Council Update: Prince Albert/Glenwood, Budget 2019, Redesigning Spring Garden Road

Grahams Grove Area. Development site highlighted in blue. Banook Shore (5 storeys at peak) and low-rise development

Meeting agenda April 16, 2019 here

Prince Albert Glenwood: As probably most folks in Dartmouth have heard, the developer who owns the property at the corner of Prince Albert Road and Glenwood Avenue has changed dramatically changed their plans. Instead of the approved eight storey apartment building, the developer intends to build a 16 storey hotel. I broke the news earlier this month here.

At Council, I asked for a staff report to look at what options HRM might have to stop this project. Sixteen storeys is far bigger than anything else in the area by a significant margin and will be a more intensive use than an apartment building. An apartment building would also better fit the need for housing in the area. It was a long and divisive process to approve the eight storey apartment building and it’s really hard to see the developer walk away from that to pursue the as-of-right hotel option. The fact that the Centre Plan’s new new rules restricting height in the area to six storeys are just months away from being law just adds insult to injury. The developer is within their legal rights, but a large hotel isn’t the community’s vision for the area. Legal or not, this isn’t the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, I have had the chance to discuss with staff and HRM’s options are very limited. The hotel is as-of-right so it’s unlikely that there will be any planning grounds to stop this, although staff are looking into it. HRM could of course buy the property, but the cost of buying out a 16 storey hotel development would be hefty, and likely too much for the municipality to justify (if I put it forward at Council it would face almost certain defeat). The long-shot option to avert this that I see the most potential in would be a land swap with the developer. Dartmouth could use a new hotel and there are several places Downtown where taller buildings would be a good fit. This is still likely a long-shot though as the developers would have to be willing to entertain relocating. The project is quite far advanced at this stage and it may not be possible for them to reconsider given the contracts they’ve entered into.

We’ll see what comes back in the staff report, but I’m not optimistic. This is one of those situations though where it’s worth turning over every stone. The hotel is the wrong fit for the neighbourhood and Lake Banook and it shouldn’t be allowed.

Budget 2019: Council’s four month journey through HRM’s finances concluded with the approval of the 2019/2020 budget. The budget will see the actual tax rate decrease because increases in assessments exceed the 2.3% increase in the average bill that HRM needs to cover the municipality’s rising costs. The process to get to 2.3% was quite involved with Council going through each department’s budget and making choices about what we wanted to fund and what we didn’t. The budget is a collective process and no one on Council gets everything they want out of it. 2.3% is higher than the 1.9% that some were looking for, but it’s also much less than the 2.9% originally proposed by staff. No one ever likes to pay more, but a 0% increase would mean cutting back on services because HRM’s costs go up each and every year (salaries, inflation, etc). I’m, on the whole, pleased with the end result. Here are some of the highlights for District 5

  • A new washroom/change room for Penhorn Lake to replace the decrepit 1970s cinder block structure that’s there now
  • Alderney renovations are moving on from the Pedway to the main lobby by the library
  • Cycling upgrades for the Dartmouth side of the Macdonald Bridge and Wyse Road
  • New tree planters and brick repairs on Portland Street in Downtown Dartmouth
  • The extra ferry crew that was hired during the Big Lift and that I have had to fight to keep for the last two years is now a permanent part of HRM’s budget. All day 15 minute service and Sunday hours are secure
  • Major reinvestment in Northbrook Park
  • Major roadwork on Chadwick Street (adding a sidewalk!), Prince Albert Road from Hawthorne to Ochterloney, and Mic Mac Boulevard
  • Launch of a two year project to fix our aging Woodside Ferry Terminal
  • Money for lakes including implementation of recommendations in the Banook Pollution Study, continuation of the weed harvesting program, and a study to look at options for what a new HRM lake water monitoring program will look like
  • Increase in the tree planting budget to start catching up on the targets set in our Urban Forestry Master Plan
  • Start of actual construction for the Cogswell redevelopment (not District 5 obviously but super awesome to see this going forward)

