Councillor Martin E. Bell
District 2 - MODL
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Coastal Protection

March 23rd 2023

Crescent Beach is a place I visit every week, sometimes more than once per week. It is a great place to just walk with the breeze in your face. I almost always take my dog because she enjoys it more than my wife and I. It was on March 18th that someone asked me “what did I think of the Sea-wall”. I didn’t really have an answer because I was unaware of the construction project. I hiked the 2 kilometers across the beach to see what they were talking about and found nothing so I returned to my car. What I did not realize, is that they were talking about what is sometimes referred to as Little Crescent Beach on George Island.

On the 19th of March I drove over to George Island and walked down to Little Crescent Beach and was shocked with what I saw. I took several pictures and went home. And then started making a few phone calls, doing a little research to find out how this approached to this stage and that I am now just hearing about it. Within a day, I shared some of my pictures and shared what knowledge I did have with some other devoted community coastal advocates. In the next three days I made a daily visit to the beach, taking a few more pictures at different tide levels and talking to many other people visiting the beach. I do point out that this community is located in District 1 of the Municipality, which falls outside the jurisdiction of my District, which may have accounted for why I did not receive any phone calls up to this point. I can assure you that this situation changed after I made a posting on social media.

It was on March 21st at a MODL Policy and Strategy Committee meeting that I had my first opportunity to discuss this situation with my Councillor colleagues. It was at that meeting that I was able to share my concern about this construction project and was able to introduce a motion that would be forwarded to Council, having a letter directed to the Province asking them to immediately to implement the Coastal Protection Act regulations. {Bill # 106, March 2019} After all, This Bill was processed through the Legislature 3 years previously, but never proclaimed. I view this as a download of responsibility that would lead to a possible patch-work of various regulations, depending on where you live in the Province.

When it comes to building a rock-wall, normally if it is built above any tidal waters, it is considered private land and the owner, in most cases, does not require a Building Permit unless it falls in a Municipality that may have zoning or land-use Bylaws for that community. If the rock wall were to be located at high-tide mark, or on the shoreline, permits to have machinery work on the beach, or build a rock-retaining wall/seawall fall to the Province. This would require a permit from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (this would not require any consultation with the Municipal Unit).

Back-filling the wall on the Shore-side, would need to be done in consultation under the authority of the Nova Scotia Department of Environment (Provincial Jurisdiction does not require consultation with the Municipality). At this point, If a developer wants to build on the property, they would require a Building Permit and would discuss their proposals with the Municipal Building Official. If the Developer already has approval from the Provincial Department of Environment then the Municipality routinely issue a Building Permit, unless it was against some guidelines within a Municipal Zoned area. Crescent Beach does not have a Planning Advisory Committee and is not a zoned area. The option was always there to the community, but MODL have never pushed Communities into Zoning, unless they asked for it. A good example of this is the small in-land community of Hemford Forest.

After doing research, I took it upon myself on March 27th, to write a letter the Honourable Tory Rushton, Minister of Department of Natural Resources and Renewables; just as a private citizen. I expressed my concern on the recent construction of the sea-wall located on Little Crescent Beach. I expressed that I did not see anything in the current Coastal Protection Act as it pertains to Sea-Walls. It does mention if such a wall is constructed on Crown Land, it does require a permit. I pointed out a 2020 dispute originating on James Beach, Black Point, Pictou County. In this particular situation, the matter ended up in the Supreme Count on Nova Scotia for resolution. At that time, the then Environment Minister; Ian Rankin, was asked to determine if that Seawall was above the ordinary high water mark, and not on Crown Land. In that letter I asked Minister Rushton to exercise his statutory authority under the Crown’s Land Act to review the placement of the Rock Wall at Crescent Beach and make a determination on whether the Rock -Wall was constructed on Crown Lands. I feel that the citizens in this area deserve nothing less than a Ministerial Decision on this matter, just as the Pictou County residents were granted.

This development on Crescent Beach, points out the gap that currently exists between Municipal By-Laws and Provincial Legislation, with respect to the protection of our Sensitive Coastal Shore-Lines.

Back in 2019, the province passed the Coastline Protection Act, with the stated goal of protecting the Natural ecosystem and to make sure new homes are safer from sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and coastal erosion. At the same time, the Provincial Government passed Legislation that requires Municipalities to adopt Municipal-wide planning by the end of 2022. MODL started the process and wanted to have the process include, public consultation, but soon realized the process was unachievable under the current time-lines.

