Agenda May 17
Agenda May 31 (Committee of the Whole)
Agenda May 31 (Regular)
Agenda June 14
Agenda June 28
Have been more than a bit behind the last month and half so it’s four Council meetings in this update!
The major item that came forward over the last few weeks was HRM’s encampment policy. After requesting some revisions around what sites would be designated for sheltering (see my May 3 update), Council approved the revised policy.
The main difference between what Council approved on June 14 versus what was originally proposed on May 3 concerned short-term overnight shelter sites. Short-term sites would require people to take down their tents each day by 8:00 AM. Allowing temporary overnight sheltering is something that other cities have allowed, but Council was concerned that the 8:00 AM time limit would create unnecessary conflict. In response to Council’s concerns, the revised June 3 staff report dropped all of the short-term sites from consideration, including Penhorn Lake, and Albro Lake. The four designated sites for longer term sheltering that remained are the existing encampment site on Geary Street, Green Road Park (behind the Dartmouth Shopping Centre), Flinn Park (lower section off Quinpool Road), and several sites along the Barrington Greenway.
Although the revised report passed unanimously, Council actually wasn’t keen on designating any sites. It’s not a great outcome to have people living outdoors in parks. It isn’t a solution to homelessness. The reality right now, however, is that there isn’t enough indoor space available, and the space that does exist doesn’t necessarily work for every individual. The latest point in time count from April identified 91 people living outdoors in HRM, of which just over 30 were sheltering in HRM’s parks. There are 292 new units coming online over the next year and half, which will help a lot, but it won’t solve the issue of homelessness given that the wait list for housing is now over 600.
With that in mind, Council’s choice wasn’t (1) allow sheltering in parks or (2) have no one sheltering in parks. The actual choice before us was (1) allow sheltering in parks in a planned and supported way or (2) continue the status quo where encampments pop up in any park with no supporting services. There is no option available that doesn’t have people sheltering in our public spaces in the short-term. Given that reality, Council made a pragmatic choice to try and make encampments safer and situated in locations that will minimize impacts on others.
The approved sites are all spaces that have little conflicting uses and have some degree of separation from neighbours. In District 5, Geary Street is unused woodland that already has a small encampment and Green Road is an abandoned ball diamond with Mount Hermon Cemetery and the back of the Dartmouth Shopping Centre bordering it on three sides. I have heard from residents who live near both locations who are upset about the placement of these designated encampment sites. I understand the trepidation, but there were very few potential suitable sites. There simply aren’t many spaces that are relatively unused, owned by HRM, and are located in the core in proximity to services. There really wasn’t much choice and there is no location that would be completely without controversy.
Over the last few weeks, HRM has proceeded to set up the designated sites. The municipality is providing water, a toilet, garbage collection, storage for belongings, and a safe injection box at each location. Support staff and service providers will also visit the encampments regularly, including three HRM bylaw officers who are being specifically hired for this purpose. Police will still respond to calls about encampments, but only ones that are criminal in nature. The response and support is being led by civilian employees.
So what happens to undesignated sites? HRM will work with residents sheltering in undesignated parks to peacefully relocate them. Yesterday a notice went out to the five remaining residents at Meagher Park (a tiny park, right up against neighbours, close to schools). The municipality has learned lessons from the poorly planned evictions last year. This time service providers have been engaged well in advance, lots of notice is being given, HRM will assist residents in relocating, and HRM has other options to offer. The goal is to peacefully close Meagher Park. A policing response would be the very, very last resort, and Council’s approved policy on encampments sets that out.
Dartmouth Cove Infilling
Over the last several weeks I have heard a lot of concern from residents regarding an application to infill a large water lot in Dartmouth Cove (see my May e-newsletter here). It’s something I’m concerned about too given the potential disruption to the Harbour Trail and that the resulting land has no real development rights and would likely sit as a rocky moonscape like the nearby Smithers property. Infill isn’t inherently bad. The Harbour Trail from Old Ferry Road to Maitland Street is on infilled land and it is serving an awesome public purpose in creating the trail space and a path for the sewage pipe. What is problematic is infill with no plan for what happens next and that has had no community discussion. In the absence of any real plan, the application to infill in Dartmouth Cove is really an application to make a dump site and that’s not something I, our MLA, or MP support.