The final approval of HRM’s budget is usually a formality given all the debate and votes that go into structuring it along the way. That wasn’t the case this time around as Councillor Cleary proposed a last minute amendment to remove $500,000 from the fleet budget for an armoured vehicle for the police department. I supported Cleary’s motion to cancel the purchase as did Councillors Nicoll, Smith, Mancini, and Whitman, but that wasn’t enough, and the motion failed 6-8. I was okay with cancelling the armoured vehicle purchase because the RCMP already have an armoured vehicle that is stored here in HRM and that, if needed, could be used. The odds of needing two armoured vehicles in our tiny, relatively peaceful Province, at the same time seems fairly remote. Since the vote to remove the armoured vehicle from the budget failed, HRM will be going ahead with the purchase.

Spring Garden Road “stoplet” from last summer

Redesigning Spring Garden Road: HRM’s next major streetscaping project, a redesign of Spring Garden Road, was approved by Council. Spring Garden Road is probably the busiest street in Atlantic Canada. Data collected as part of this project revealed that the vast majority of people on the street get there by bus or by foot. Just 20% came by car and yet, the allocation of space on the street largely prioritizes vehicles. The sidewalks can often feel cramped given the volumes. We’ve had a taste of what street could be through the temporary bus stoplet that HRM piloted last summer and through the wider sidewalks in front of the redeveloped Doyle Block across from the Central Library. After considering several options HRM, has decided to significantly widen the sidewalks on Spring Garden. Below is the concept plan (dotted lines are the existing sidewalk edges).

Expanding the sidewalks mean that HRM has to minimize the roadspace. This means that buses will no longer have the ability to pull out of traffic to load and unload passengers, they will, instead, simply stop at the curb edge and traffic behind them will have to wait. Apart from one space in front of the Lord Nelson just up from Park Lane, loading zones will also largely disappear from Spring Garden to make room for sidewalks. Most delivery trucks will have to park on side streets. Since there will be no space for left-turning lanes, left turns onto side streets will be restricted during peak hours (7:00 am – 7:00 pm) to ensure that a single left turning vehicle doesn’t block traffic while they wait for a gap. HRM expects that 20-40% of the existing vehicle traffic will actually switch to other routes because of these changes. Given that the vast majority of people on Spring Garden get there by foot or transit, reprioritizing the available space to favour pedestrians makes sense on this busy, walkable, Downtown street.

When the Spring Garden Road project is complete, HRM will have the opportunity to consider other streets for future streetscaping projects. A staff report identifying options for the streetscaping program will come to Council later this year. Streets such as Quinpool, Agricola, and Ochterloney would be good contenders for future projects.


  • Requested a staff report on a washroom facility at Graves Oakley Park
  • Approved amendments to the development agreement for St. Margaret’s Square in Upper Tantallon to allow for additional commercial development
  • Awarded a sole source purchase for fareboxes to GFI Genfare
  • Added the Halifax Partnership as a party to HRM’s MOU with the municipality’s post-secondary institutions and added “innovation” as an identified area of mutual interest
  • Opted not to make changes to HRM’s Vending Bylaw that would have allowed vendors to keep their spots during special events
  • Released Tennis Canada from the requirement to pay back a portion of HRM’s grant for their new facility in Bedford due to higher than expected construction costs. Requirement was that HRM would receive part of our grant back if the federal government contributed to the project
  • Officially renamed North West Arm Drive Dunbrack Street
  • Wrote off a number of debts to HRM, which is part of changing the governance model for the municipality’s multi-district facilities (Sportsplex, Cole Harbour Place, Canada Games etc)
  • Reallocated funds in the Cogswell project to offset increases in the design phase (additional consultation that was required by Council and design changes)
  • Approved an exemption to the District Capital policy to allow Councillor Hendsbee to fund the Lawrencetown Beach Volunteer Fire Department’s civic address program
  • Directed staff to gather traffic data for Winter Street in Halifax West as part of a potential tactical urbanism project
  • Added Willow Street and the Cole Harbour Open Space Plan corridors to the list of candidate routes in the Active Transportation Priorities Plan
  • Awarded grants for repair work to heritage properties which included 32 Dundas, 47 Pleasant, 280 Portland, 72 Johnstone, and 70 Victoria in District 5.


