Council puts brakes on housing
By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER /
City Hall Reporter
Council halted plans Tuesday night for Lakeside-Timberlea to be
the home of 20,000 future Haligonians.
"This is a very serious matter for my community," Coun. Reg
Rankin (Timberlea-Prospect) told fellow councillors.
Council's decision came after a report from the provincial
Environment Department said Nine Mile River, site of the
Lakeside-Timberlea sewage treatment plant, can only handle the
sewage outflow from the current 8,200 residents plus about 1,800
The Lakeside-Timberlea plant was built in 1983 to accommodate
10,000 people but was designed to handle two expansions to service a
total of 30,000.
But those expansions won't happen now because the river can't
handle any more waste water.
"There is no more capacity in the river," Paul Dunphy, Halifax
Regional Municipality's planning and development services director,
told reporters outside the meeting.
Already, during the summer months, the river's water level is
very low and the volume of effluent from the plant nearly equals the
volume of water in the river, says a confidential staff report
released to the public Tuesday.
Under provincial dilution guidelines adopted in 1992, the
acceptable river water-to-effluent level is five to one.
"During the summer, we're seeing a ratio of one to one," Mr.
"If that plant were to expand, then we would have more effluent
in the river than there is actually water in the natural
environment. And so that is what we, and the province, are trying to
The municipality noticed only recently in detailed studies that
the maximums were being reached. The studies were ordered because of
applications for subdivision plans in the area.
The key developer affected by council's decision is Nine Mile
River Investments Ltd. In 2001, the company received council's
approval for a 220-hectare development near Highway 103 called
The development, which was to be phased in over 10 years,
included a plan for a signature 18-hole golf course, homes for 8,000
residents, a school and commercial buildings.
A development agreement is in place and detailed engineering
plans for the first phase are before city staff.
All of the company's final-stage plans now before staff - which
total 512 building lots to be built over the next seven years - can
be handled by the current capacity of the plant, Mr. Dunphy said.
"We still have lots and lots of vacant land which has recently
been approved for development," he said.
"So you're not going to see a fundamental shift in the market in
the short term."
But because no new subdivision plans will be OK'd, 3,200 more
housing units won't be approved, Mr. Rankin said.
That "very unpleasant" situation is going to cause an upheaval in
his district, he said.
"There is going to be anxiety in the community in terms of the
future and what the possibilities are with the vacant land."
The main players from Nine Mile River Investments - Larry
Swinamer and Glen Dexter - could not be reached for comment Tuesday
Mr. Rankin said there may be a reason for that.
"They may not be having the best night," he said after the
Mr. Dunphy said all of the affected landowners in the area will
be contacted starting today.
Staff will look into possible remedies for the sewage issue in
the Lakeside-Timberlea area and get back to council by July.
Piping sewage to other locations - like the new Halifax sewage
treatment plant - might be an option, Mr. Dunphy said.
"But clearly, there is only so much capacity in the Halifax
plant," he said. "And we want to make sure before we add any
additional lands to it that we've examined all of the implications."
Staff will also keep in mind the protection of the environment in
coming up with possible solutions to the problem, Mr. Dunphy said.
"(The environment) is what started this whole ball rolling," he
said. "And that will be fundamental to any recommendations that we
As recently as last year, Lakeside-Timberlea was targeted as one
of the locations that could help accommodate the 100,000 people who
are expected to move into metro Halifax over the next 25 years.
There is still room in other areas for that expected growth, Mr.
Council has already directed staff to explore the Bedford West
area, near Kearney Lake, as well as Bedford South and the Morris and
Russell lakes area in Dartmouth, he said.