Unfortunately, HRM’s hand isn’t a strong one. HRM doesn’t approve harbour infill, the federal government does through Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The criteria that the feds looks at is fairly narrow (navigable waters, and impact to fish). There isn’t a clear space in their process for broader planning and community concerns. The traditional legal opinion is that HRM only gets jurisdiction once new land is created. There has, however, been some suggestion that HRM could regulate some aspects of infill. HRM has sought outside legal advice on this question. It’s something that we should have a more definitive answer on later this summer.
At Council, I made a three part motion to direct staff to provide a submission to Transport Canada outlining municipal concerns, look at HRM’s options around the Harbour Trail and access to the site, and to undertake a planning process to identify where pyritic slate should be disposed of. HRM ended up missing Transport Canada’s submission deadline so the municipality has provided the Minister of Transport with a written letter. Transport Canada’s next step in the infill application is to look at the public submissions, and engage with other government departments and First Nations. It’s HRM’s understanding that, as an order of government, the municipality’s letter will still be considered. Here’s HRM’s letter.
Lakeview Point Road/Hume Street Rescission
As I wrote about in my September 2021 e-newsletter, I made a request at Council to consider connecting Hume Street to the Grahams Grove parking lot. The purpose of joining the two would be to allow Lakeview Point Road and Hume Street to convert into a one-way loop, with traffic entering at Lakeview and exiting at the traffic light at Grahams Grove/Superstore. The impetus for the idea came from area residents who were concerned that the end result of the Prince Albert Road redesign would make navigating the narrow entrance to Lakeview Point Road difficult.
During construction, HRM’s engineers made some last minute adjustments to widen the very narrow entrance to Lakeview Point Road and a few months ago, the same delegation of area residents wrote me indicating that, although it’s very narrow, the street was working fine and that there wasn’t really any need to look at the one-way loop idea. I went back and contacted everyone on Lakeview and Hume who had written me and a very clear majority felt that the street was working fine as is. So with that in mind, I rescinded my motion at Council. No point spending staff time and effort on something that isn’t needed.
HRM won’t be getting rid of the Gray Arena after all. As part of the rink strategy, HRM opted to close a bunch of aging community rinks in favour of consolidating ice surfaces into more efficient, multi-pad facilities. That’s where the new four-pad in Burnside came from. The flipside of building the four-pad was that Devonshire, Bowles, LeBrun, and the Gray would all close. Devonshire and Bowles were shut down, and LeBrun has been kept open for now because it’s attached to an existing community centre. The situation around the Gray has been much more complicated. The Arena was declared surplus and HRM completed a process looking for potential community partners to take over the space (there were no takers). HRM then undertook a planning process for the site, which isn’t yet complete.
While all of this was underway, HRM has still been using the Gray. The ice was taken out and the Gray has become a hub for dryland sports including lacrosse, and street hockey. HRM did use the space for several months as a shelter for people wanting to come indoors from Meagher Park (those residents then moved to the Dartmouth modulars), which created a bit of a domino effect. Using the Gray for a shelter displaced the dryland sports that had set up there, so HRM then had to take an ice surface out of commission at the BMO Centre, which then disrupted ice users. It all has really underlined the need for a dedicated dryland sports facility. Separately there is a push for an indoor skateboard park. All of this has prompted HRM to take a second look at the Gray, with an eye to making its use for dryland sports permanent.
Council has now now rescinded the surplus declaration for the Gray so that a new plan for its reuse can be prepared. I’m pleased to see this as disposing of the Gray with no plan for dryland sports really made no sense.
