Whatever happened to Cousins Shore?

For eight years now I’ve been on the board of the L.M. Montgomery Land Trust, an organization devoted to preserving the scenic north shore coastal agricultural lands between French River and Sea View, Prince Edward Island free from intensive cottage development.

In 2004 our chair Hon. Marion Reid and I were interviewed for a CBC Compass story about the work of the Land Trust; at the time, one of the iconic properties in our area of interest, Cousins Shore, had recently been partially preserved when the Land Trust was able to acquire the “development rights” to a large chunk of the property there. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to acquire the entire property, and the most “desirable” (for cottage development) lots were sold for development.

Here’s the CBC Compass story:

And here’s some video that I shot last night in exactly the same area, showing the obscene monster homes that have been developed along the shore:

These are not homes for normal people, they are giant homes built so close to the shore that many think they’ll be in the ocean within a decade. Marc Gallant, highlighted in the Compass story, was standing on the same land in 1996 where these homes have now been built when he said:

If we don’t have the courage, if we don’t have the determination to protect this province, however difficult that might be, we’re going to end up losing it. Twenty years from now they’ll be none of this left; Islanders will have no access to it, they’ll be ‘No Trespassing’ signs and we’ll have no access to our own beaches.

At this point, Marc’s prophecy has come true. There remains precious little undeveloped shoreline between French River and Sea View. If you’d like to help the Land Trust work to preserve what’s left, please visit our website and consider making a donation.


Andrew Chisholm's picture
Andrew Chisholm on May 4, 2006 - 15:23 Permalink

Peter, that was a great post. Very informative. I’d like to help promote the land trust with some web banners and maybe an information page. Do you know if any of these materials are available, and if not, could they be?

Ann's picture
Ann on May 4, 2006 - 16:58 Permalink

That is stunning — heartbreaking.
I hope a good nor easter washes every last one of them into the ocean.

Charles's picture
Charles on May 4, 2006 - 19:01 Permalink

Is it just me, or do those “cottages” look like cattle barns with windows from the shore? I don’t have any problems with selling cottage lots to non-Islanders, but maybe it’s time we get some guidelines for what consititutes a cottage.

Anon's picture
Anon on May 5, 2006 - 10:00 Permalink

I’m going to play devils advocate for a moment here.

I completely understand everyone’s viewpoint that the island and the way of life should be protected — but at any cost? There seems to be an overwhelming negativity to ‘outsiders’, and there is little doubt in my mind that it could very well be the eventual downfall of the province.

Remember, outsiders (tourists) are one of the main sources of income for the island — many people visit and fall in love with the place. Those that decide to move to the island don’t do so to take away jobs from islanders, they come to start businesses or retire — they come to bring their money to the island.

Yet it seems that such people are not welcome here — their businesses fail because people refuse to use them because they are ‘from away’.

Now, I agree that these are monster homes and that particular piece of land shouldn’t be used in such a way — but I get the impression from comments here and elsewhere, it isn’t that that people are concerned with — it’s the fact that they are intended for non-islanders.

PEI is a fantastic place with beautiful surrounds and generally great people — there are alot of people around the world that would willingly move to the island and invest their money, perhaps renovating existing properties in need of attention — but I know alot of these people worry they will be made to feel unwelcome.

If PEI is to thrive, and be able to financially keep the shorelines free — islanders need to welcome outsiders and get their support for keeping it that way. Without that, PEI is at risk of simply being a tourist destination — and losing more of the natural surroundings to people that visit a couple months a year.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 5, 2006 - 12:43 Permalink

Perhaps turn it around. Why should the seller of the land and the buyer of the land care what those who want to view the land but not pay for it care? And it is not like that view is a natural landscape — it evokes the denudation of the Island from around 1900 when all but a few percent of the forests were stripped. I much prefer the inner and outer Rustico harbour views with plenty of trees and forest and farms and cottages mixed.

Hans's picture
Hans on May 5, 2006 - 16:00 Permalink

Islanders have been wrestling with issues of land ownership and land use for decades. As land becomes scarcer (due to a number of factors such as erosion) and as the demand for waterfront property increases, these issues will become more and more contentious. The Island must decide what direction to take with respect to land. Will it be as simple as conservation vs. development? What kind of development is appropriate and where? How do we regulate development? I think the LM Montgomery Land Trust is clear about what its goals are and why? I think many islanders would agree with them, if we stopped and thought.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on May 5, 2006 - 16:17 Permalink

The L.M. Montgomery Land Trust exists simply to preserve a historically significant section of scenic agricultural coastal land. We exist as much to support family farms in this area against development pressures as anything else. We’re not against development, and not even against monster homes: we’re simply working to preserve a section of coastline that has, since the time of L.M. Montgomery, been farmland from becoming developed beyond recognition.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 5, 2006 - 16:57 Permalink

I get it now. You know, in the recent amendments to guidelines the Ontario Heritage Act, there is an interesting new protected thing called “cultural landscapes”. That would coincide with this concept, then, as it is not so much about the size of cottages as planning of buildings within this one special zone which has been deemed culturally significant as evocative (whether truly or not) of the writings of LMM. Sort of a fictional cultural landscape.

Ann's picture
Ann on May 5, 2006 - 18:16 Permalink

I think that what people aren’t getting is:

a) these huge cottages and other waterfront developments will drive the price of a cottage beyond the reach of most people who actually live here

b) these developments will increasingly limit access to any shorefront for everyone except those who own property

Maine, where I grew up, is a perfect example. Despite the fact that it has a long coastline (due to all the inlets and bays) there is almost no place for the public to access it….or in some cases even see it And, as soon as any property has water access, you can tack on about half a million to the asking price.
Some people have been warning about this for years but there has been very little public discussion about it.
I don’t think we’ll be able to legislate backwards on this one.

Marian's picture
Marian on May 5, 2006 - 19:32 Permalink

That’s a sad story, Peter. Whenever I’ve visited PEI, the ocean views have really impressed me. I’m sorry to hear that people are willing to throw that kind of natural beauty away. I wish you luck with the rest of the land.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 5, 2006 - 20:37 Permalink

Access to shore is distinct from cottage building as long as your real property law says it is. While I may be remembering NS law as opposed to that of PEI (or perhaps nothing correctly at all) I do seem to recall that the provincial Crown owns below the annual mean high water mark (which for most of the shoreline on PEI points is about 20 feet inland and moving farther in-land with each year.)

So people who buy cottages think they have the shoreline but may really not. This is different from the US where, depending on the state, you may be able to own the beach. [Connecticut has left about 12 feet of shoreline to the public good.] If the public access routes are not required by law in the sub-division plans for such waterfront cottage developments, I’d be blaming the people in planning policy not the people who end up buying the cottages.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 5, 2006 - 20:55 Permalink

Your nemesis in relation to access is set out in section 16(1)(d) of the Planning Act Sub-division and Development Reulations which, in addition to various buffers, provides

16. (1) Where a subdivision is located in a coastal area, the subdivision shall include the following…

(d) access to the beach or watercourse for the use of the owners of the lots if the property being subdivided includes frontage on a beach or watercourse.

There should be a similar access right for the public to that part of the beach that is public.

Bob's picture
Bob on May 25, 2006 - 22:52 Permalink

This is so disappointing. My wife and I have been coming to the Island for five years now, (from the states) and joined the Trust to hope to do our bit to prevent just this kind of thing from happening…was there publicity on the Island about these coming up? They seemed to just appear out of nowhere! Is there anything that can still be done to protect what’s left of the shore…? Does publicity help? Finding a very wealthy Islander or Atlantic Canadian benefactor to buy up this land for the Trust??? Are people brainstorming these or other options…??

Very sad news..