Legal glitch allows clearcutting to proceed near Sandy Lake, residents protest
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The municipal councillor for Bedford says a loophole in HRM’s planning regulations has allowed a developer to legally clear-cut hundreds of acres of land near Sandy Lake.
Coun. Tim Outhit said Armco Communities can cut down as many trees as it likes on the property off Hammonds Plains Road without abiding by HRM’s 20-metre buffer zone for waterways – because the company hasn’t applied for a development permit.
“Because they haven't applied for that, our 20-metre buffer doesn't apply,” he said. “It was quite a surprise to me and some of my colleagues…when we figured out it didn't apply until the development process began.”
A handful of area residents gathered at the site Thursday to protest the clearcutting, saying it’s jeopardizing “fragile” Sandy Lake.
“Sandy Lake is an absolutely beautiful pristine lake,” said Karen Robinson, adding it’s on HRM’s list of future regional parks. “We've lost the battle of the clearcutting, and now it's down to the point where it's the lake itself that's at risk.”
Outhit said both HRM and provincial officials have visited the site and say the company is following “good logging processes” – but he said it’s still a baffling decision.
“I don't know why they're doing this,” he said. “I certainly have told them in person and in writing that I think they're making a mistake turning the community against them.”
Armco’s website states that the land is being cleared so that development can begin as soon as the city’s planning process – which includes public consultation – is complete.
“Armco is diligent in adhering to all environmental requirements as it pertains to land development,” reads the site. “Areas for cutting have been assessed and any potential wetlands have been carefully delineated to ensure these lands are not disturbed during the clearing process.”
The company’s vice-president of sales said the company is staying in touch with the community.
“They know where we're going,” said Chris Fourgnaud. “We met with them, we told them we would meet with them as the planning progress continues.”
Outhit said closing the loophole could happen as part of the five-year review of the Regional Plan.
“That's one way to deal with it, but of course that would be for going forward,” he said. “That wouldn't be retroactive.”