Council Update: E-Scooters, Regional Plan, Inclusionary Zoning

Rental Scooters in Downtown Dartmouth. Photo: Global

Agenda June 20 Regional Council
Agenda June 20 Committee of the Whole (Regional Plan)
Agenda May 9 Regional Council

Micromobility (e-scooter regulation)
Coming before Council for first reading was the new micromobility (e-scooters) bylaw. E-scooters have grown in popularity over the last few years and HRM now has businesses offering point-to-point scooter rentals. While the popularity of scooters has grown, the actual rules around using them has been up in the air. Clarity is now coming. The Provincial government amended the Motor Vehicle Act last year to basically treat e-scooters, by default, like bicycles, which means no riding on the sidewalk. The Provincial rules require helmets, riders to be at least 14 years old, and sets a scooter speed limit of 32 km/hr. The Province also gave municipalities the ability to create their own additional regulations, which was what was before Council. This approach of setting a basic standard but empowering communities to adapt additional rules to fit their own local context is a good approach and something the Province should do more often.

HRM will basically follow the Provincial approach: e-scooters will operate like bikes. HRM won’t allow them on municipal sidewalks, and they won’t be allowed on roads with speed limits of more than 50 km/hr. HRM is setting a lower speed limit than the Provincial default speed of 25 km/hr on roadways and in bike lanes, and 15 km/hr on multi-use paths. The current parking situation for e-scooters is proving to be problematic because they’re often left in places that partially or fully block the sidewalk. For people in wheelchairs or that have reduced vision, this can be a big problem. HRM’s approach would permit parking at bike racks or at designated stations. Scooters found blocking the sidewalk could be impounded. HRM is planning to hire 1-2 compliance officers in 2024 to help manage e-scooter parking issues.

Micromobility isn’t just a regulatory challenge for HRM, it’s also an opportunity. Micromobility has the potential to better connect people to transit, particularly in suburban areas (the so-called last mile problem), and to get people to make some trips by scooter or bike that might otherwise be by car. There is a lot of opportunity to further HRM’s transportation and climate change goals. So, HRM isn’t just going to just set the rules for using e-scooters, the municipality is going to use its power to license operators to try and bring HRM a better overall system of micromobility.

HRM is planning to launch a pilot project where one or two operators would be selected through a request for proposals to gain exclusive access to the street right-of-way. The hope is to get an operator who will commit to providing bicycles for short-term rental as well as scooters, and have a solid plan for parking, helmets, pricing, and access. This is the approach that Waterloo, Ontario has taken and their initial pilot will see the rollout of 500 bicycles and 500 scooters.

Regional Plan
Council approved sending the new draft Regional Plan out for public consultation. The new plan has the potential to be an important policy piece for the municipality. HRM has been growing rapidly. We have already blown past the most optimistic growth scenario in the old plan for 2030 with eight years to spare. Growth brings opportunity, but it is also brings challenges in terms of the environment, housing, transportation, and services. The challenge of climate change also looms large. It’s more important than ever to make sure that we’re growing as sustainably as possible, which makes the new Regional Plan really important for the future of our municipality.

Formal engagement with the public on the new plan begins on July 12 and will run for several months. Staff anticipate bringing a revised draft back to Council for approval in December. I would encourage everyone to take advantage of opportunities to provide feedback. You can read the plan here

Youth Worx
A supplemental report on expanding HRM’s Youth Worx program (formerly Youth Live) that I asked for was back before Council. Youth Worx is a 24 week employment program for youth between 16 and 24 who are not in school and who are facing employment barriers. Participants receive a stipend and a chance to build skills and experience working to repair green bins in HRM’s warehouse on St. Margaret’s Bay Road or at the Youth Worx Cafe in the Sackville Sports Stadium. The Cafe is new to the program and replaced previous opportunities at old recycling depot on Mitchell Street in Halifax.

The switch from recycling depot on Mitchell Street to Cafe in Sackville meant that the program became much harder to access in the urban core. This isn’t just a geographic and transportation challenge. If you’re feeling fairly alienated from society, it’s a big ask to require you to travel to an entirely different community, especially if it’s a community that you really don’t know. So I asked staff for an additional report to consider expanding the program to other locations, mainly the Zatzman Sportsplex.

