Two years after passing the Coastal Protection Act (Bill 106) in 2019, the Nova Scotia government now is looking for public input on defining the legislation and its regulations.
The consultation period closes September 30, 2021.
Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) Mayor Darlene Norman is keen for people to get onboard with the issue.
“I really encourage people to read the draft so they can understand this is not a Region of Queens Municipality initiative. These will be provincial rules that all municipalities will have to follow,” she said, while adding, “The province has been very quiet about this, but people really need to be aware of it and make some responsible responses to the government.”
According to a statement emailed from Nova Scotia’s Environment and Climate Change Department, “The purpose of the Act is to prevent development where it will cause unnecessary interference with coastal ecosystems, or where the resulting structures will be at risk from coastal erosion and sea-level rise.”
The Act was passed after public and private consultation and will come into effect with the approval of the proposed regulations. The proposed regulations followed consultation sessions with municipal officials, professional associations and Mi’kmaw communities.
The aim is to fill in gaps that exist with current federal, provincial and municipal laws.
The regulations will affect what can be built on submerged Crown land along or below the high-water mark, ensuring structures such as wharves, boat slips, infilling and shoreline armouring will have minimal impact on coastal ecosystems.
As well, on both private and public lands, the regulations will ensure construction that requires a building permit is located where it is less at risk from sea-level rise, coastal flooding and erosion.
The regulations in the Act will put into effect a narrow band, called the Coastal Protection Zone, surrounding the province’s 13,300 kilometres of shoreline, 220 km of which exists in RQM. It will also include islands and parts of rivers near the ocean.
The regulations will create province-wide vertical setbacks, known as minimum building elevations, within the Coastal Protection Zone. As well, site-specific horizontal setbacks will be determined by a designated professional, hired by the landowner. In this case, designated professionals include geotechnical engineers, geologists or surveyors who must be consulted before a building or development permit to the municipality is applied for.
It has also been proposed that professionals look 80 years into the future through predictive mapping to take into account erosion and sea-level rise.
Currently, the municipality has in place a 15.24-metre setback for all builds on the coast. According to Norman, the hope is to increase that distance to 22.9 metres in the near future.
Municipalities will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the terms of the building or development permit, as they are now.
Norman sees pluses and minuses in the proposed regulations. She’s tired of seeing development along the coast on “postage stamp pieces of land.”
“The province, through its Environment department, is doing what people have been calling upon it to do for 20 years,” she said. “And that is to have some type of provincial regulations around the board for everyone. It’s not going to be our rules, but we have to enforce them.”
However, she expected the new regulations will add to the cost and building timelines for people wishing to be on the coast. Then again, this may encourage people to consider building more inland in lake country, spurring growth elsewhere in the county, said the mayor.
Anyone wishing to have a say can visit novascotia.ca/coast/ to read the proposed regulations, then comment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin