Council Update: Barrington AT, Sheet Harbour Centre, Gardens, Blue Mountain

Barrington north of North Street

Barrington Greenway: The dust of the Cogswell debate has barely settled, but on Tuesdays Council agenda the topic of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure on Barrington Street was back, this time the discussion was focussed on north of the Macdonald Bridge.

Barrington Street from the intersection with North and the Dockyard has been functioning as a three-lane street for nearly a year now. The reduction in lanes from four to three came about because DND needed to repair their sizable retaining wall that keeps Barrington Street from falling into their parking lots. Rather than reinstate everything as is, HRM took the opportunity to pilot a three-lane configuration. Why give up a lane of traffic? Because it allows the municipality to extend the Barrington Greenway to Devonshire, making the route much safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The existing four lane section of Barrington past North Street was always quite narrow considering the truck traffic that uses it and the four lanes were pretty much redundant anyway since they never extended to the MacKay Bridge. The conclusion from the pilot is that swapping out a bit of road to extend the trail had little impact on traffic, but it did make the street much safer, so the change is now being made permanent. The project is planned for 2019 and should make both DND and the shipyard much more reachable by bike.

The good news from Tuesday is that DND is going to pay for a sizable portion of the Barrington Greenway’s extension to Devonshire. DND’s Capital Assistance Program provides funding to eligible recipients, such as municipalities, who build and maintain infrastructure that benefits the public and DND. The Barrington Greenway project fit the program’s criteria and DND has agreed to provide $882,000. DND’s contribution is almost the entire cost of the project. Many thanks to DND for helping HRM stretch our limited capital dollars and in investing in sustainable transportation. A good step torwards being able to bike all the way from Africville to the South End on protected lanes. When Cogswell and Hollis/Lower Water are done this will become quite a route.

Potential future home of the Eastern Shore Lifestyle Centre? Photo: Drone footage from Eastern Shore Lifestyle Centre Society

Sheet Harbour Centre: Another key item that was back at Council was a proposal to replace the Sheet Harbour Lions Community Centre with a new building. The existing Lion’s hall is a municipally-owned building that was once a pool. The 40 year old building is in bad shape and needs an estimated $2.5 million to shore up the roof and structure. The building currently closes during the winter months due to fears that a major snowstorm might push the failing roof to the breaking point. The need for major work at the Lions Community Centre creates an opportunity to think about whether there is a better way to serve the needs of Sheet Harbour than investing in the existing facilities.

A community group, Eastern Shore Lifestyle Centre Society, formed to look at the issue and advocate for creating a new amalgamated centre that would house the Lions, HRM Parks and Rec, and the local library branch. A year ago, HRM allocated $100,000 to hire a consultant to examine the proposed Lifestyle Centre and on Tuesday, the matter was back before Council. The staff recommendation was to not repair the existing Lion’s building and instead, look at a new facility.

While the HRM recommendation has the guts of what the Lifestyle Society has been advocating for, staff did not fully recommend the Society’s model. The Society wants the Lifestyle Centre to be a multi-tenant building that provides space for more than just municipal operations. HRM staff aren’t supportive of that approach because of the risks involved in being a landlord. The usual landlords risks are even greater in a place like Sheet Harbour, where the weak demand for space makes finding replacements tenants very hard to do when there is turnover. The reason the Lifestyle Centre is in favour of a multi-tenant building is they’re trying to attract jobs and government services back to their community, and they see taking on tenants as a way to offset operating costs to ensure the Lifestyle Centre is sustainable.

After some discussion, Council ended up opting to continue the analysis for both the HRM and Lifestyle Centre proposals. A key moment in the debate was the CAO’s words indicating that staff could relatively easily analyze both scenarios. So Council agreed to look at both ideas. I’m okay with seeing more information, but I will really need to be convinced that building a facility that has more space than HRM needs so that the municipality can rent it out to others is a good idea in a place like Sheet Harbour.

While there is some debate here as to what exactly gets built, and work still to be done on design, site selection, governance, etc, the key takeaway is that either the HRM or the Lifestyle Centre models, will mean a new community centre for Sheet Harbour that is better suited to serve the area’s needs. To help with costs, the municipality and Lifestyle Society, expect to get support from the other orders of government. Still a lot to do before this project leave the planning stage.