The Sportsplex feels like a perfect location. Like Sackville Sports Stadium it has a cafe space and like the Sports Stadium, commercial businesses have been unable to make the economics of operating there work. Since the goal of Youth Worx isn’t to make a profit, it’s really a social enterprise, it feel likes a perfect opportunity to provide food service at the Sportsplex where it otherwise wouldn’t exist while also providing some employment opportunities to youth in our community who are facing challenges. As it turns out, staff agreed. Council approved the recommended plan to expand Youth Worx to the Dingle and Oval this summer with the Sportsplex to follow in the spring of 2024. So hopefully food and opportunities for some of our troubled youth to come. Very much a win-win.

Inclusionary Zoning
I have been a bit behind over the last month and missed summarizing May’s Council meetings. There wasn’t a whole lot of note in those meetings from my perspective (relatively quiet) with the exception of one item, inclusionary zoning.

Inclusionary zoning is a term planners use to refer to making a requirement for affordable housing in new development part of planning bylaws. It’s been used in other places, but is new to HRM. HRM has had to rely on density bonusing instead. Density bonusing works by providing additional development rights in exchange for public benefit. HRM has used density bonusing to collect money from developers that has gone into a fund that has than been used to support non-profits that provide affordable housing. It’s a good workaround, but there is still a strong rationale for getting actual units in new development through inclusionary zoning so that affordable housing is mixed into new development. One thing the PC government has done that I very much appreciate is acting on HRM’s long-standing ask for inclusionary zoning.

The HRM Charter was amended in the fall of 2021 and HRM’s planning department has been working on how to turn inclusionary zoning into a real planning requirement. It’s an area where we have to tread carefully because inclusionary zoning isn’t free. The cost of subsidizing units in new development is ultimately born by the other units. As a result, there are limits to how far inclusionary zoning can go in delivering affordability. Inclusionary zoning doesn’t replace the need for government investment since it’s only government that can spread the cost of affordable housing across a much broader subsection of society.

In 2022, HRM engaged WSP to produce a report on best practices from other places that have had inclusionary zoning. What has emerged is broad direction for future HRM requirements:

  • Mandatory participation (developers wouldn’t be able to easily buy their way out of unit requirements),
  • Prioritize high-growth areas,
  • All types of housing to be included, and
  • Cash-in-lieu for really small projects where taking units would be impractical.

The next step is for HRM to undertake an analysis of the fiscal impact to make sure that inclusionary zoning doesn’t unduly raise the cost of market housing, as well as public engagement. Inclusionary zoning can help provide more affordable housing, and it’s definitely worth doing, but it’s not a magic bullet. It doesn’t replace the need for government investment since it’s only government that can spread costs out over society. Affordable housing is a public good and we should all help pay for it the same way we do with other services, like education and healthcare, that are public goods.

Demetreous Lane garden project in 2018. Inclusionary zoning doesn’t replace the need for public housing. Photo: Dartmouth Rotary Club


  • Set new community boundaries for Beechville and asked for a supplemental report on the boundary between Beechville and Goodwood
  • Removed heritage status from some vacant land that was recently subdivided from the St. John Anglican Church property in Sackville (heritage registration applies to a whole property so subdivided pieces, even if they have no heritage value, are still registered until Council deregisters them)
  • Adopted new public engagement policies for planning
  • Reviewed information reports on cooling centres and the status of Kemptown Road in Hammonds Plains
  • Directed staff to develop a vulnerable persons registry for use in emergencies
  • Initiated a planning process to consider allowing more density on Starboard Drive in Bedford
  • First reading for a new bylaw regulating land-lease communities, such as Maplehurst in District 5
  • Awarded $1,229,833 in grants to non-profits who build and operate affordable housing from money that has been largely collected through the Centre Plan’s density bonus program, which, in Dartmouth, included the Elizabeth Fry Society on Tulip Street, and the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia’s ambitious renovation at Five Corners
  • Approved grants to HRM’s Community Museums
  • Entered into less than market leases to provide municipal land/space for community groups in St. Margaret’s Bay including the Unicorn Theatre and the Safety Minded ATV Association
  • Awarded the regional special events grants
  • Requested staff reports on the operation of comfort centres during disasters, priorities for community safety following the Tantallon Fire, and on streamlining HRM’s boards and committees

1 Comment

  1. Need to do something about driver blowing past stop signs and blocking the crosswalk cutting off pedestrains

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