January 13, 2021
In last week’s Oran, April MacDonald wrote about a significant issue that should concern everyone living in Inverness County because it has to do with county by-laws. By-laws that concern agricultural land and land use that many people are unaware of. In my opinion county by-laws and the need for new by-laws should have been at the top of the county council’s list when it was served notice by the Province of Nova Scotia over a year ago. The Province of Nova Scotia has required all municipal county councils to add to their by-laws within a three-year-time period but that leaves only two years to complete this task. The mandatory planning requirement is in Bill 58 of the Nova Scotia legislature “so the intent is not so much to update by-laws but rather to add by-laws to areas where there are none.” A quick review of the Municipality of Inverness County by-laws will confirm how lean they are, especially if you do an online comparison to other larger municipalities such as Sydney or Halifax.
The question that immediately arises is “How are the citizens of Inverness County going to be able to voice their opinion if this has not been publicized widely and often?” In order to allow the citizens enough time to identify the potential by-laws, research, discuss, and then make proposals to the council will be extremely tough to complete within the next two years. Now that the county councillors are well versed in Zoom calls it should be possible for this consultation process to begin in earnest.
Creating new by-laws necessitates public meetings and I haven’t heard or read of any being organized yet. Zoom is a great platform for this and we know it can accommodate hundreds of people so attendance would not be a technical issue. It saves time, money and fuel but it needs to be arranged and advertised in order to garner public viewpoints and suggestions. Wouldn’t it be great if the county council produced a survey about this topic (ahead of time) that could be accessed online as well as in written form?
The following is a short list of subjects that citizens all over Nova Scotia should ask their county councils to be considered – waterfront land is viewed as being more valuable according to the prices being asked for those properties compared to those further from the shore, all other considerations being equal. The question then arises about appropriate land use in those locations. Should they be available for recreation vehicle (RV) park development or should they be reserved for permanent housing? What are the other considerations regarding RV parks that should be thought about? When a single home is built on the waterfront there is a certain amount of consideration given to water source/accessibility and especially the subsequent sewage disposal. An RV park/campground would use a great deal more water and produce a significant amount more sewage than a single home dwelling.
The visual component regarding recreation vehicle parks/campgrounds also needs to be considered. Is the sight of recreation vehicles right beside the world-famous Cabot Trail or the Trans Canada Highway an attraction or a detraction? How does an RV park affect clean water access and utilization? How does it affect sewage, garbage disposal, noise by-laws or open fire safety? In many municipalities RV parks/campgrounds are required to be located back from a main road and/or in areas sheltered by trees/other visual barriers.
The Inverness County Council passed the Blue Dot Movement Declaration on March 7th, 2016. It is based on the premise that “All people have the right to live in a healthy environment, including the right to: breathe clean air; drink and access clean water; eat safe and healthy food; access nature; know about pollutants and contaminants released into the local environment; and participate in decision-making that will affect the environment.” It seems to me that this concept is more and more important since the effects of climate change are stunningly obvious lately and will continue to ramp up for generations to come.
Providing by-laws that encourage green energy development is key for tourist areas like Cape Breton Island. Electric vehicle recharging stations are NOT reasonable at gas stations because of the amount of time it takes to charge these vehicles. These charging stations should be in locations where the owner is able to use their time wisely and do other things simultaneous to recharging their vehicles. It makes a great deal more sense (intelligent design once again) to be located at restaurants, motels, hotels, bed and breakfast locations, shopping plazas, and the like.
Airbnbs are a concern for people all across Canada for a variety of reasons and this issue is one that Inverness County Council could address with new by-laws. Airbnb’s are more often in residential areas and therefore do not pay taxes like hotels or traditional bed and breakfasts do. They are not playing on a level field; therefore, the owners are getting away with preferred tax and utility rates that apply to local residents rather than commercial businesses. Most municipalities across Canada have realized Airbnbs are operating under reduced or absent safety/fire regulations or income tax regulations compared to motels, hotels, or registered traditional bed and breakfasts, which makes for a very unequal playing field. Many municipalities have implemented by-laws that only allow renting a portion of the owner’s primary residence where they are still present in the building. Because of their business model, Airbnbs have been responsible for removing properties from the available housing market and that is a significant concern when it comes to people looking for affordable housing. This is a significant factor in rural areas.
The Indigenous rights group has already claimed “Idle no More” for its name, so it has already been taken but it could also have another use in context to the environmental movement. People who leave their vehicles idling while they go into the pharmacy, post office, grocery store, hospital, nursing station, or other locations demonstrate how they care more for their own comfort and convenience than about the environmental impact of their actions. There are 67 municipalities across Canada that have anti-idling by-laws and that number is rising year after year. I believe we should have that by-law across Canada, but a good place to start would be here in Inverness County as well.