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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halifax Water wants $5,220 to comply with Freedom of Information law

Chain of Lakes Trail sewer pipe decisions clouded in mystery.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 7:11 AM

click to enlarge Chain of Lakes Trail
  • Chain of Lakes Trail
Halifax Water says it will be happy to process a Freedom of Information request filed by The Coast, so long as we pay a $5,220 processing fee. Effectively, the fee kills our effort to examine public records.

At issue is the proposal to put a sewer pipe beneath the entire length of the 7.25 Chain of Lakes Trail. While Halifax Water says the pipe will support future development in general in the Timberlea area, reports to city council show that it is primarily designed to assist just one development: the 9,000-unit Brunello Estates housing/golf course project south of St. Margarets Bay Road.

The Coast requested engineering studies, financial projections and correspondence between Halifax Water and Brunello related to the project. We particularly are interested in how the financing formula for the project was decided upon.

When the issue was first brought to city council, a Halifax Water manager told councillors “ratepayers” would pay for the project, but after we reported that statement, Halifax Water back-tracked and said 90 percent of the cost would be paid through a “regional development charge”---called RDC, which applies to all new development in all of HRM---with the remaining 10 percent paid by ratepayers. We had hoped to learn why the project was being funded through a “capital cost contribution”---called CCC, which applies only to new developments directly benefiting from the pipe, in this case Brunello alone.

It turns out that other development companies are wondering the same thing. Clayton Developments, Cresco Holdings, West Bedford Holdings and Emscote Holdings have asked the Utility and Review Board to look at the RDC-CCC issue as it relates to a Halifax Water application before the board.

Additionally, Halifax Water told council the sewer project would cost “$20- to $25 million,” but the application before the UARB puts it at $27 million.

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