Halifax council moves ahead with controversial Beechville development
Armco Capital Inc. is proposing a mixed-use on 59 acres of undeveloped land in the historical African Nova Scotian community.
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Halifax regional council unanimously passed a motion to consider a controversial development in Beechville on Tuesday, with a set of amendments designed to quell concerns from the area’s African Nova Scotian community.
Armco Capital Inc. is proposing a mixed-use development including more 1,200 housing units on 59 acres of undeveloped land north of St. Margaret’s Bay Road, between Bayers Lake Business Park and Lovett Lake.
A development agreement approved by council in 2014 allows a 253-unit residential project on part of the site. Armco is looking for land-use bylaw amendments to allow the larger development.
The proposal was last before council in May, when the decision was deferred pending more community consultation “on how the proposed development may impact Beechville’s African Nova Scotian community and heritage.”
Beechville is an historical African Nova Scotian community, where Black refugees settled after the War of 1812. According to HRM’s staff report, the area has shrunk considerably since then, and used to stretch to near the Northwest Arm.
The site Armco is proposing to develop is next to Beechville Baptist Church, originally founded in 1844, and includes marked and unmarked gravesites and a baptismal path to Lovett Lake.
The church holds the deed to the land the church is on, but not the path, and some of the marked gravesites are on Armco’s land.
Council’s motion requires a Heritage Impact Statement for the church, and a public participation program that ensures the church and “associated heritage assets are protected,” and that the community is properly consulted by setting up a liaison group.
“Many residents distrust the applicant and the Municipality,” the staff report says.
“Community members may view development as continuing a slowmotion razing and displacement of Beechville.”
Former Liberal MLA Joachim Stroink now works with Armco, and told reporters on Tuesday that he’s been brought in to “nurture and work with the relationships with the community.”
He said he met with members of the community last week, and surveyors are headed to the site soon to figure out which parts of the land should go to the church.
“Once we get the deed and the land to be able to give to them, we’re gonna do a big celebratory piece, ‘Here’s your land,’” Stroink said, adding he believes that will happen in early 2018.
“I think right now I want to hope that we can exude the trust that needs to come forward on this.”