  1. Sam: top marks to you for working tirelessly to keep your constituents up-to-date on civic matters important to the future of the District and city. Busy days at City Hall, indeed.

    Some personal thoughts for consideration:

    Hotel at corner of Glenwood/Prince Albert Road – Let’s move on. What the supposedly smart people assumed couldn’t/wouldn’t ever happen has come to pass: the developer is exercising a long-standing legal right to move forward with a project that never required consultation or approval in the first instance. To all those who opposed an 8-9-10-12-whatever-story apartment building, congratulations. Now we get a 16-story hotel. Looking at you, Gloria McCluskey, et al. Time to focus on pressing matters of importance, e.g:

    1 – Centre Plan. Delays in its approval, and therefore implementation, have been and are unconscionable. Now that budget deliberations are complete, the single over-riding priority for Council must be to GET THE CENTRE PLAN APPROVED ASAP! Had the Plan or something similar been approved years ago the Glenwood-Prince Albert hotel fiasco in all likelihood could have been avoided entirely.

    2 – Health of urban lakes. The canoe zealots and their acolytes (they know who they are, and so do you, Sam) continue to spout ad nauseum the mantra of Lake Banook as a “world-class flat-water facility”. Which it might arguably be, but not for long if current inaction persists. And not because of (doubtful) sun-shading and wind shear effects from potential (and much-needed) multi-story building development.

    The alarming realization is Lake Banook is in danger of turning into a cesspool that may very well precipitate a public health crisis. Odd, isn’t it? Public beaches on the Banook shoe have to be closed every summer but the triumvirate of canoe clubs at the west end still host summer camps with hundreds of kiddies splashing about. And while Banook is considered by some to be the Holy Grail of our local lakes, it isn’t the only HRM body of freshwater that needs help. Others are in trouble. Our entire urban recreational watershed urgently requires care and attention. A frustrating situation, insomuch as the Province has responsibility for, but apparently little interest in, any body of water that lies inside the HRM boundary. The $500K that somehow ended up being approved for a police rescue vehicle (sanitized police-speak for what is in fact an armoured fighting vehicle) would have bought a lot of water sampling.

    Spring Garden Road make-over – while in the short-term it will be an interesting novelty and is likely to garner rave reviews, as a long-term proposition it is difficult to be optimistic. Changing sidewalk and roadway width is not going to improve the lot of merchants in the least. Instead of asking people on the sidewalks how they arrived at Spring Garden Road, the question should have been put to customers inside the shops, bars, restaurants, etc. As a shopping destination and attractive public destination Spring Garden Road, like Barrington Street before it, continues a sad slow slide into tawdriness and irrelevance. The usual suspects will be loathe to admit it, but from Barrington Street to the Lord Nelson Hotel SGR is notorious as a daytime hang-out for panhandlers and nighttime location for assorted intoxicated rascals. Until these matters are dealt with any attempt at rejuvenation is unlikely to have enduring success.

  2. Whew! I envy your ability, Sam to get right into the nuts and bolts of the issues. You have the ability to illuminate both sides of issues, and then enunciate them succinctly for your readers. And, you don’t hesitate to avoid beating around the bush, but you make your choice and justify it. Thank you very much for the work you put into this. It is much appreciated!

    • Thanks Carl for the kind words. I’m glad you find value in the summaries. They take some time to put together so I’m always pleased to hear that people find them useful. Thanks.

  3. Thank you for your prompt reply to my questions/comments. I appreciate all your work at Council and the frustration it must on occasion cause you. Bravo Zulu to you for all your hard work on our behalf.

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