Protesters have a close call with heavy machinery at the Dartmouth construction site


A small group of people protesting the development of the Eisner Cove wetland for housing had a close encounter with heavy machinery at the construction site in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on Monday.

Two machines were set up in a wooded area along Route 111 and operators started the train with protesters standing alongside.

“I moved to block one of the machines because I thought if I stood in front of it it would stop because that’s what normal people do,” said Susan Van Iderstine, one of the protesters. “But he didn’t stop, he came straight at me.”

A security guard quickly grabbed Van Iderstine and pulled her away as the machine steps were about to hit her.

The second machine had another protester climb aboard its long arm while it was running. The chaotic situation ended without anyone being hurt.

Protesters are upset that the machines were moving to carry out the first phase of clearing the land of Mount Hope Village, an 875-unit housing project, half of which are described as “workable” housing. The site is a wetland, an area that protesters say should be protected.

Protesters waved signs Tuesday toward oncoming traffic at the Mount Hope Village site. (Paul Palmer/CBC)

“We’re making bad choices here because there’s a lot of other places to put housing in HRM like vacant lots, unused buildings, there’s sites everywhere,” Van Iderstine said. “We don’t need to make that choice.”

The company behind the project, Clayton Developments, has received all necessary approvals to carry out the work.

The Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change says there is no evidence of wood turtles or any other endangered species in the wetland.

“Endangering workers and themselves”

The two machines protesters encountered were removed from the site on Tuesday.

“It really is a safety issue as much as a development challenge when you have people endangering workers and themselves by taking reckless actions,” said Jason Brunt, president of Clayton Developments Ltd.

“We have decided to withdraw from the site primarily due to the behavior of this group and are just waiting for it to be safe to return.”

Protesters returned to the site on Tuesday and say they will continue to return to signs for passing motorists on the busy stretch of freeway.

Some work has already begun on the Mount Hope Village housing site. (Paul Palmer/CBC)

Police were called to the scene on Monday afternoon and returned on Tuesday. No one has been arrested.

“Our primary focus is everyone’s safety and we will continue to monitor the situation,” said Const. Nicolas Gagnon, Acting Public Information Officer with the Halifax Regional Police.

Brunt says he doesn’t know when the teams will return to continue work to start the project.

Mount Hope Village will be a mix of townhouses, semi-apartments, quadruplexes and apartment buildings.

According to Brunt, if the machinery can return to the site soon, the first units could be ready in about a year. The rest of the project could be completed in five years.

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