The Protection of our shorelines and sensitive coastal eco-systems, is a responsibility of both the Province and the Municipality. I believe it is time for both levels of Government to take immediate action.

On March 29, I brought a motion forward to Council (While I made the motion, credit can be shared with other Council Members for input).

“That Municipal Council direct the Mayor to write the Province, requesting that the Provincial Government permit MODL to pass a Moratorium on Coastal Development, until the earlier of a) the adoption of our Municipal Coastal Protection Land Use Bylaw, or b) the Adoption of the Coastal Protection Act and Regulations.” The majority of Council passed this Motion.

The use of Moratoriums as a means to limit Coastal Development, while Policy is being created, is not new to the Maritimes. The Province of PEI has recently issued a Moratorium on coastal Development through Ministerial Order which is intended to be in place until formal policy can be developed.

I have quickly heard that there are those who are against such a moratorium and have said to me you have no right to tell me what I can do with my land. So it has become evident to me that the road ahead is going to have lots of bumps and potholes. I hope we can work towards an agreement and regulations that will be acceptable to the majority of the constituents and serve towards the protection of our sensitive coastal eco-systems.

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Cape LaHave Island Is Of Significant Value

February 2nd, 2021
To: Constituents

I believe Cape LaHave Island is of significant value to our community and our nation.

The former MODL Council moved unanimously in November of 2019 to direct staff to develop a Conservation Agreement with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust for Cape LaHave Island and to bring the Agreement back to a Council meeting for consideration. In that motion we asked that the Agreement developed include a community consultation process.

During these past 14 months the Nova Scotia Nature Trust have been gathering ecological information, habitat type, cursory understanding of existing evidence of human use. The engagement strategy was designed to involve the public in the decision-making process. We undertook a virtual consultation process using the mapping and survey tools on EngageMODL and interviews with identified stakeholders. Additionally, in each promotion of the online survey, it was clearly communicated that residents could also call Laura Barkhouse directly to submit their feedback, and an internet connection was not required for participation. The engagement period was November 15 to December 15, 2020.

During this time, 61 people responded to the survey, 10 people contributed 60 pins total to the mapping tool, 3 people sent additional information by email; 10 people spoke directly with project lead Laura Barkhouse, and 10 organizations were represented in the engagement process. These included Friends of Crescent Beach and Green Bay Society, LaHave Islands Marine Museum, Coastal Action, Kingsburg Coastal Conservancy, Mahone Islands Conservation Association, Cape LaHave Adventures, LaHave River Yacht Club, and Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society Nova Scotia Chapter. Many respondents noted that the island has been used for many generations of their families including mine, and they want to ensure residents can continue this historic use.

It is my hope that Cape Lahave Island will continue to be untouched by development and left as wild as possible as this is a rare almost untouched island property. Now even after 14 months of asking for input some have expressed concerns that not enough time was provided to hear from residents. If this is the case, then I suggest you get involved with the consultation as we move forward. You may email your concerns to or contact me at and I will share your expressed concerns with other Council members.

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Investing into and protecting Open Space Strategic Plan

Monday August 17th, 2020
To: Constituents

In MODL we have six rails to trails that we support. Martin has walked every single trail in MODL and fully supports the idea of making sure the trail groups that we partner with have financial support to continue their work. This is an important group of volunteers who continue to pursue expansions and address any safety issues.

River Ridge Common has had some major investment into its recreation opportunities and this park was keeping the needs of children and youth in mind as well as adults. Martin has been, and continues to be a keen supporter of River Ridge Common.

The MODL looks after the interests of the public on the Cape LaHave Island property. Martin wants to ensure individuals have the ability to camp, hunt, hike or just walk our dogs on this great 2,600 acres of prime undeveloped land. Martin wants to ensure this island stays as undeveloped land. It must be one of the few old growth forests left on the east coast. It is our understanding that the Crown turned over this land in trust to the Township-Municipality of New Dublin later to become Municipality of the District of Lunenburg. A few years ago, the federal government considered making it part of Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site as a seaside distant park but MODL did not allow that to happen. Martin wants to explore conservation options for Cape LaHave Island if it can ensure public access for years to come. We need to avoid mistakes where there once were thought to be public trails or access that over time seem to disappear. Martin points to a program where MODL works with the Mahone Islands Conservation Association (MICA) to ensure zero development but free excess by the public in a protected policy.

