The Annapolis Group is not just suing City Hall, it’s suing you and me.
In mid-January, the Bedford-based developer announced its intention to sue the city over the way it has handled negotiations to purchase the company’s land that is part of the proposed Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes regional park.
Even if you don’t support the park (hello Gloria McCluskey) this frivolous lawsuit amounts to intimidation on the part of a developer, upset because it’s used to getting its way (and that’s not happening) this time.
Halifax Regional Municipality is “treating businesses unfairly” and “jeopardizing future investments in the region, economic prosperity, and jobs,” Rob Gillis, vice-chair of Annapolis Group and president of Thornridge Holdings Limited (its parent company) said in a news release. “The municipality should focus on higher priorities such as jobs, tax revenue, services, and infrastructure.”
No surprise he trotted out that trite argument. If it wasn’t for developers, we’d all starve, don’t you know?
Gillis must not have been paying attention last summer when hundreds of citizens wrote to council asking them to reject his company’s bid to build in the area set aside for the park.
There are two major problems with the stance. Annapolis suggests in its threatening news release that the city has “expropriated” its land “without compensation” and has the nerve to suggest the company has been dealing in good faith.
Like the spoiled kid who demands to dictate the rules whenever he plays a game, Annapolis Group made it clear to independent facilitator Justice Heather Robertson that it wanted all its land to be considered for development, not just the land in the Urban Settlement area.
Annapolis officials said they needed their land in Urban Reserve to be included too, even though it isn’t supposed to be opened for development until 2031 according to the Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS).
Only 117 of the 390 hectares Annapolis owns is zoned Urban Settlement so they’re asking the city to amend its MPS and create more land for development even though Halifax doesn’t need it.
Furthermore, according to the report filed by Justice Robertson, Annapolis attempted to twist the screws in even further by saying it wouldn’t negotiate the boundaries of the park unless the city approved a request to initiate secondary planning on all its land.
That’s not good faith.
The second problem with the developer’s argument is that the free market, which is supposed to be what guides capitalists like the suits at Annapolis Group, is holding up a giant red flag and saying: “Don’t build!”
Surveys of real-estate conditions in communities surrounding the proposed park reveal a glut of new construction. The average MLS list time for new homes in the area varied between 250 and 313. Realtor Denise MacDonell says that on Feb. 1, there were already 430 newly built single family homes available at an average price of $402,911.
“This is an indication that there is no pent-up demand in the communities surrounding the Wilderness Area,” MacDonell said in a letter to Council last summer.
So, with market conditions being as soft as they are and the city already having enough land to develop for the next 28 to 35 years, there is no need to open this natural area for development.
City Hall needn’t worry that this stance would adversely affect its long-term fiscal health because creating this park would give Halifax a drawing card that no other city in Atlantic Canada has. Why approve some overpriced lakefront condos and mansions in an already saturated market when you can create a mini-Kejimkujik within city limits that’s accessible to all citizens?
Annapolis Group is simply not paying attention to what the city and its residents are saying. It’s time to send a louder message. Anyone who supports the creation of the Blue Mountain Birch Cove Lakes Regional Park could amplify their message by contacting the management of the Annapolis Group, or their parent company Thornridge Holdings.
Lastly, to the Annapolis Group: HRM has not taken too long to approve your development wishes, they’ve taken too long to purchase your land. They’re going to buy it and make it a regional park. It’s the will of the people.