Council Update: Home in Dartmouth Crossing, Local Street Bikeways, Heritage Incentives, Names

Residential in Dartmouth Crossing?

Dartmouth Crossing Residential: Before getting into Tuesday’s Council agenda, I wanted to spend a few minutes explaining a debate that we had on Thursday at Harbour East Community Council about residential development in Dartmouth Crossing. The developer of Dartmouth Crossing, North American Development Group, wants to construct two apartment buildings with a total of 325 units on vacant land along Findlay Drive near Costco. Dartmouth Crossing’s excellent track record around stormwater management would continue in the development with a bio-swale and park. If the project is a success, North American’s intention would be to add more residential in future development phases.

Residential area highlighted in orange. Photo: Dartmouth Crossing Presentation

You might be surprised to know that residential development has been enabled in Burnside for decades. The Dartmouth Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) allows for residential development in areas of Burnside designated as Burnside Comprehensive Development District via a development agreement process. The key criteria for residential in Burnside set out in the MPS is it can’t be located in places where it might conflict with industrial or commercial uses. The MPS identifies the whole of Dartmouth Crossing as potential for residential and the Regional Plan identifies it as a growth area.

Burnside Comprehensive Development District where the MPS allows residential to be considered

While the Dartmouth MPS sets the general policy framework for Burnside, it’s the Dartmouth Land-Use Bylaw (LUB) that lays out specific requirements through zoning. The Findlay Drive lands where North American wants to build apartments are designated Burnside Comprehensive, but the zoning is actually Industrial-2. Although the MPS allows residential, the I-2 zone prohibits it, necessitating Dartmouth Crossing’s application to Council.

This wasn’t an easy call. On one hand, allowing residential development in Dartmouth Crossing would put people close to work, make transit in Burnside more viable, and take advantage of infrastructure that already exists (roads, sewer, waterlines etc). On the other hand though, there is nothing about Dartmouth Crossing that can be considered a complete community. The place is low-density, car centric, not walkable, and far removed from key institutions like schools that help make community. Two lone apartment buildings won’t create a community in a place that hasn’t been designed for one.

The best place for residential in Dartmouth Crossing would have been on the second floor of the building’s on the fake Main Street. Rather than a Disneyland sort of fantasy Main Street with 2nd floor windows that have nothing behind them surrounded by acres of surface parking, Dartmouth Crossing could have been built as a complete community with residential integrated in. The Dartmouth Crossing residential proposal that Council got has the feel of planning that meets all the technical criteria without meeting any of the fundamentals. The letter of planning, not the spirit.

I spent a fair bit of time looking through the Dartmouth MPS and the LUB looking for what policy grounds might exist to reject the proposal. I did so because Council has to base its decisions on the existing plans. If Council can’t articulate the rationale for a decision through policy, then its decision can be overturned on appeal to the Utility and Review Board. The Dartmouth MPS and LUB says a lot about tangible things like traffic and setbacks and about minimizing impacts on existing neighbourhooed, but they say virtually nothing about creating new complete communities. Not that surprising when you consider that the MPS and LUB date back to 1978. With nothing concrete to hang my hat on to support rejecting the proposal and some arguments in favour, I reluctantly supported the rezoning. Councillors Nicoll and Mancini had similar reservations, but reached the same conclusion. Harbour East voted to approve the rezoning 5-0.

Local Street Bikeways: On the main Council agenda, it was a fairly quiet week. The most significant item was the creation of two new local street bikeway routes on the Peninsula: Vernon and Allan Streets. A local street bikeway is basically a side street that has been prioritized for cycling use, but that doesn’t have the traffic volumes or speeds to require truly separated bike lanes. Local street bikeways are more than painted lines. They can include a whole bunch of design interventions from stop signs to traffic barriers. They can be beneficial beyond just creating space for cyclists in that they can also address traffic complaints. Vancouver is notable for their very extensive network of cycling lanes.