Concept plan for Hope Blooms expansion

Hope Blooms: Council also had changes to consider for two gardening community groups: Hope Blooms and Common Roots. Hope Blooms was first up with Council considering their proposal to build a commercial kitchen and community space at their garden in Murray Warrington Park on Brunswick Street.

Hope Blooms is a social enterprise that empowers youth from marginalized communities by involving them in community gardening and entrepreneurship. They teach leadership and provide kids with a sense of belonging and community. The food that is grown is provided to groups working on food insecurity, and Hope Blooms also sells a lot of what they produce, with funds going into a scholarship fund. Their programing has grown beyond just gardening with after-school, workshops, and mentoring/tutoring programs. They have had a major impact.

Hope Blooms has been the main activity in Murray Warrington Park since they started as a community garden in 1998. After winning money from appearing on CBC’s Dragons Den in 2013, Hope Blooms added a greenhouse to the space. The newest proposed expansion of Hope Bloom’s successful efforts is to add a commercial kitchen and community space. The addition of a kitchen and meeting space would greatly enhance Hope Blooms capabilities and existing programs.

Council authorized staff to host a public information meeting to inform park users and collect feedback. If there are no major concerns, staff are authorized to enter into an agreement with Hope Blooms to authorize the proposed expansion. If the plan to expand in Murray Warrington Park does have unforeseen implications for other park users, staff will return to Council for direction.

Common Roots: The other gardening item before Council was the relocation of Common Roots Urban Farm. Since its founding in 2012, Common Roots has been located at the old Queen Elizabeth High School site at Bell and Robie. Common Roots has been a runaway success. They have over 200 garden plots and serve a diverse community, including many new immigrants to Canada. Commons Roots though was always meant to be a temporary use of the land at its current location. The site is owned by the Province and the understanding from the very beginning was that when the hospital was ready to expand, Common Roots would have to move. That day has now come as the Health Authority is planning for construction on an expanded QEII to start this summer.

Common Roots and HRM staff have been busily trying to find another site. What has emerged is a plan to distribute about 90 gardening plots to various smaller community gardens on the Peninsula while moving 90 others to Bi-Hi Park on Bayers Road. The Bi-Hi Park site has been chosen to be the new home for most of Common Roots’ activities because Bi-Hi Park is near large immigrant communities in Fairview and Spryfield, and it’s immediately adjacent to the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, Metro Works Employment Association, and the existing Multicultural Garden. Council approved the move to Bi-Hi Park and the use of municipal equipment and vehicles to assist with the logistics of physically relocating nearly 200 plots. Hopefully this will be happy ending for Common Roots.

HRM’s first Blue Mountain Birch Cove purchase at Hobsons Lake. Photo Greg Taylor

Blue Mountain Birch Cove: HRM’s efforts to create a regional park at Blue Mountain Birch Cove are continuing. The municipality purchased the first block of municipal lands at Hobsons Lake to compliment the sections that have already been protected by the Province last year. On Tuesday, Council authorized the CAO to finalize the purchase of additional lands and draw upon the financial support of federal programs. Real estate transactions are handled in camera for obvious reasons (it’s hard to get a fair price if you’re bargaining in public and the other side knows your bottom-line). If and when the purchases are finalized, HRM will release more information. I’m hopeful they’ll be good news to share soon.


  • Officially established the electronic version of the Dartmouth’s zoning map as the official map (staff were still editing and maintaining a mylar original which was cumbersome process with a high probability for error)
  • Approved a senior’s development in Fall River (I had to miss this part of Council due to the previously booked Northbrook Park visioning meeting)
  • Granted a flypast request to DND for D-Day ceremonies
  • Entered into a new agreement with the Lake District Recreation Association in Sackville
  • Increased the budget for the Sinclair Street recapitalization project that was completed a few months ago to cover revisions that were made during construction
  • Amended HRM’s Real Property policies to require staff to get Council approval before entering into any right of first refusal for municipal properties
  • Requested a staff report on planned phase 2 renovations at the Tallahassee Community Centre in Eastern Passage
  • Extended the lease of Point Pleasant Lodge to the Sable Island Institute for an additional 1 year while HRM looks at what the best use for the Lodge might be
  • Approved parkland acquisition in East Preston (in camera)
  • Renewed the option agreement that HRM has with the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre (in camera)