Update: In November of 2019, Lands and Forestry had to file additional documents in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, in response to the applicant’s request for a judicial review. As a result, we learned that the (previously redacted) price for this unique coastal ecosystem would be $306/acre. This means that 704 acres would only cost the developer $216,000, far below the asking price of nearby parcels. The appraiser (Turner and Drake) had determined the price based on the land being undevelopable, yet Lighthouse Links does plan to develop it.
The valuation report that assessed the market value of the public lands at Owls Head was commissioned directly by Lighthouse Links Development Company.
It is worth noting that the effective date of valuation is August 21, 2018, over 6 months before Owls Head Provincial Park Reserve was secretly delisted on March 13, 2019.
The Valuation Report that assessed the market value of the public lands at Owls Head can be found on pages 11-50 of the PDF.
On pages 29 and 30 of the PDF, the valuation report by Turner Drake & Partners (a Halifax-based real estate company) states that the majority of the Owls Head property is zoned as RPK (Regional Park) Zone. Therefore, it would require “highly unlikely” amendments in municipal policy to allow for other uses.
Municipal Zoning Maps Showing Owls Head: Click on the Slideshow to Enlarge
We have reviewed current planning issues and policies as they relate to the Subject Property. The following points are relevant:
(1) The Subject Property has long been identified and regulated as park and open space uses.
(2) It is currently zoned RPK (Regional Park) under the Land Use Bylaw. This zoning was introduced in 2014 in order to bring land use regulation into compliance with the municipality’s updated Regional Plan. The Regional Plan is a master planning document for the entire municipality, and supersedes local planning policy.
(3) The Regional Plan identifies the Subject Property as part of an existing Regional Park, it is similarly recognised as a park in the recently adopted (August 2018) Green Network Plan.
(4) The use of the Subject Property for anything other than what is currently enabled under its zoning would require significant policy changes at the highest levels of municipal planning authority. Requests for amendments to policy at this level carry no guarantee that they will even be considered by Council, and no opportunity for appeal to the UARB if denied. Such changes would be highly unlikely.
Halifax’s Green Network Plan, as mentioned in point 3 of “Planning Considerations” in the Valuation Report. Click on the slideshow to enlarge.
Taking a Closer Look at the Highest and Best Use
The valuation report by Turner Drake and Partners Ltd. concludes that recreational and conservation purposes are found to be the “Highest and Best Use” of the lands at Owls Head.
Highest and Best Use – this is the use for the property which will produce the greatest net return for the foreseeable future.
The use must be (1) physically possible, (2) legally permissible, (3) financially feasible, and (4) maximally productive.
It is determined by considering the various alternate purposes for which the property can legally be used, having regard not only to existing zoning and other legal constraints, but also to any probable modification of them. The use which generates the highest value is, ipso facto the Highest and Best Use
“[W]e are of the opinion that the Highest and Best Use of the Subject Property is for recreational or conservation purposes.”
In case you are wondering, golf courses do not qualify as “recreational use.” Instead, golf falls under “commercial recreation use,” which is a wholly separate category in the land use by-law.
RECREATION USE means the use of land, buildings or structures for active or passive recreational purposes and may include indoor recreation facilities, sports fields, sports courts, playgrounds, multi-use trails, picnic areas, scenic view points and similar uses to the foregoing, together with the necessary accessory buildings and structures, but does not include commercial recreation uses. (RC-Jun 25/14;E-Oct 18/14)
COMMERCIAL RECREATION USE means a building or lot or part of a building or lot used solely for commercial, recreation or sport purposes and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, may include animal or vehicle racing tracks, campgrounds, rifle ranges, golf courses, miniature golf courses, amusement parks and centres and drive-in theatres and may include a dwelling unit or dwelling units for maintenance or security personnel.– HRM Land Use By-Law, Eastern Shore (West)
CONSERVATION USE means any activity carried out for the purpose of conserving soils, water, vegetation, fish, shellfish, including wildlife sanctuaries and similar uses to the foregoing.– HRM Land Use By-Law, Eastern Shore (West
What Does This Mean Going Forward?
Unfortunately, the valuation report does not mean that Owls Head couldn’t still be sold and developed. But it is very significant that even the valuation — that was directly commissioned by the prospective buyer — concludes that the property should be left as parkland.
What is most likely to influence the province’s future attitude towards Owls Head and protecting other significant ecosystems is you. Please, add your voice, tell your friends, email your elected officials.
Download the FOIPOP package here:
The Government website for this FOIPOP here:
The Municipal Zoning Laws are available here:
The Municipal Zoning Map for Eastern Shore West is available here: