Redefining Rural Community

A picnic at sunset on Butterfly Hill. Skating on the frozen wetlands under a starry sky. Traipsing after your dog along the lush trails around sparking Bell lake.

The Villages of Seven Lakes is set to be the new standard of rural development in Nova Scotia.

Gail Penney, president of Seven Lakes Developments Ltd., knew she wanted to use her 2,000 acre parcel of land to provide a comfortable, rural lifestyle in a brand new way.

Penney says they listened to what members of the community wanted, and the answers were clear: a community that made it easy to enjoy time outdoors. A place where you could pursue recreational activities safely – without having to walk along the highway – and fish in the lake without being consumed by traditional lake laws.

Conservation communities tend to be expensive and appeal to well-heeled buyers, but Penney says they’re keeping Seven Lakes “a very inclusive development” by making sure there are accessible price- points – with homes starting at just under $300,000.

“The community wanted housing choices, so older folks would be able to stay once they downsized,” says Penney. “They also wanted affordable housing for first- time buyers, so young people who grew
up in the area would be able to stay there to raise their own family. So that’s what we did.”

Being a conservation community means that the land was carefully evaluated before development in order to respect and celebrate the natural landscape.

“Anything of interest – wetlands, mature forests, good vistas, steep hills – was automatically protected and locked down into a nature preserve, so 60 per cent of the land is preserved forever,” says Penney. “There’s a large nature preserve all around the houses. It’s incredible.”

Because all of the homes are placed within the remaining 40 per cent, Penney says the lots are clustered into little villages – linked by beautiful trails – and there’s a smaller road network for the municipality to maintain. There will also be a community firepit and a lakehouse.

“People are excited about the community aspect of Seven Lakes, because they say that’s something that they’re missing in their current home,” says Penney. “They want to feel connected to their neighbours.”

The development is already proving to be very popular with city-dwellers and young families, as they rethink their lifestyle needs. Just 25 minutes to downtown Halifax, Seven Lakes is easily accessible on Hwy. 107. Porters Lake itself is a vibrant community with a brand-new elementary school, French school, junior high, high school, and plenty of amenities – such as grocery stores, an NSLC, restaurants, physiotherapy clinics, and even a health food store.

Although Seven Lakes is situated on picturesque Bell Lake, there aren’t going to be any looming lakefront homes – a decision Penney said they didn’t make lightly.

“By setting all of the homes back, it leaves the whole lake boundary accessible to everyone – with a beach area, a boat dock, and a gazebo,” says Penney. “There are also two lake access points, so everyone from the community of Porters Lake can continue to access it.”

Making friends with existing residents in Porters Lake was important to Seven Lakes developers, so they looked for other ways to ease the transition.

“The residents of Porters Lake needed a sports field, so we put in a community sports field for the benefit of everybody – as well as a combination of public and private trails,” says Penney.

City-dwellers moving to a rural development often worry about losing their municipal water and sewer, so Seven Lakes developers put in a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant – which means Seven Lakes homeowners never have to worry about drilling a well or maintaining a septic system.

“Engineers say this is actually the way of the future,” says Penney. “It’s also more affordable, because the cost of putting in a wastewater treatment plant is slightly less than if everyone had put in their own systems. There’s also no risk of leak or contamination, and homeowners like that peace of mind.”

During the development process, Penney says she was surprised to hear that recent revisions to HRM’s building plans mean that the face of rural living will change significantly over the next 10 years.

“Because they’ve directed so much attention to the downtown core being built up, they’ve placed restrictions on future developments in rural settings,” says Penney. “It’s going to be much more difficult to get approval for future rural developments, which means rural lots that are already approved – like Seven Lakes – will become even more valuable.”

Two model homes are already open in Seven Lakes, both built by award-winning members of the Nova Scotia Home Builders’ Association. Three homes are currently under construction, and another dozen are set to begin construction shortly. The first families will be living there by early May or June – grilling, hiking, fishing, and enjoying everything their new community has to offer.

Learn more about Seven Lakes – chat with a community guide at the Experience Centre or visit www.sevenlakescommunity.com

Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist whose work regularly appears in many Atlantic Canadian newspapers and magazines, including The Chronicle Herald, Metro, Hub Now, Business Voice, Dugger's, Progress, East Coast Living, Bedford Magazine, and Southender Magazine. She also has several corporate clients.