Companies linked to a multi-million residential and golf course development in Lunenburg County were fined $540,557.50 for making unauthorized changes to wetlands and watercourses.
Provincial Court Judge Cathy Benton sentenced Aspotogan Ridge and Aspotogan Developments each to fines of $270,278.75, which aligned with what Crown prosecutor Alex Keaveny recommended for appropriate penalties using numeric formulas and calculations to back the argument.
The companies were each found guilty of nine counts under the Nova Scotia Environment Act, including offences for defying specific directives from the provincial department. The offences took place between the spring of 2014 and January 2015. The charges centred around two pieces of Mill Cove property off Parkwood Drive totalling about 160 hectares.
The companies were convicted following an October trial. Benton read her decision December 6, about a month after a hearing to consider sentencing submissions.
Keaveny said the companies' actions represented clear and deliberate violations, requiring a strong message about consequences.
The trial heard from three Department of Environment inspectors as witnesses during the trial. Four exhibits were tendered. Some still images filed with the court showed pooled wetlands caused from excavation activity, the construction of a man-made pond, and shredded tires in a watercourse.
The Department of Environment inspectors visited the properties about 10 times, with at least three of the visits coming as a result of public complaints about the site work being carried out.
No defence lawyers actively participated in the trial nor sentencing hearing. One defence attorney suggested the sentences should recognize the different degrees of involvement of the two companies.
The multi-million Aspotogan project near Hubbards was announced about 10 years ago and encompasses 200-plus hectares of property and proposes hundreds of homes in addition to an 18-hole golf course.
After a previous court proceeding, Keaveny told LighthouseNOW the defence contends the companies are insolvent and have no assets.
One of the properties involved in the prosecution is published in a Municipality of Chester tax sale notice, indicating $28,420.25 owing in taxes, interest and expenses. In all, 28 Mill Cove area properties assessed to Aspotogan Ridge are listed.
Information posted on the Aspotogan Ridge web site indicates plans for the golf course opening in May 2018. The Municipality of Chester's Facebook page in November referenced Aspotogan Ridge's planned 2018 opening.