Kimber's Nova Scotia (Aug 12, 2007)

Kimber’s Nova Scotia

August 12, 2007

Sowing the seeds

King’s County Council voted 9–2 Tuesday to reject controversial land use amendments so a local developer could transform 47 acres of prime farmland into 200 new residential housing units.

While that puts an end to Fury Farms’ plan to develop property adjacent to the Berwick Heights Golf Course property, the larger issue — what to do about increasing acres of abandoned agricultural land — will be more difficult to resolve.

Close to 50 people spoke out — most against —at a four-hour public hearing on the proposal. And then, just before council met to make a final decision, a caravan of farm vehicles — including, perhaps tellingly, a manure spreader — paraded through town bearing signs that demanded, “Keep Weston Rural,” “Farmers: The Real Heart of the Valley,” and “Give Farming a Future.”

“Saving the farmland,” local resident Leslie Wade told councillors, “is about a future for our grandchildren. It’s our valuable resource, our gold mine.”

But Warden Fred Whalen, whose district includes the proposed development and who was one of the two to vote in favour, visualized a gold mine of a different sort. The $50-million project, he said, would add $4 million a year to the county tax base, generate employment, attract newcomers and help keep local young people from heading west.

Don’t expect the larger issue to go away soon. Coun. Janet Newton, who voted against this plan, told councillors she plans to support another proposal for agricultural land rezoning in her community when it comes before council.

Sign me up

A horrific car crash near Hubbards late last month that claimed two lives has sparked renewed calls for government to twin and upgrade Highway 103, the main route between Halifax and Yarmouth. In Lunenburg County alone, the Bridgewater Bulletin reports, the highway has claimed “close to 10 lives” this year.

Last week, former Bridgewater firefighter Tim Conrad, who now lives in Halifax, created a Facebook group “dedicated to the dozens of lives lost in recent years,” and an online petition site — — demanding Ottawa and the province fix the highway. “The people of Nova Scotia accept only action,” the petition declared, “and require it to be done by 2010.”

The petition has struck a chord. By Friday morning, close to 1,000 people — me included — had signed.

Wrote Candice Ramey of Bridgewater: “The government needs to get its priorities in order and put their money where it will save lives instead of buying cars for MPs and wasting thousands of dollars bidding on sporting events.”

As if to underscore the problem, the Bulletin reported last week that, just four days after the deadly July 30 collision, “emergency responders were called to a four-car collision, again, near Exit 6. This time, no serious injuries were reported.”

Next time…?

Don’t ask, we won’t tell

The town of Amherst has a new policy on proclamations and flag raisings, but don’t ask what it is, or whether the town will run the gay pride flag up its town hall flagpole.

“We don’t want to make an issue out of something that’s not an issue yet,” Town Manager Greg Herrett told the Amherst Daily News following the Great Truro Flag Flap of 2007. “It’s something we’ll deal with when a request is received.”

Without disclosing too many secrets, we can tell you that, under the policy, Herritt has the discretion to decide which flags will flutter and which will flounder, but he can also pass the buck to town council if he chooses.

The town will likely have to choose whether to fly or flee next spring when local gay activists plan to approach both the town and Cumberland municipality to fly the flag during pride week.

We’ll see who salutes then.

Beach blocking bingo

A landowner in Port Hood has made a lot of people angry by placing two huge cement barriers across the only access road to a popular local beach. The unnamed owner of a property next to Lawrence’s Beach was apparently miffed at the number of noisy young people using the area as a late night party place, and decided to force them at least walk to their beach fun.

But his unilateral action has not only raised questions about whether anyone has the right to interfere with a public right-of-way but also prompted concerns for safety because so many people are now being forced to park their cars along Route 19 and walk to the beach.

The local councilor, Jim MacLean, told the Inverness Oran he’d received over 100 calls about the barriers and “has worked on nothing else over the week.”

The dispute escalated last Monday when some local men moved the blocks out of the way, only to discover they’d been put back the next day.

The RCMP says “the matter is currently being researched.” Department of Transportation lawyers are on the case too, and plan to talk to municipal lawyers soon.

By the time they get it sorted out, of course, the summer beach and party season will be over.

Toothpaste, dog food and now…

Greenwood’s Aurora newspaper says a fire last fall that destroyed a home in Woodland Gardens was caused by a faulty power bar that was likely a bootleg device.

“This is a big, big problem,” the local fire chief says.

People buy the knockoffs, some made in China, he says, because they’re considerably cheaper and appear no different than the more expensive models. But they’re not certified for the kind of use they get in most households. They may even boast Underwriter’s Lab of Canada (ULC) code or Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approval tags, but “fly-by-nighters do a good job counterfeiting the tags as well.” Many retailers, the chief added, aren’t even aware they’re peddling dangerous goods.

If you have a concern about a device you’ve bought or are considering buying one, check out the Underwriters’ home page — — for consumer alerts and a news release archive.

A piece of Guysborough Township? Priceless…

The Mersey Heritage Society is trying to figure out who — if anyone — owns an invaluable piece of Nova Scotia history.

Archaeologists and members of the society have been surveying parts of Guysborough Township — no, not that Guysborough; this one is a long-gone loyalist settlement around what is now Port Mouton — since 2001.

They’ve already found a dozen home sites, stone walls and bits of ceramic from the 40-acre township that was briefly home to as many as 2,300 disbanded soldiers who arrived there after the American Revolution.

The heritage society and the Archaeological Land Trust of Nova Scotia want to protect the site, but the problem is nobody seems to know who owns it.

But even if the land turns out to be a long-lost chunk of your family inheritance, don’t expect to build condos there. It’s already protected under the Special Places Act.

This week’s doctor news

While other Nova Scotia communities wine and dine out-of-province physicians to entice them to settle in their towns, Middleton’s Soldier’s Memorial Hospital has scored a coup b
y hiring its new chief of staff and director of emergency services from within (almost).

The new man is Dr. Scott MacDonald, a Dalhousie Med School grad and former Canadian Forces medical officer who has spent the past two years as the senior medical authority to 14 Wing in nearby Greenwood.

That fills one big hole, but only one.

Since MacDonald won’t be setting up a private practice, the community is still looking for replacements for two longtime local doctors who have retired. Both had been seeing about double the usual recommended caseload, so that makes the task doubly difficult.

Some patients will probably end up with no family doctor, concedes site manager Lisa Salley, while others “will probably have to drive farther to see a doctor.”

Given the health care situation in rural Nova Scotia these days, they could be driving all day.

The gall of it all

Here’s something more to blame on climate change: lousy berry crops in some parts of Nova Scotia this summer.

“Some people might laugh,” John Lewis, a horticultural consultant with Agrapoint, told the New Glasgow News, “but I think [climate change] is a concern. This winter, it was very mild very late, and then boom, it was down below minus 20. I think that will become more common and maybe we need to find other ways to prepare the (berry) plant.”

While inspecting berry fields in the Annapolis Valley, Lewis says he discovered many bushes were suffering from “cane gall,” a bacterial disease he believes “has to do with the type of winter we had last year.”

Saltspring U-pick operator Al Illsley isn’t sure what caused his problem, but he is definitely seeing the result. Usually, by this time of summer, his farm fields are over-run by pickers scooping up the 3,000 pints of raspberries weighing heavy on his bushes. This year, there’s no one here.

“I didn’t even open,” he says. “There were no berries. I used to get 100 pints off a row. [This year], I picked the whole thing, two acres, and got 40 pints.”

Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King’s College. His column also appears in Thursday’s Daily News.



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