Petition: Save Purcells Cove Urban Reserve from Development



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Done and shared

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On June 8, 2021, Regional Council passed the f ollowing motion: “Consider amendments to the
Regional Municipal Planning Strategy, the Halif ax Secondary Municipal Planning Strategy and
Halif ax Mainland Land Use By-law f or lands currently designated and zoned Urban Reserve in the
Purcell’s Cove Backlands area (as shown on Map 1 of this report), through the ongoing Regional
Plan Review (Case 22257) in order to protect environmentally significant features in the area,
consistent with the policy directions outlined in this report.”1
• Future development should consider the objectives of the Integrated Mobility Plan to support transit - oriented development, support the Halifax Green Network Plan’s objectives to adequately protect wilderness areas and connections, and follow policy guidance found in Halif ACT2050, Sharing Our Stories and Halif ax Water’s Inf rastructure Master Plan.

Purcell’s Cove Backlands, Purcell’s Cove

Case 22257 HRM initiated request to review all lands in the Urban Reserve Designation in the Purcell’s Cove area, as a result of HRM’s acquisition of Shaw Wilderness Park.

For additional information regarding Case 22257, please click here.

To provide feedback on this application please email and reference Case 22257.

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When I saw the coverage map I thought…nahhh…can’t be that they would develop that after all the time spent on MRWA…

What the fuck…Am I interpreting this wrong or something? Someone please tell me I am.

HRM is considering rezoning private land areas in the orange area, out of Urban Reserve into a different category. Rural Commuter is the proposal, which allows for low density development without water and sewer service.

This rezoning consideration should have no effect on sanctioned MRWA trails or cause development in that area. Those trails are on Crown and HRM park land. The HRM park land WAS private, but is now park.

However, Bloodline and Secret Singletrack trails are on private land (unauthorized) within the orange area. Those trails could be effected if private land owners exercise their rights to use their land for development (or even just by posting no trespassing signs at any time, of course).

MRWA is aiming to meet with the Councillor and understand this better, and hopefully contribute to a solution that works for all the different interests involved. As I see it, those interests in no particular order are: 1) land and watershed conservation; 2) the people who own the land, who have rights too; 3) recreation.


Phew okay good. Hoped I was misunderstanding that.

3.2.2 Urban Reserve Designation
The Urban Reserve Designation is intended to ensure that a supply of land is available for
serviced development over a longer term horizon. The following seven areas are designated as
Urban Reserve:

  1. interior lands bounded by Highway 7, Ross Road, Highway 207 and Broom Road (Cole
  2. land surrounding Anderson Lake area (Dartmouth/Bedford);
  3. Governor Lake North (Timberlea);
  4. Ragged Lake (Halifax);
  5. Kidston Lake lands (Spryfield/Herring Cove);
  6. Purcell’s Cove area back lands; and
  7. private lands in the Blue Mountain - Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park area.
    S-3 The Urban Reserve Designation shall be established on the Generalized Future Land Use
    Map (Map 2) to identify those lands situated outside the Urban Settlement Designation
    where serviced development may be provided after the life of this Plan.
    S-4 HRM shall, through the applicable land use by-law, establish an Urban Reserve Zone to
    regulate development of lands within the Urban Reserve Designation. This Zone shall
    permit open space uses and limit residential development to existing lots and to one lot
    subdivided from an existing lot under lot frontage exemption provisions of the
    Subdivision By-law on a property identified by PID No. 00270934. Commuter Designation
S-5 The Rural Commuter Designation shall be established on the Generalized Future Land
Use Map (Map 2) to encompass those areas within commuting distance of the Regional
Centre that are heavily influenced by low-density residential development. The intent for
this designation is to:
• to protect the character of rural communities and conserve open space and natural
resources by focussing growth within a series of centres, as shown on Settlement and
Transportation Map (Map 1);
• support the delivery of convenience services to the surrounding settlement area;
• control the amount and form of development between centres; and
• protect the natural resource base and preserve the natural features that foster the
traditional rural community characte


I think there’s no harm in signing this petition now.

It’s probably a better idea to send feedback directly to the HRM email, to show there are lots of people who would like to see some or all lands preserved for ecological value and low-impact recreation.

Treating this as the “petition to save Fight Trail” sounds ridiculous, however. It’s the sort of self-absorbed and entitled thinking that has hurt the interests of MTBers in HFX over the past 15+y.

Keep in mind the situation. I’ll be blunt.

  • You’ve been trespassing across someone’s backyard for 10+y, by modifying their property without consent. At best you’ve been rude, by not asking for permission to cross their property habitually.

  • Your history of being rude or trespassing is not a winning argument on how land should be used in the future, not for landowners who may have had this property for generations, or for a planner or councillor.

  • HRM can’t simply zone a piece of private land into ‘park’. They’re also highly unlikely to buy it simply because a bunch of MTBers have made a habit of trespassing over it. Over the past 15y, even in the past year, I’ve witnessed MTBers who position themselves as leaders propose that things like this should happen in other areas. This sort of entitlement and ignorance makes it hard to treat MTBers seriously IMO.

These are the considerations that I think are important in this area:

  1. The land has significant ecological value, especially species in the pine/lichen barrens, and even ‘low density’ development would come at a high ecological cost. There are also many large and small wetlands.
  2. Wild land connectivity needs to be maintained between the Shaw wilderness park and the rest of the backlands. Conservation areas aren’t very effective when broken into chunks. Connectivity would also allow for potential future trail linkages between Shaw and McIntosh.
  3. The McIntosh watershed area already has extensive development which has led to changes in river flow and water temperatures. More is underway. Further urbanization of the McIntosh and Colpitt watersheds could lead to making these streams even less suitable for fish and other freshwater organisms. Freshwater ecosystems are pretty much the most at-risk globally – because of urbanization (and agriculture, and dams – but that’s another story).
  4. McIntosh trails have demonstrated recreational value. Everyone goes there, and everyone wants more trails. Usage has increased 2000% in the past few years. People move to the area for the trails, and others visit for the trails and drop coin while in HFX. This rezoning process might be an opportunity to potentially expand the protected areas of the McIntosh watershed, provide more trail options, and more trailheads so more communities are connected by trails.
  5. Private land owners have rights. Full stop.
  6. Halifax does need more housing, especially transit-accessible housing near an urban core. This is an unavoidable and important consideration.
  7. Some of these parcels are NSNT, some are HRM, and most are private. Hence it is complicated.
  8. Some people will never want development of any kind in their backyard (NIMBY). They want to freeze time, the “now that I’m here, no one else should move in” approach. That’s not a sound way to plan, and it’s unlikely to be an effective argument in this case. Change will happen, but you need to find a balance.

Ideally, there’d be a win/win/win plan which grows the size of intact ‘wilderness’, gives the landowners value, and provides more trails so recreation is even more of an economic plus for the area.

How this could happen seems tricky, I don’t know what the mechanisms could be at this time. But it’s worth asking for politely. These are just my personal comments.


Well said! Good point about the wildlife corridors also, chunks of land don’t help if they aren’t connected.

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Thanks for the explanation. I did contact my councillor about this. Do you have a suggested approach to this issue, my initial reaction was I would like to see the land preserved as parkland. What do you suggest as the approach we suggest to our councillors that we would like to see?

Thank you Lawrence for your well thought out and well written responses. And thank you Bent for copying and pasting the appropriate municipal data. I will change the post title. It was written in haste to capture attention. It was neither self-absorbed nor entitled thinking, and I take exception to the insinuation. I saw the petition, read the details and signed. I wanted to share it with the community so I posted it here.