Letter to Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillors

This is a copy of a letter submitted by Gary Nelson, Vice-President of the West Hants Historical Society, to the council of West Hants Regional Municipality on January 23, 2022. It has been slightly modified here to suit online readability.

From: Gary Nelson, Vice-President, West Hants Historical Society

Date: Jan 23, 2022

Re: Former Swimming Pool Lands adjacent to Fort Edward

Dear Mayor, Deputy Mayor & Councillors:

I, again, thank you on behalf of the West Hants Historical Society for the attentive hearing the President and I received when we made our presentation to you on the above matter at your meeting of January 11th, 2021. I do, however, feel that my portion of that presentation was quite technical and somewhat complicated. Therefore, I wish to place before you for your further consideration, a point by point summary of our concerns:

North America's Oldest Agricultural Fair

  • the lands in question are of great historical significance - they are the original site of North America’s Oldest Agricultural Fair and remained the site of that Fair for nearly 200 years (1765 - the early 1950's)
  • these are the only lands in North America that can make that claim and are unique in that regard
  • since that date of the first Fair, and certainly since the Royal Charter of 1766, these lands have always been designated and used for public purposes - first for markets and fairs and then as a community swimming pool

Indigenous & Military Historical Significance

  • These lands were a part of a larger property that was of importance to the indigenous people as a gathering site, later as a trading post, a religious site for the Acadians, one of the first English fortifications in Nova Scotia, roles of varying significance (some more important than others) during the “Le Grand Dérangement” (Expulsion of the Acadians), the U.S. Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the American Civil War, home of the 84th Regiment of Foot which for a winter (c. 1778) included the Scottish heroine Flora MacDonald, training and encampment of soldiers during World War I including the Jewish Legion and the Newfoundland (then a separate dominion) regiment and thus has untapped appeal for interprovincial and international tourism, historians and visitors

Impact on the National Historic Site of Fort Edward

  • the construction of up to 22 residential units in 3 storey buildings on about an acre of land would mean one of the highest population densities in the Municipality next to a National Historic Site - Fort Edward, the oldest surviving Blockhouse in Canada
  • such residential unit buildings would not be in keeping with or complimentary to that National Historic Site and would undoubtedly have a negative impact on that Site
  • any such diminishing of this National Historic Site would make it less attractive to tourists and visitors thus also lessening the chances of it being improved

Immediate Community Impact

  • access to these lands is by a narrow and underdeveloped street (Cobbett Street) that at present would have difficulty handling the additional traffic resulting from such a development, and/or a right-of-way negotiated from Parks Canada, neither of which would be ideal or desirable, either by the public or the developer, for such a development
  • neighbouring properties would be negatively impacted by such traffic and parking requirements as well as during any construction period
  • from the correspondence that we have received and/or had access to, as well posts on the “Stop the Rezoning on Fort Edward Street” Facebook page (which I would recommend that any of you who have not viewed that page, do so - social media today is the public’s voice), it appears the majority of the general public that are aware of this proposed re-zoning, sale and development are very much against it, and there have been recent examples of governing bodies that go against the will of the people, do so at their peril

Additional Concerns About Rezoning

  • every step in the process of re-zoning and subsequent sale of these lands makes it more difficult and less likely that the process will be halted at any point
  • by re-zoning at this time, it would appear to the general public, as well as to the prospective purchaser, that the proposed sale is a fait accompli and thus inevitable, without the input from the public and other interested parties like the West Hants Historical Society being considered

The Potential for an Alternative Purpose

  • the re-zoning is not necessary if the stakeholders in these lands (the indigenous people, Acadian organizations, the African Nova Scotian community, WHHS, Parks Canada, Provincial Heritage Department and other heritage groups) are able to propose an alternative purpose acceptable to Municipal Council and the public
  • such alternative use would compliment the National Historic Site and its historical significance to these stakeholders, enhance the appeal of West Hants Regional Municipality for tourists, scholars and visitors as well as be in keeping with what the general public wishes for these lands
  • there are presently other developments in progress and lands available for residential housing in the area without sacrificing these historically important lands

As Vice-President of the West Hants Historical Society and a resident of West Hants, I urge you to vote against the proposed re-zoning and subsequent sale of these lands until the stakeholders have had an opportunity to propose a responsible and historically sensitive alternative.

Respectfully submitted,

Gary Nelson, Vice-President,

West Hants Historical Society

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