- Council passed on seeking to acquire land from the Province for a potential park in North Preston until the Province completes a plan for their own lands in the area
- Approved the community rink grant program
- Approved a pest management strategy
- Initiated a planning process to consider a high rise development on Ridge Valley Road and Cowie Hill Road in Halifax
- Directed the CAO to apply for HRM to be designated a bird friendly city by Nature Canada
- Instructed staff to prepare bylaw changes to apply the stormwater right of way charge (cost charged to HRM for water that runs off municipal streets and sidewalks) as an area rate on the tax bill rather than as a flat fee on the water bill
- Granted permission for alcohol to be served at Graves Oakley Field during a rugby tournament, but denied permission to do so at Gorsebrook Park
- Approved changes to the Traffic Calming program
- Increased parking fines from $35 to $45
- Adopted policy to set the stage for tiered commercial taxation in 2023
- Awarded snow clearing contracts in Cole Harbour
- Provided a one-time grant of $50,000 to the St. Leonard Society (Metro Turning Point) to help the Society complete a new master plan for their property on Barrington Street
- Confirmed the Boundary Committee’s recommendation of 16 districts and forwarded the recommendation to the Utility and Review Board
- Approved grants for a number of programs including (1) rural transit, (2) events (marketing levy), (3) search and rescue, and (4) community grants
- Scheduled public hearings for heritage alterations for 5185 South Street, and to potentially register 144 Pleasant Street
- Registered 5375 Kaye Street (former United Memorial Church) as a heritage property
- Provided a $10,000 grant towards the Pan American Canoe Championships
- Registered the Rocking Stone at Kidston Lake Park as a heritage property
- Granted permission for a flypast for the Halifax Wanderers Soccer Club
- Awarded the contract for up to 60 new electric buses and 30 charging stations to Nova Bus
- Set the 2022/2023 area rates for private roads and adopted changes to the program to better align timing with the HRM budget process
- Allocated the planned for budget to the Otter Lake Community Monitoring Committee, but signaled that the amount of funding provided might change in future if the Committee doesn’t cooperate on addressing governance issues identified in a previous report to Council
- Increased taxi fares (they hadn’t changed since October 2012)
- Appointed a new deputy traffic authority to replace the previous deputy (he retired)
- Initiated a planning process for changes to the Beaver Bank, Hammonds Plains, and Upper Sackville Planning Strategies
- Approved a less than market value lease with the Lions Club of Sackville
- Requested staff reports on (1) Bay Community Centre, (2) continuing the HRM’s partnership with the SPCA on a trap, neuter and release program, (3) cost recovery on private roads, (4) an all-weather field for Fall River, and (5) facilitating community initiated planning
- Directed staff to begin planning for a 50 metre pool to replace Centennial that would potentially be partially paid for by disposing of the Centennial Pool site
- Nominated Councillor Lovelace to serve on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities standing committee tasked with increasing women’s participation in municipal government
- Granted permission for the Armview Restaurant to serve alcohol in the portion of Rotary Park that the restaurant uses for a patio
- Indicated HRM’s support for a Basic Income program and directed the mayor to write the federal government indicating Council’s support
- Swapped out Councillor Cuttell for Councillor Deagle Gammon on HRM’s Appeals Committee
- Scheduled a public hearing for a number of housekeeping amendments to the Centre Plan
- Opted to proceed with a performance-based contract for municipal towing requirements
- As I wrote about in my July e-news, HRM has provided a grant to the Housing Trust of Nova Scotia to allow the Trust to buy five buildings for affordable housing, including the two apartment buildings at the corner of Portland and Albert Street
- Approved several private road names and the addition of Rocky Jones, Nora Bernard, Dr. Alfred Waddell, and Reconciliation to the commemorative names list as possible replacement names for Cornwallis Street in Halifax
- Opted to defer consideration of amendments to the Bedford Plan to enable redevelopment of two properties in favour of considering those sites in the larger suburban plan instead
- Approved creating a green market incubation program at HRM’s space at VOLTA
- Amended the User Bylaw to enable an automated approach for real estate transactions (mostly commercial) that require confirmation that there are no municipal bylaw infractions outstanding
- Provided revised noise exemptions for the Waegwoltic Club and Halifax Pride
- Gave permission for a fly-past for the Highway or Heroes Ride on August 20
- First reading for new Dartmouth Cove bylaw to assign 50% of the cost of the new road infrastructure to property owners in Dartmouth Cove that will benefit from the project (other 50% is HRM’s as the project has general public benefits too)