In recent years Martin has noticed a larger number of people visiting the island and became concerned that the property may be destroyed by overuse or abuse. MODL has no intention to sell the property, nor do they have any intention to give up our Common Lands Trust that would endanger our ability to keep the control of this land as a type of green open space status. One issue that presents a concern is that we do not have the ability to police the property and so we rely on local citizens to keep an eye on the property.

On November 26th, 2019 Martin brought forward a motion to consider working with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust on the development of a Conservation Agreement. He presented a motion that Municipal Council accept the recommendation of the Policy & Strategy Committee and direct staff to develop a Conservation Agreement with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust for Cape LaHave Island and to bring the Agreement back to a Council meeting for consideration; and further, that the Agreement developed include a community consultation process. This motion was supported unanimously by Council.

On this motion Martin included that the process include citizen engagement and planning through a community consultation process. This format was used when we asked the community to provide input when we were fighting to keep the Petite Riviere and Pentz schools open when it looked like they were closing for good. Martin wants to have the same input from those who live around the island, those who fish around the island and from those who use the island. We need their input as we seek ways to protect this property.

Another motion Martin brought forward from the Policy & Strategy Committee was to sign a Letter of Intent with the Nova Scotia Nature Trust so that MODL Council proceed with a conservation easement agreement, or a separate agreement called a, “Stewardship Plan” which when created would be a stand-alone document from an easement agreement. The Nature Trust would look at establishing a property guardians volunteer program who would help monitor and steward the Island. The Nova Scotia Nature Trust has been a registered charity since 1994 and has over 14,000 acres of outstanding lands protected, forever. Martin wants to have Cape LaHave Island protected forever from developers and he does not want any of the land sold to private individuals as all this island must remain Common Lands for everyone to enjoy.

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Aquaculture (Fish Farming) operations – let’s slow down a bit  

Tuesday, February 11, 2020
To: Constituents

With the possible establishment of open-pen fish farms, we the local council are being told this is a tremendous opportunity for us and our residents. We could see several sites like Cherry Hill, Blandford, Northwest Cove and St. Margaret’s Bay having farm licenses issued for additional aquaculture (fish farming) operations. The first fact is aquaculture licenses are issued by the Province of Nova Scotia and not by municipal units. Some may therefore say I should not have an opinion on the matter. I want to say this is a tremendous risk for us and our residents, so I believe I do have a say as I have a great interest in my neighbourhood and those who live and share the communities in my neighbourhood region.

Over the last few weeks a great deal of discussion has taken place here in our area around the pros and cons of both open-pen ocean and land-based aquaculture (fish farming). It is a complex issue requiring consideration of many things, including environmental, economic and tourism factors, to name but a few. My family and I have sailed the coastal waters around Dublin Bay, Mahone Bay and St. Margaret’s Bay for many years and know the worth and beauty of these waters.

Nova Scotia’s south shore, particularly the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, has a proud fishing tradition and the world looks to us for leadership, innovation, and direction as we consider what our fishery will look like in the years ahead. What we do here, now, may be used by other municipalities, provinces, and indeed, countries as a template for their own development of forward-looking, fair, sustainable and responsible fisheries plans. That having been said, all aquaculture licenses are issued by the Province of Nova Scotia under Canada’s Fishery Act and Regulations, and although the municipality may have a vested interest in any direction taken, the final authority is vested with the Province.

I appreciate how many of you have called, e-mailed, and spoken to me on this matter, and I have heard your concerns, fears, and frustrations. In response to your questions, I’d like to make my position on the matter clear. It is not a position I have taken lightly or without careful consideration of your comments, along with the impacts on our people, our environment, and our economy.

I am in favour of and support land-based aquaculture operations. I am not in favour of increasing open-net pen fish farms in the inlets, coves, and bays that make up Nova Scotia’s picturesque coastline. Open pen fish farming is, today, an old technology. We need to look to the future. I am in favour of supporting new science and technology that will be used in future, land-based aquaculture. I am in favour of leaving our inshore waters in better condition for our children and our children’s children, and it is my view that increasing open-pen ocean aquaculture is not the best way to move forward.

I understand that this position may not be the one some of you may have hoped for. I appreciate the fact that good people can have different opinions. For me, the risk of open-pen fish farming along our shores exceeds the benefit we derive from it. Unless and until science can definitively prove open-ocean aquaculture is safe, we cannot and should not expand its footprint here in our province.

