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Big Pond RV park plans quashed

This aerial view of Big Pond Centre shows the “barachois” or coastal lagoon that defines the area.
This aerial view of Big Pond Centre shows the “barachois” or coastal lagoon that defines the area. - Contributed

Nova Scotia Court of Appeal dismisses CBRM appeal, thus halting plans for proposed Big Pond Centre campground

SYDNEY, N.S. —

Roy MacInnis stopped short of calling it a celebration.

“It’s more of a relief,” said the Cape Breton organic farmer.

The “it” that MacInnis referred to is a Nova Scotia Court of Appeal decision that appears to put an end to a Calgary-based developer’s plans to build an RV park and campground in the rural community of Big Pond Centre, about 40 kilometres west of Sydney on the south side of Bras d’Or Lake.

“The court dismissed the CBRM appeal so it is very good news and I guess you could say we won,” he said of the decision that was rendered Monday in a Halifax courtroom.

MacInnis is part of a group of Big Pond Centre residents that has spent the better part of the past two years fighting against the controversial development that was proposed for a large parcel of land adjacent to the farm that has been in his family for generations.

The issue began to garner public attention in early 2018 when developer Chris Skidmore made an application to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality council to amend its land use bylaw to allow for the RV park and campground. Then in March of last year, following extensive and heated debate, council voted 7-6 to amend the bylaw.

Step in the MacInnis group, which also included Maureen Campbell, David Moffatt, Debra Moffatt, Ed MacIntyre, Ann MacIntyre and Helen Doherty, which appealed the CBRM decision before the province’s Utility and Review Board (UARB).

A multi-day hearing was held in Sydney in the summer of 2018. Then in January, the UARB tribunal that heard the appeal rendered its decision. It agreed with the appellant group, thus overturning the municipality’s decision.

End of the matter, right?

Not by a long shot.

The CBRM then filed a legal challenge of the UARB ruling before the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. That matter was heard Monday when the court unanimously dismissed the appeal after about 30 minutes of testimony.

Afterwards, MacInnis and other opponents of the proposed RV development gathered in downtown Halifax restaurant to talk about the issue that took up so much of their time over the past couple of years.

“It should never have gone this far — the UARB made the right decision and we still don’t understand why the municipality wanted to appeal it,” said MacInnis, who reluctantly became the face of the RV park’s opposition movement.

But despite the battle to stop the development, the soft-spoken farmer said he and his neighbours are not opposed to responsible rural development.

“It just wasn’t a good fit for Big Pond Centre,” said MacInnis.

Fellow group member Helen Doherty agreed.

“We remain in favour of development that is sustainable, environmentally responsible and respects the zoning rights of the residents of rural CBRM,” said Doherty, who also journeyed to Halifax for Monday’s court proceedings.

“We are very pleased that the decision of the UARB was upheld and we hope that CBRM’s planning department will learn from this experience.”

Chris Conohan, legal counsel for Skidmore, told the Cape Breton Post earlier this month that the developer is “continuing to explore business opportunities on and off Cape Breton Island.

david.jala@cbpost.com

TIMELINE

Summer 2014 – Calgary-based developer Chris Skidmore envisions RV campground on shores of Bras d’Or Lake while visiting Cape Breton 

September 2017 – Following a feasibility study, conceptual plans are drawn up; 150 info flyers delivered in Big Pond Centre area; Skidmore holds information meeting at fire hall

November 2017 – Skidmore makes land-use zoning amendment application; CBRM council is briefed on the matter; public meeting opposing project attracts 70 people

February 2018 – Public hearing into application attracts full house to CBRM council chamber

March 2018 – Council votes 7-6 to approve amendment; opponents vow to appeal decision 

July 2018 – NS Utility and Review Board (UARB) begins hearing with three-day session in Sydney

January 2019 – UARB overturns CBRM council decision

February 2019 – CBRM files appeal with NS Court of Appeal

Sept. 16, 2019 – Court dismisses CBRM appeal

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