Notes: RP5 and Musquodoboit Harbour

My speaking notes on RP5 and Musquodoboit Harbour.  CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Thank you to all the people who spoke for or against the regional plan as presented last night. I really appreciate all the thoughtful input and comments ranging from downtown development and the environment, watercourses and green belting.

Mr Mayor, do we still get fined $2.00 if we don’t talk about Musquodoboit Harbour?

So as Halifax South Downtown councillor it of course falls to me to discuss Musquodoboit Harbour.

My son has dated a young lady from Musquodoboit has three years and he only got his license last year, so I know the area. The Dobbits Bakehouse, the old school house, Harbour Fish and Chips and the icecream place. It is a wonderful community.

So my deepest regret is hearing that the community has become convinced that this is a sneak attack. There have been at least three meetings on the eastern shore over the last two years, Oyster Pond, Gaetz Brook, and Sheet Harbour. Three of the 18 meetings that were held in the entire municipality! Draft 4 was first published January 2014. The process is two years old. There was certainly no attempt to hide this process from the residents of the Harbour. As one resident talked about last night, I’m sure I’ve argued about RP5 with Councillor Hendsbee on the Rick Howe Show more than once in the last year.

What RP5 proposes is that Musquodoboit Harbour would be local growth centre. Let me repeat – growth. If you read the plan there is nothing in that proposed designation that blocks growth. I know there has been some confusion with the provincial representative out there, and some misinformation has been spread, it is really unfortunate that this caused such upset in the community.

I can guarantee you that HRM has no interest or plan to move the rink or the library or the rec office. Chezzetcook is not any kind of growth centre, HRM has no interest to move these services out of the village, we simply will not, will never consider doing that.

I heard Ker, Chair community association say that the Harbour is a village. I agree Musquodoboit Harbour is more of a rural village than a town format, the intention of “town” is more Kentville, Wolfville, the village model is more Canning or Hantsport. I think the harbour is more of a village.

Here is the difference between rural growth and local growth.

Rural District Growth Centre
• Town scale
• Express bus service
• Consideration of central wastewater collection and water distribution for Porters Lake
• Consideration of central water for Fall River

Rural Local Growth Centre
• Village scale
• Cost Shared Community-based Transit
• For Hubbards: possible central wastewater collection and water distribution services

Be careful what you wish for – do you really want town scale development? What it says below in policy S9 is that council shall give consideration to the things outlined in these tables, so even being in a rural district growth centre there are no guarantees. Both of these offer the possibility of water – but actually getting water is a separate issue.  Council may introduce water later, or council may not, no matter what this chart says.

I want to repeat there is NOTHING AT ALL not a single thing in this plan that blocks or stops development in either designation. This was never the intention and this has never been word or intent of the policy. To my mind only real block on rural development is Musquodoboit Harbour are the issues around water.

It is absurd to read today that would cost between 15-20 thousand per home to address this issue and that it might not be considered.

This council can and should consider this, to ensure the stability of this community, especially given the willingness of residents to shoulder much of the burden over some time, but WHY would we say no to that? As one person said last night- help us our get out of our way – I think we can help you and get out of your way.

There is a city in the region but the whole region is not a city. We need to make sure we don’t promise to delivery a city level of service where it is cost prohibitive and in many cases not want.

Lets be totally clear – Our objective in Halifax should be to provide the best rural services of any rural area in Atlantic Canada, if not all of Canada.

I will support the motion to move Musquodoboit Harbour into the Rural District Growth designation, if that is really what the community wants, though again, be careful what you wish for. And again, I am really sorry that the community has been lead to believe that this plan in any way was intending to block growth in the Harbour, because that was certainly not our intent.

  • Natalie Stevens

    Thank you for your notes Councillor Mason – I admit I didn’t become involved in this debate until very recently when I felt Musquodoboit Harbour was being threatened by the MLA’s proposed plan. In my mind the MLA’s proposal is a real possibility due to the 5.3 million dollar renovation of ESDH being put on hold for this year. It is difficult for the average citizen to know which level of government will have the final say in our community.

  • Alf Hopkins

    Mr. Mason just a note to say thank you for your support. I used to be very active in community affairs and will be the first to admit I fell asleep for a number of years. Even now I am not fully aware of the differences in the two designations but re-acted viscerally to the negative cogitation of the words “down graded” . The one good part in all this especially the not very political astute comments by our MLA is it sure made people sit up and take notice. That BTW will be my advice to Mr Murphy as his only spin that has a chance of saving his political hide.

  • Tara Smith

    I believe it was the idea of moving the High School and the Hospital away from here that was most concerning for the community. That is what made people stop in their tracks. I did not know the rink or the rec center were being proposed also. Thank you for your support of our community and your thoughts on the issue. We just don’t want to be overlooked for all the wonderful things we have going for us here and we definitely don’t want to risk losing them due to political manipulation of a title.

  • Mofhrm

    My comment is a little late but regarding your statement that 3 of the 18 meetings held in HRM were held along the Eastern Shore (Gaetz Brook, Oyster Pond and Sheet Harbour). That’s the problem, the Eastern Shore is made up of many distinct communities across a vast geographical area. While I do understand it is nearly impossible to have meetings in all communities. Saying we had 3 meetings out there is like saying we had 1 meeting in Lake Echo and wondering why no one from your own district 7 did not attend.
    Transportation is an issue along the Eastern Shore. Many people are not able to participate as they have no way to get to meetings etc. There is no public transportation.
    Well, there is online – yes there is but again a lot of people do not have access to the internet. While that is decreasing over time many of the older generation just aren’t online to hear about what is going on or to participate.
    There have been many monthly newspapers along the shore over the years but none have been able to be sustainable with mailing out to all households. A new paper is trying to get going, Eastern Shore Cooperator, but as of right now they cannot afford to mail out yet.
    The people from the Eastern Shore feel very disassociated from the urban core and feel like they lost their autonomy when we were amalgamated. While that was almost 20 years ago the feelings are still there lingering. Communities had plans and with amalgamation those plans disappeared and we have seen the Eastern Shore deteriorate in both overall infrastructure and community spirit. The last 5 or 6 years have seen some infrastructure appear in the form of a few new schools and a rec centre. But even the rec centre had

    • Mofhrm

      Wouldn’t let me finish above.
      But even the rec centre had no community input or consultation and we were told by Betty Lou to be happy with what you got at the public meeting to announce the school. Which was the only meeting held after the fact when the plans, etc were already drawn up and contracts made.
      The other school, Oyster Pond Academy, is a lovely school. It was a consolidation of 4 schools into 1. This consolidation saw Musquodoboit Harbour lose it’s P-2 school and now travel 30 minurs ( at least by bus – some being picked up at 645am). This lose of an elementary school (which was very old and out of the 4 schools was the most dire) left the community without and is a big obstacle in attracting new families to the area. This is quite evident in a drop of almost 200 students since the school was built in 2007. People wiould have moved to Musquodoboit Harbour but without an elementary school it is not desirable. It is more difficult to attract people to move further east.
      Another issue with the schools overall and transportation is that years ago our bus drivers used to be our caretakers so when schools wanted to take a school trip, the bus was used at the school. The local junior high and high school had 2 after school buses on Tuesday and Thursdays -one went east, one went west. This a
      Lowed students to participate in after school clubs, sports, band, etc. When Stock took over that ended.

      • Mofhrm

        Cut me off again.
        There are many examples as well as the ones above as to why people are cynical. People want to be heard.
        The Eastern Shore is a collection of communities. Please encourage the HRM bureaucracy to engage more and to actually listen. Maybe even hire some people out here to help with the engagement. People who are lifelong residents and can really find and listen to the pulses of the various communities. It will go along way in helping to connect.

        • I think we need to do more on rural development and engagement, but realistically the former county should be getting as good or slightly better services than other rural Nova Scotia counties. That rural service level will always be different than in the city. We need to have a dialog about what is reasonable and affordable, and meet those standards.

      • I hear you on teh schools. The province builds schools and they pick cheap land in bad locations. The same will happen in Sheet Harbour, they will put it way outside of the village centre and it would be a huge mistake to do so.

    • I understand the challenges, but if the County was still a County would there be a meeting in every town and hamlet? Was there? When I look at the planning happening in other counties I see that most areas accept that one meeting in an area where people have to drive 15-30 minutes to get there is acceptable. Another way of looking at it is there was ONE meeting for my 25,000 residents, and 3 for District 1’s 20,000 people. I feel like the municipality worked hard to accomodate the rural nature of the area, but there are reasonable limits… ideally we need to have meetings near our service centres – Porters Lake, Musquodoboit Harbour, Sheet Harbour (or nearby). Everyone lost some autonomy.

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