Ruling expected on Aspotogan development

by Keith Corcoran

A provincial court judge decides next month whether or not the Crown's recommendation of a six-figure fine should be imposed on companies linked to a Mill Cove residential and golf course development.

Aspotogan Ridge and Aspotogan Developments were each convicted of nine counts under the province's Environment Act after an October 31 trial. The companies were found to have altered wetlands and watercourses and defied Nova Scotia Environment Act directives 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 multi-million dollar 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.

The defence did not actively participate in the trial and didn't attend the November 7 sentencing hearing. Judge Cathy Benton reserved her decision until early December.

"We submit that the sentences should recognize the different degrees of involvement of the two corporate defendants, and the degree to which the evidence shows acts of violation by each," reads a letter filed with the court by Daniel Campbell, one of the defendant's attorneys.

"With respect, the submission of the Crown that the files should be applied equally is arbitrary and does not reasonably reflect the evidence as to the involvement of each entity."

With the aid of specific formulas and calculations, Crown prosecutor Alex Keaveny argued both companies should each be fined $270,278.75.

The companies' actions to alter significant wetlands and watercourses without approvals, represent clear and deliberate violations of the Environment Act, Keaveny said in a written brief.

"A strong message must be sent to developers and others that the consequences of violating the Act are simply not worth it," he argued. "It cannot be cheaper to develop unlawfully then it would be to do so lawfully. Anything less would completely frustrate the effective operation of the Act."

Keaveny called three Department of Environment inspectors as witnesses during the trial. Four exhibits were tendered, including certified land registration records and a compact disc containing still images.

Benton described the pictures in court. The photographs showed pooled wetlands caused from excavation activity, the construction of a man-made pond, and shredded tires in a watercourse, among other images.

Court heard that 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.

Keaveny told LighthouseNOW the defence contends the companies are insolvent and have no assets.

Information posted on the Aspotogan Ridge web site indicates plans for the golf course opening in May 2018.

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