Diagonal Diverters allows bikes through but cut off car traffic

The design for Halifax’s new local street bikeways is notable in that it includes a first for HRM at the intersection of Allan and Harvard Streets: a fully engineered diagonal diverter. A diagonal diverter is an intersection that discourages car traffic by blocking through movement while still leaving a gap in the middle for bikes. They make sense in places where reducing short-cutting is needed to make a local street bikeway rather than a protected lane a viable approach. Diverters obviously have a significant traffic calming effect: folks on Alan from Monastary Lane to Harvard will no doubt see a significant reduction in the amount of traffic on their street.

Local Street Bikeways in Dartmouth (teal). Protected lanes (orange) and off street greenways (green)

Over in Dartmouth, the Integrated Mobility Plan identifies Slayter, Pine, Dahlia, Harris, Shore, Lyle, Leaman and several side street going from Pinecrest to Farrel as candidates for local street bikeways. Expect to hear more about local street bikeways over the next several years.

2018 Heritage Grant recipients in District 5

Heritage Incentives: Council approved a number of grants under HRM’s Heritage Property Program. The Heritage Property Program provides modest grants to owners of heritage properties that are carrying out exterior work. The grants cover 50% of eligible costs and cap out at $10,000. The program is mainly applicable to homeowners who are carrying out routine work. It’s not a program that is a good fit for more substantial projects and it’s not effective in terms of providing ongoing incentives for heritage registration (you only benefit when work is needed). Council has asked for a report on expanding the grant program and other heritage incentives including tax relief and deferring tax increases from restorations, so there will be a more in-depth look at heritage incentives in the future. For now though, six heritage building’s in District 5 will benefit this year from the current program.

Grand Chief Gabriel Sylliboy

HRM Asset Naming: One bit of fairly routine business was the addition of Grand Chief Gabriel Sylliboy’s name to HRM’s commemorative names list. Chief Sylliboy was a Mi’kmaq Chief from Cape Breton who an early defender of aboriginal treaty rights in Nova Scotia. He was arrested and charged with hunting muskrat out of season in 1927. Chief Sylliboy fought the charge in court, arguing that he had a treaty right to hunt. He was unsuccessful and died in 1965. The subject to Mi’kmaq treaty rights to hunt and fish arose again though and in 1985 the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the Sylliboy case. The Province of Nova Scotia went onto grant Sylliboy a pardon and apology in 2017, putting Sylliboy in the same category as Viola Desmond. What Council had to consider was whether Chief Sylliboy’s name should go on the commemorative names list.

The municipality allows anyone to influence the names used for streets, parks, and municipal facilities by filling out an application. Anyone can download the form here. After an application is received, it goes to the HRM Asset Naming Committee, which is primarily a staff committee whose membership includes the civic addressing co-ordinator, archivist, HRM Cultural and Heritage staff and Councillors from the relevant districts. The Asset Naming Committee then makes recommendations on commemorative names to Council. Having a name put on the commemorative list doesn’t guarantee when or where it’ll be used, just that it’ll be considered as the need for names arises in the future. The main place commemorative names show up is in new subdivisions where the asset naming policy requires that half the new streets be named from the list.

The applicant for Chief Sylliboy asked for his name to appear on a park on the Peninsula. Adding Chief Sylliboy to HRM’s list is a fairly routine process, but the application referenced Cornwallis Park as a potential option. Since everything Cornwallis is a sensitive topic, this resulted in some of the reporting and social media chatter turning into Council considering a new name for Cornwallis Park rather than what we were actually doing, adding another name to the commemorative list. I’m sure that at some point down the line, Council will have a discussion about the name of Cornwallis Park and Cornwallis Street, but that’s not what adding Sylliboy’s name to the list was about or what we discussed on Tuesday. All that happened Tuesday was a routine addition to the list. Nothing more, nothing less. I was happy to support the addition of Sylliboy’s name, regardless of where it ends up being used, as we have almost no commemoration of Mi’kmaq history in HRM. He’s a deserving Nova Scotian who fought against injustice and who history has roundly vindicated. Council voted 16-0 to add Sylliboy to the list.


