Nova Scotia

Approval granted to controversial campground in Scots Bay

A proposal for a campground in a remote seaside village in Nova Scotia has been approved by the local council following a long-brewing and divisive debate in the community.

Councillors with the Municipality of Kings County paved the way for a campground in Scots Bay, N.S., Tuesday evening by agreeing to enter into a development agreement that would allow for up to 100 sites for tents and RVs. 

Five councillors voted in favour, four voted against and one abstained because he was not present for a public hearing on the issue last week.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, councillors explained their rationale and many alluded to the difficulty they had in deciding.

“I woke up this morning, 3:30, and this was on my mind,” said Coun. Dick Killam.

Minutes before he had to cast his vote, Killam said his mind was still not made up. In the end, he voted in favour.

Deputy Mayor Emily Lutz teared up as she spoke.

“I hate getting emotional, but I could have predicted this would happen. It’s because this is an emotional issue, and it’s because we’re here, because we’ve really listened to what you have to say,” she said.

“It’s also because we can imagine the struggle that you are facing.”

Last week, councillors sat for five hours listening to community members speak about the campground proposal.

Many said they were worried about infringement on agricultural land and potential disruptions to farm operations in Scots Bay.

Community members had expressed concern about about infringement on agriculture. (Robert Short/CBC)

Lutz said she thinks the council does a good job of protecting farmland in Kings County, regularly saying no to development on land that’s zoned for agriculture. She voted in favour of the campground.

Other common concerns voiced by Scots Bay residents were campers trespassing on private property, traffic hazards, pedestrian safety, negative impacts to the nearby salt marsh, negative impacts to neighbouring wells and septic systems, noise and light pollution and a drop in property values.

Coun. Martha Armstrong dismissed the majority of those concerns, but voted against the campground because of its shared boundary with a farm with show horses and broiler chickens.  

The owner of that farm, Lindsay Steele, has been an outspoken opponent to the campground. Part of her opposition is based on concern that increased human activity next door would bring a myriad of risks to her animals.

Armstrong said her vote was shaped by municipal planning guidelines, which say that in cases of conflict, agriculture takes priority.

Developer hopes to work with opponents

Julie Skaling is the owner of the 40-hectare property on the main road through Scots Bay where she’s now authorized to open a campground.

“I feel good because certainly this was the goal,” Skaling said in an interview the day after the vote.

But, she added, she sees lots of work ahead of her. Skaling said she hopes she can ease the concerns of her neighbours that the campground will wreak havoc on their community, their properties and their businesses.

“I certainly am not interested in trying to make their lives and livelihoods worse,” she said.

WATCH | People have been divided over the proposed campground 

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The remote seaside community of Scots Bay is tight-knit. But lately, they’ve become divided over a proposed campground. Taryn Grant has the story

Skaling said she wants to engage with the campground’s opponents as she irons out the details of the operation.

“I really hope that we can find ways to mend and heal the community,” she said.

The development agreement requires a phased opening over about five years. Skaling said a “small piece” could open as soon as next year, and it could include a day-use area and about 15 tenting sites.

A woman pets a black mare on the head.
Lindsay Steele stands with one of her mares on her property in Scots Bay. She’s worried a proposed campground next door would be detrimental to her horse-breeding and farming businesses. (Taryn Grant/CBC)

Skaling said she wants to be sensitive to the concerns about infringement on agricultural land, and she’s considering reserving a two-hectare field for farming. That plot is the only part of her property that is currently farmed.

Appealing council’s decision

Council’s approval of the campground could be appealed to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. There’s a two-week deadline for appeals from the time of the decision.

Steele, the farmer who owns a property immediately south of the proposed campground, said she and others in the community intend to file an appeal with the UARB and file for a judicial review.

She said she thinks it’s an unfair process.

“You’re fighting your own money. As a community, we pay tax dollars, those tax dollars go to the municipality, and then the municipality uses our tax dollars to take us to court.”

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