Valley Journal Advertiser
Land rezoning appeal dismissed
Board says Kings County council’s decision upholds intent of planning strategy
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) has dismissed an appeal of a controversial decision by Kings County council to approve a land rezoning in Wolfville Ridge.
Last December, following a three-hour public hearing, council voted five-to-four to approve the rezoning.
Property owner Travis
Mills applied to the County of Kings to rezone 4.5 acres, the southern portion of an 11.2acre property at 1299 Ridge Rd., from the Rural Mixed
Use (A2) Zone to the Rural Commercial (C4) Zone.
The rezoning would permit the use of an existing structure on the site for storing construction materials and for office space relating to the applicant’s construction
allowed company. These uses aren’t under A2 zoning.
The existing building on the subject property, about 16,000 square feet, was originally used as an equestrian barn with an indoor riding area. Prior to being renovated by
apartments. Mills, it contained three
A group of 29 Wolfville Ridge area residents calling themselves Proudly Agricultural Wolfville Ridge Community (PAWRC) filed a planning appeal with the UARB on Dec. 22. The appeal was heard on April 11.
In a July 20 decision, the UARB dismissed the appeal. A written decision released July 31 concluded that the board
decision has determined council’s to approve the rezoning “reasonably carries out the intent of the MPS (Municipal Planning Strategy).”
Sheron Hatt Atwell of the PAWRC group said on Aug. 2 that they are seeking assistance with the interpretation of the UARB decision, so she wasn’t yet prepared to comment on it.
“We are just beginning to get our responses back from some lawyers,” Hatt Atwell said.
UARB decisions can be appealed to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal within 30 days of the board issuing an order if a party feels there has
jurisdiction. been a mistake in law or
ABOUT THE DECISION
The UARB decision says that the board has shown appropriate deference to the choices made by council in interpreting
applicable policies. The UARB is satisfied that council had enough information to make its decision, and that evidence presented at the appeal hearing supported that decision.
“The appellant has not discharged the burden of showing council’s decision was not reasonably consistent with the MPS,” the written decision states. “The board must, therefore, dismiss the appeal.”
Listing several policies that they allege council incorrectly interpreted or ignored, the community group contended council’s decision to approve the rezoning was not reasonably consistent with the MPS and should be overturned.
Major themes the PAWRC group relied on in its arguments, as summarized by the board, included that Mills and the municipality have not provided evidence that the proposed use serves rural industries, visitors, or residents.
It contended that proposed uses of the property are not related or complementary to agricultural or resource uses; the amount of the property submitted for rezoning is larger than required for the proposed uses; the rezoning, as approved, allows for other possible permitted uses under C4 zoning, including some with far reaching impacts to the rural community; and the proposed development will create unreasonable traffic or increase existing traffic.
The board decision states that, in addition to certain
procedural and evidentiary issues, the municipality and Mills argued that Mills’ business is rural serving.
The municipality and Mills contended the community group has not met the evidentiary burden of showing, on a balance of probabilities, that the approval of the rezoning is not reasonably consistent with the MPS; council had sufficient input from all necessary qualified sources to come to its decision; and there are competing, ambiguous, or conflicting policy directions in the MPS that require value judgements. The law is clear that the board must defer to council’s choices in these circumstances.
The board found that “the
heart of the matter” is the meaning of whether the proposed use serves the rural area as intended by the MPS, which attempts to preserve the existing character of the rural area.
“In the board’s opinion, council did not misinterpret its role, the evidence before it, or the difficult value-laden choices it had to make,” the written decision states.
The board said council could have come to a different decision which would be reasonably consistent with the MPS. However, keeping in mind the appropriate deference afforded council in this situation, “the board finds that approving the rezoning was also reasonably consistent with the MPS.”
REZONING LEADS TO ‘STORM OF NEGATIVITY’
Mills said he considers the UARB ruling to be somewhat of a moral victory, but he doesn’t need affirmation for what he does. He said he’s a purposeful, driven person who knows what he is doing and why.
However, he is happy that the stress of the appeal is now “off his back,” as it was weighing him down.
“It means we can get back to work, it was costing a lot of money to float that thing without knowing where it was going,” Mills said about the subject property and building.
He said it’s his job as a developer to face risks and the
unknown, but he called the Wolfville Ridge rezoning process “deeper and grosser” than he usually experiences with a typical project.
Mills has developed several affordable housing projects in Wolfville and Kentville. He said his projects don’t usually result in the “storm of negativity” that the rezoning for his Wolfville Ridge barn caused.
Mills called this “surprising” and “unnecessary.” He’s glad that the UARB upheld council’s decision because it means “the councillors are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and doing it well.”
Mills said he doesn’t need an office or to store construction materials. He has been building
a for long time, has never had a barn, and his office has always been in his bedroom.
However, considering the direction his business has taken, he thinks it’s professional and helpful to the continued growth of his business and to those he works with to have a comfortable office space.
Having the storage space will allow him to purchase materials in bulk, helping to reduce the cost of building, “which is more important now than ever.” It will also help him avoid supply chain issues like those encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the renovated barn is well suited to its intended purposes and he hasn’t changed his plans for it. They are now starting to put the offices in.