  • Approved the revised traffic calming administrative order that now no longer bars streets with a bus route from being considered and eliminates the need for a neighbourhood votes
  • Gave an exemption to the District Capital Fund Policy to allow the Dartmouth Councillors to each contribute towards the cost of new uniforms for Dartmouth United Soccer (separate clubs have merged)
  • Approved a “performance” by the Canadian Armed Forces Parachute Team for the Halifax Common during the Tattoo
  • Awarded paving contracts for several locations (none in District 5 in this batch)
  • Authorized staff to purchase 6810 Bayers Road for the future road widening project that will create bus only lanes on Bayers Road
  • Carried over community grants for the Sac-A-Wa Canoe Club and the the Sheet Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce to 2018 since the other chunk of money the two organizations need from ACOA wasn’t awarded in 2017 as originally expected
  • Adopted amendments to Administrative Order 1 to allow citizens to serve on the Audit and Finance Standing Committee to comply with recent changes to provincial legislation
  • Directed staff to pursue federal funding through the Low Carbon Economy Challenge for a number of environmental projects, two of which could be enhancing the geo-vault at Alderney Landing and installing a Cogen Plant at the Dartmouth Sportsplex to generate electricity
  • Asked for staff reports on the cost of licensing puppies (they’re not eligible for the reduced rate), and a public information campaign around ticks
  • Made appointments to Halifax Port Authority and the Regional Watershed Advisory Board


  1. The problem of Dartmouth Crossing in the future is one which will take some creative thinking. Of course, thinking “outside the box” in a “big-box” complex won’t be easy. 😉 However, it may be possible to morph this horrible development into a community or neighborhood. First of all, how about small shuttle busses or a tram, to take people from one area to another? Another streetscape added, with medical, recreational, and practical small businesses? Perhaps this could have a covered street, or maybe a mall. Another food store. Schools, of course. Churches? Baker drive is another example of not-a-neighborhood, only slightly better than D.C. People can’t walk from place to place. Who is dealing with solutions for getting the suburbs humanized? Transition–that’s what we need. I’m sure you have ideas about this, Sam. How about a symposium on how to get from Here to There–from Now to Then? We can’t just moan and groan about this enormous problem.

    • Thanks Jane. Once HRM is wrapped up with the Centre Plan we really need to tackle the problem of building better suburbs. Similar sort of process for suburban growth areas as was done for Main Street and the Regional Centre. It really wouldn’t take much to turn Dartmouth Crossing into something else. So-called sprawl repair is a growing focus in planning as the suburbs aren’t going anywhere. Need to stop repeating the same mistakes and fix what’s already built.

  2. Somehow, HaRM should become proactive about pedestrians trying to navigate around the 100 series highways that cut up the city. I’ve seen kids walking along the #118 #4 intersection going towards Woodland Ave. Lancaster Ridge area. I’m guessing they were coming from the movies at Dartmouth Crossing. If there’s changes proposed for the Baptist Church & Home Depot property areas, I hope pedestrian and bicycle through traffic is a major part of any construction plans. Maybe a tunnel under the #111?

      • Another area that needs improvement for crossing over the ‘Circ’ is near Portland Street. The existing vehicular overpass has a very narrow sidewalk for pedestrians without any protection from nearby cars. Biking the route and the intersections on both sides is risky. The trail group PLATA (Penhorn Lake Area Trail Association) has a study done with Ekistics a couple years ago with regard to improving Active Transportation in the area and some ideas from that were to add a ramp to the existing overpass off Harris or to create a new Cyling/Walking bridge East of the overpass that could link the Sobey’s site to the Portland Estates trail. Either of these suggestions would really help encourage citizens on both sides of the ‘Circ’ to walk or wheel the unfriendly divide.

        • The Circ crossing at Portland is definitely a hostile mess. The sidewalk there wasn’t even designed to be a sidewalk. It’s technically snow storage. 1960s priorities. The overpass belongs to the Province. At some point, HRM and the Province are going to have to do something with it.

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