors:
Benjamin says the water lot infill project on the Bedford Basin waterfront has not been subject to an environmental assessment. The Bedford Phase II project was subject to environmental assessment required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and has been approved and monitored by relevant provincial and federal regulatory bodies throughout the history of operations. Impacts on habitat have been assessed and mitigated through operational protocols and procedures.

Benjamin indicates that the infill material is “construction rubble.” This is incorrect; the infill project only exists to provide a safe disposal site for acid generating slate. This slate is a naturally occurring rock common to the geology of Halifax. When not managed and exposed to water and oxygen it produces acid runoff that can severely impact adjacent watercourses and aquatic life.

Following review by the NS Department of Environment and Environment Canada, it was determined that marine disposal of this material rendered it inert and was the preferred method to ensure that the material would not pose a risk to aquatic animals. WDCL was requested to operate the facility for this purpose.

Benjamin says the original plan for the Bedford Waterfront project was for a “marine park.” This is incorrect. The initial 1985 Bedford Waterfront Master Plan envisioned an active year-round, mixed-use urban waterfront that would be developed in stages and provide public access to the water’s edge. This conceptual plan was used as a guiding document in the development of the current plan, and ratified through extensive public consultation and the overall objective remains unchanged. Benjamin says there is no business plan for the project, when in fact there is a clear sustainable business plan for the project. WDCL operates the facility and charges the development industry tipping fees for the material. All revenues received are, and will be, reinvested in the development and management of public infrastructure. This includes boardwalks, marinas and event plazas. The central objective of the conceptual development plan is to ensure that the plan is economically viable and will see the public infrastructure developed and maintained.

Benjamin describes the project as “anti-community.” We believe the history of active community involvement in the project is evidence of the contrary. The project is consistent with, and stems from, the HRM Regional Planning Process that identified the objective of creating a suburban local centre and transit hub at the site. Members of the community have volunteered hundreds of hours in participation in the visioning and public consultation components of the ongoing project.

Benjamin concludes that the project “will do great harm to wilderness and water, with little payback for locals.” This is inaccurate. The project is specifically designed to incorporate sustainable development practices in all aspects of community design. When this project is complete it will provide, aside from the economic development benefits, signature public amenity features and a design as determined by the community. This includes public access to the water’s edge, event plazas, exhibition and performance space, playgrounds and a range of recreation opportunities, as well as opportunities for residential and commercial development.

With respect to Benjamin’s comments regarding the Paper Mill Lake area, HRM wishes to point out that this area has been contemplated for mixed-use residential/commercial development since the 1990s, as described in the Bedford Municipal Planning Strategy. Further, part of the area is the subject of a development agreement that was approved by Council more than 15 years ago.

Regarding the United Gulf land holding at the interchange of Hammonds Plains Road and Bicentennial Highway, an application has been received, and staff will be proceeding through the planning process this fall, which necessarily includes public consultation. In addition to input from the general public, the proposal will be reviewed by the Bedford Waters Advisory Board, a volunteer committee of Council, who advise Council on environmental matters. Halifax Regional Council and North West Community Council must ultimately approve any required land use policy changes and a site-specific development agreement before any development can occur.

In the future, the Waterfront Development Corporation Limited and Halifax Regional Municipality would respectfully request that your staff contact our respective offices when preparing articles relating to our projects or initiatives so that accurate information can be provided to your readers.

—Colin MacLean, president, Water Development Corporation Ltd. and Paul Dunphy, director of community development, Halifax Regional Municipality

Chris Benjamin responds: Most of what MacLean and Dunphy call factual errors are differences of opinion. The error regarding an environmental assessment is mine and for that I apologize.

I didn’t contact WDCL directly for the piece, but I did read what its public website ---including the Bedford Waterfront Design Study report---has to say about the project. My source on the project’s dependence on tipping fees, for example, is WDCL staffter Terry Drisdell, in a video presentation at

He states: “Toward the end of Phase I it was realized that…the infrastructure costs and the provision of public amenities were just more than the project could bear, so there was no business case that could be made at that time to continue on to Phase II. Roundabout the same time the Department of Environment was looking for identification of an area that would be suitable for the safe disposal of pyritic slate…it was determined that the Phase II location of the Bedford waterfront was the most appropriate and practical location...And for the business plan we decided that in order to make it a feasible operation…we would charge tipping fees…Any development, any large construction projects going on in the area that generated the slate would be charged.”

It’s disheartening to see that our governments and crown corporations think assigning token community members to volunteer committees, throwing in a green space or two, and holding non-interactive public presentations of their slideshow plans, constitutes community involvement.


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Latest in Letters

Coast Top Ten

Recent Comments

In Print This Week

Vol 24, No 21
October 20, 2016

Cover Gallery »

Real Time Web Analytics

© 2016 Coast Publishing Ltd.