While some of you have expressed interest in job opportunities in these possible aquaculture operations I repeat it is a complex issue requiring consideration of many things and at this point in time I am not in favour of increasing open-net pen fish farms in our neighbourhood.

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Active Transportation (AT)

posted October 3rd 2020

Martin believes Active Transportation (AT) enhances quality of life, attracts business and knowledge workers to a community and contributes to economic development. Over the last 10 years, the concept of Active Transportation has been gaining popularity because the health, social, environmental, economic and tourism benefits are so substantial. That is why Martin has supported a series of upgrades to AT that includes paving the shoulders of our highways. One of the most cost-efficient and effective ways that MODL supports the development of Active Transportation infrastructure in our municipality is to partner with the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (NSDOTIR) to widen roads to include paved shoulders when they are being re-surfaced by NSDOTIR. MODL does this by contributing to the cost to widen the road to include shoulders for AT purposes (primarily walking and cycling). The average cost to MODL per kilometer on these projects is approximately $60,000.oo.

If you go to the MODL web site, you can check out MODL Policy PO1063 for Paved Shoulder Widths. Our involvement started four years ago in 2016 and since then the shoulders of Highway 3 in Hebbville, the Pinegrove Road, the Blue Rocks Road (2017) and Highway 325 in 2019 have already been done. Our next partnership is to include the Blue Route Zone which includes Highway 332 in Bayport in 2021 because of the close proximity to the water. Martin has expressed an interest in having Highway 331 considered during the next upgrade. (Bridgewater to at least the LaHave Ferry)

The current MODL budget carried forward a little over $400K to the 2020 fiscal year to support upcoming AT projects that will have a large and positive impact on AT in our municipality. This is a consideration I am hearing during doorstep conversations while campaigning and it’s a work in progress that started four years ago. I will continue to support the development of Active Transportation infrastructure in our municipality.

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Investing into Affordable Housing – We grow as a Community:

[posted October 12th 2020]

Investing into Affordable Housing – We grow as a Community:

One of the more serious concerns I have heard during my 2020 election campain is the need for affordable housing for poor and working-class families. In a wealthy country like Canada with resources to assist corporations, there is something very disheartening and a real disconnect with people when we have reached this state of affairs when dealing with some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities. Let me point out that the is a federal issue and to some degree a provincial issue. This is not a municipal issue in the Province of Nova Scotia. That being said, I do have a personal view that I will share with you.

Housing is one of our basic needs. The acquisition of accommodation is a significant challenge in today's society. Everyone must have a place to call home. However, for those most vulnerable, such as single parents, young families and seniors, affordable accommodation is an even more significant challenge. Access to suitable and adequate housing has been proven to promote health and wellness, educational performance, and an array of other quality of life benchmarks. Given the large barrios of entry, acquiring appropriate housing for poor and working-class families has become very difficult. Although the Canadian Housing Benefit helps to subsidize shelter costs for some of those living in core housing need, the banks' legislative framework and underwriting practices provide a barrio to Homeownership. For households that would otherwise meet the affordability measures of Homeownership, the unattainable barrios include the down payment percentage and upfront equity requirements for new construction. This landscape provides a business opportunity for companies with considerable financial backing to provide finished turnkey products. While this paradigm creates some positive economic spinoffs, the costs for a business to operate and profit, such as material loading percentages, labour markups, and recovery of overhead, are passed on to the client in the closing transaction. This model has a place in the market. Still, many have the wherewithal to undertake project management on their own who are excluded from transitioning along the housing continuum due to the financial lending environment. These are the clients who would stand to keep more of their hard earned dollars in their pockets.

In Nova Scotia, affordable social housing for the poor and working-class is not a municipal responsibility, but I believe there are ways we can help. Most of the broad issues are better dealt with when all three levels of government work together. One of the things that MODL has done is that we have developed an improved property tax rebate for low-income households. This can return up to $500.oo for families who qualify. Other practices we could look at include affordable housing requirements in new developments and working partnerships with the responsible authorities. Narrowing the gaps along our housing continuum is not for the faint of heart. It requires a commitment to do better by those we elect to protect and develop our communities.

Thank you for taking time to read my comments and I would be glad to provide additional comparisons for your consideration.

Councillor Martin E. Bell, PCP, EMD-Q, CMG

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