Just when you thought the battle over Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes was over...
The Annapolis Group gave notice on Tuesday that it will soon begin legal proceedings against the Halifax Regional Municipality, claiming that HRM has “effectively expropriated” its property and in return is seeking $119 million in damages.
The lawsuit comes from city council’s vote last summer against development zoning for the area, and to instead move forward with purchasing the privately-owned properties next to the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area for use as parkland.
Because of that decision, Annapolis has “no other choice than to take legal action,” according to a press release from m5 Public Affairs.
Annapolis owns 965 acres directly east of the current provincial wilderness preserve, 764 acres of which are located within HRM’s conceptual park boundary. Most of that property is currently zoned as urban reserve, with a smaller portion defined as urban settlement. Neither designation allows for urban development until at least 2031 unless council determines the lands are needed to accommodate growth.
Rob Gillis, vice chair of the Annapolis Group, writes in Tuesday’s release that his company spent a decade negotiating with HRM for a fair agreement on what to do with the lands. A facilitator’s report last year recommended approving development, but that document was quickly and voraciously panned by area residents, urban planners, provincial officials and environmentalists. Municipal staff subsequently recommended preserving the lands, and council agreed.
“Since HRM is not going to allow us to develop our lands, we are simply asking to receive fair compensation from the municipality for the lands that have been effectively expropriated,” writes Gillis. “We don't want to be in this position, but HRM has given us no other choice.”
According to Annapolis, its rejected plans would have provided 300 acres of parkland, though Karen Beazley, a professor in resource and environmental studies at Dalhousie, argued last year that the Annapolis offer was a minuscule “buffer” and would cause unwanted impact on the neighbouring ecosystem.
Annapolis had previously offered to sell 210 acres of the land outright to HRM for $6 million, or roughly $28,600 per acre. The municipality’s assessors priced the same property as being worth $2.8 million, or $13,340 per acre. Annapolis says a professional valuator has priced the total property it owns at a worth of over $119 million, or $124,000 per acre.