Inverness County council staying neutral on West Mabou Beach golf proposal
Two Inverness County councillors say they are opposed to a proposed golf course development at West Mabou Beach Provincial Park, but municipal council is not taking a position for now.
It was standing-room only in the council chamber on Thursday when Nadine Hunt got up to ask council to support the West Mabou Beach Committee's opposition to the proposal. There was a standing ovation when she was done.
Hunt, who chairs the committee that got the land designated as a park in 2001, said people should not be asked to trade a natural asset for a private development that she said would provide little benefit to the community.
"It's a protected provincial park and it's a natural environment park and it just is too important to let go as a golf course," she said in an interview after the meeting.
"There shouldn't even be a conversation about this. This is a protected natural environment park. It breaks every beaches act, endangered species act, wetlands policy, coastal protection act. It breaks every one of them and people don't want it and it shouldn't happen."
Golf developer Cabot Cape Breton, which has built two 18-hole courses about 20 kilometres away in the nearby community of Inverness, is proposing to lease the land in West Mabou from the province to build another 18-hole course.
The company is also offering to divide an annual grant of $125,000 between five community groups.
Hunt called that a "laughable amount" and said the proposal is a sweet deal for Cabot, but not for the province or municipality.
Father Bernie MacDonald, a Catholic priest who said he's the seventh generation of settlers in the area, said allowing a golf course development in a provincial park could have unintended consequences.
"If this thing goes through, we are setting up a precedent, which is going to damage every provincial park, not only in the province but in the country," he said.
Coun. John MacLennan agreed, saying that protected properties need to remain protected.
"We can't let that go," he said. "There's very few of them in the province and if we start letting that go, what's going to take place?"
Coun. Lynn Chisholm, whose district includes the beach, said she's not in favour of the West Mabou Beach proposal.
"Industry is great," she said. "I'm all for it. You can have a golf course, but have it somewhere else."
Inverness Warden Bonny MacIsaac said council is not ready to vote because there is no formal proposal yet. As of this week, Cabot had not delivered a formal proposal to the province.
"I want to have all information before I make any official stance on anything," she said.
Once a proposal goes to the province, the county will take the concerns of the residents to provincial officials, MacIsaac told the crowded council chamber.
"We'll follow up with the province and then we'll follow up with the West Mabou Beach group and we'll give them whatever information we can find out and go from there," she said later in an interview. "That's all we can do."
Hunt said she's not completely satisfied by the council response, but she is hopeful.
"I would've liked more vocal support from the warden and from the other two councillors, but it's a stepping stone, so I guess we'll have to leave it at that for now."
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