ARICHAT: Richmond County is writing to the provincial government to voice concerns with the Coastal Protection Act.
Warden Amanda Mombourquette said during the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on Sept. 27 that the act will come into effect soon, once new regulations are approved, and it will mandate a new coastal protection zone around Nova Scotia, which will impact home construction and other developments.
Noting that considerations behind the new legislation are the protection of fragile coastal ecosystems, and to mitigate problems with coastal flooding, the warden said she is worried that the province is downloading responsibilities to municipalities with limited resources.
The warden said issues have arisen in her discussions with other municipal officials, as well as the Eastern District Planning Commission (EDPC).
“I do have some concerns about how the province plans to roll-out the act, specifically, the province seems to be leaving it, in the wording, up to municipalities to administer, monitor and enforce the act. Coastal Protection permits would be issued by municipalities or EDPC on our behalf,” she said. “There’s been concern expressed that municipalities really don’t have the resources, or the capacity, to necessarily enforce the action proposed in this act.”
Mombourquette said recent discussions with the EDPC board pointed to the lack of clarity around sub-division development.
“Overall, the administration of provincial regulations should be provincial, as opposed to a municipal responsibility,” the warden noted.
With the deadline for public input of Sept. 30, Mombourquette wanted to know if councillors want to send a letter.
EDPC board member and District 1 Councillor Shawn Samson agreed that a letter is necessary.
“We’re all onboard when it comes to protecting our coastlines and our properties from coastal erosion, but this is a provincially-led action,” he noted.
Deputy Warden Michael Diggdon supports the idea of protecting coastal areas, but he said the municipality is “surrounded by water,” and many residents either own coastal property or are planning to build near the ocean. He recommended council send a letter and meet with provincial officials, as well as representatives of the EDPC.
“I think we need to send a letter. I just think that we also have to be able to take a stance somewhere that we can’t let the province dictate where our residents can and cannot build,” he stated. “That’s something that we might want to look at.”
District 3 Councillor Melanie Sampson said if the province was providing financial assistance for municipalities, she might take a different stance.
“I’m not sure that I think that the approach of municipalities determining what’s suitable distance from the water, or elevation from whatever is part of what we should be deciding. I do like the idea that the province is taking some leadership here, which I think is useful,” she noted. “But it’s just another example of great ideas that get pushed down to us as a municipality, and then we’re forced to resource it. We have shrinking funds and expanding needs for the funds.”
District 5 Councillor Brent Sampson agreed that municipal funds are stretched and this type of downloading is unfair.
“I thought the idea in general sounds pretty good, but a lot of it being downloaded to the municipalities, I’m not sure if that’s necessarily fair,” he said. “It makes a lot of sense for people going forward because it’s going to end up costing everybody more money if they don’t put proper planning in place, and people build in a flood zone, and insurance rates for everyone goes up.”
Council approved a motion to send correspondence to the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment, with copies that will be sent to Richmond MLA Trevor Boudreau, municipal staff, and councillors.