A Bedford engineer who described himself as “green” in February is now facing charges for allegedly damaging a vast wetland in Upper Tantallon.
A city development official pointed out last September that on Westwood Blvd. 105 grading and height work was carried out without a permit. This prompted an inspector from Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change to obtain a search warrant on the site as no wetland alteration permits had been issued on the property.
“The department has filed charges against developer Peter Beaini and his company (3308067 Nova Scotia Limited) in connection with the fill-in of a wetland in the Upper Tantallon area between September 22 and December 6, 2021,” said Tracy Barron, who is responsible for speaks Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change.
“The three charges relate to violating the Environmental Code or Section 158 regulations relating to alteration of wetlands, alteration of watercourses and violation of an inspector’s direction.”
Beaini is scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court on June 30.
“I did nothing wrong”
The Bedford engineer downplayed the February investigation.
In a brief interview on Wednesday, Beaini – who had planned to build a 20-unit senior living complex on the site – pleaded his innocence.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Pam Lovelace fears more wetlands could be damaged as developers struggle to provide more housing in the city.
“Right now we’re in a market where any piece of land will be sold at any ridiculous price to build any type of dwelling,” Lovelace said. “Been going through a housing crisis so people who want their property developed to get the highest dollar go ahead with it whether they have permits or not. For these law-abiding developers, it really means painting them with a terrible brush.”
The latter follow the regulations, she said
“And then come these other people who just go in and are destructive and don’t care about the impact of potential flooding, removing and destroying endangered species, and recognizing the importance of the role that wetlands play in our communities overall,” Lovelace said , the Hammonds Plains–St. margarets
Area residents alerted her last summer that work was underway at 105 Westwood Blvd.
“They said, ‘Hey, we want to know what’s going on. Why is this new road being built?” said Lovelace.
She called the city planning department about the problem.
“The planning staff went in and looked at it and said, ‘Oh, that’s not good,'” Lovelace said.
The city issued a halt to work on the property on September 21. The next day, a provincial environmental inspector, along with a wetland expert, visited the country.
They found that a road had been built on the site.
“This road was blocked with an unmarked F150 pickup truck,” Derrick Peverill, an inspector with Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change, wrote in his search warrant application.
“Further down the property (the inspectors) noted large areas of disturbance and grading of the property with large areas of exposed soil. A further inspection revealed large areas of suspected wetlands that had been disturbed.”
They saw types of soil, peat “and large areas of standing water” more than a meter deep, all of which are indicative of wetlands, Peverill said.
“Ditches have been dug at various points on the property in what appears to be an attempt to drain the water from the property,” the inspector said.
He also found plants on the site indicative of wetlands. “Those species included black spruce, red maple, alder, cotton grass, and false holly, among others.”
A provincial wetland specialist “indicated that the areas altered were certainly wetlands and that significant alterations had occurred at various locations on the property,” Peverill said.
“In addition to the wetland fill, large areas of exposed soil were identified on the property without sediment and erosion control measures in place. These areas included sites with steep embankments and slopes that could result in silt entering both watercourses on the property and the remaining wetlands. At the time of the inspection, no effort appeared to have been made to control the siltation present on the property.”
In mid-November, a five-strong team of experts from the state government took measurements, soil samples and photos on site over two days.
Samples of wetland plants confiscated from the property include lambskill, leatherleaf and cottongrass.
Lovelace said the city needed more authority to conduct these types of investigations itself and more quickly.
“The delay is horrendous,” she said. “We went through summer, fall, winter and now spring again, the prime time for these habitats where birds and animals breed.”
Wetlands also provide natural retention basins to mitigate stormwater, Lovelace said.
“If we destroy that, we end up with more flood risks,” she said.