Parking Pay Stations
Our lowly parking meters are about to collect their last fees in Downtown Dartmouth before heading off into the sunset. All existing parking meters are being replaced with pay stations as part of HRM’s Parking Modernization Project. Pay stations provide several advantages:
- Pay stations offer more options for payment including credit card, debit, phone, cash, and the HotSpot mobile app
- There is less maintenance for the municipality (a few pay stations versus 100s of meters)
- Pay stations allow space to be used more efficiently by eliminating the wasted area that results from parking small vehicles in a meter’s standardized spaces
- Since payment is electronic and recorded by license plate, enforcement becomes easier
It’s a big job to remove all the existing meters and get the new pay stations up and running, which means there is going to be a lag between the removal of the meters and the pay stations being activated. During the gap, parking will be temporarily free and restricted solely by the Motor Vehicle Act’s prohibition against leaving a vehicle parked on the street for more than 24 hours. Although hourly restrictions won’t be in force, HRM is still asking residents to respect a 2 hour limit in places where meters have been removed because short-term parking availability is important for local businesses. The new parking system is expected to be up and running by early Fall.
Please note, this project isn’t changing the status of parking restrictions. Areas where street parking is currently free will remain so. All that’s changing is how parking is paid.
Bicentennial School Playground
Bicentennial’s aging playground is joining HRM’s parking meters in the dustbin of history. I’m pleased to report that the school’s long awaited new playground will be installed over the next few weeks. In addition to new equipment for the older kids, Bicentennial’s new playground will have space for children under five. Most schools don’t have playground equipment that’s rated for really young children because pre-primary didn’t exist when most school playgrounds were built. This has lead to a situation where the Centre for Education doesn’t permit pre-primaries to use their school’s playground equipment. That will happily no longer be the case at Bicentennial.
The new playground has been funded by HRM, the District 5 capital fund ($20,000), an anonymous private donation, and a grant from the Province. The students of Bicentennial directly contributed to this project through their successful participation in District 5’s first participatory budgeting night back in fall 2017. Nice to see the funds set aside 2.5 years ago being put to use!
The contract for the new playground has been awarded, but, unfortunately, the completion date of October 1 means work will likely stretch into the first few weeks of school. The short-term disruption though will be worth it.
Overdue fines are no longer part of HRM’s library system! All existing fines have been cancelled and no new late fines will be issued.
The decision to drop fines is being made because the library’s core mission is to provide equitable service to everyone. Fines can become a barrier to access, and it’s a barrier that is disproportionately felt by those who have the least ability to pay. These are the very same people who are also likely to be very reliant on library services and who face challenges that make returning loans on time more difficult. That reality is why the American Library Association supports the removal of fines.
Fines have already disappeared in several American library systems including San Francisco and Chicago. In total, over 100 library systems in North America operate fine free and experience has shown that the elimination of fines generally leads to an increase in circulation and a decrease in “lost items.” The decrease in lost items may seem paradoxical, but it makes sense when you consider that some people’s response to a hefty fine is to just never go back to the library, taking whatever they borrowed with them. Prior to 2020, there were no major Canadian libraries operating without fines. That is changing rapidly as HRM joins Calgary, Edmonton, Vaughan, Barrie, and Burnaby in going fine free this year.
One of the big questions around fines is how do we pay for it when fines are part of the Library’s budget? For HRM, going fine free is more of an evolution than a radical change. The Library already regularly forgives fines and routinely offers general amnesty events. The rising demand for e-books combined with a compassionate approach to fines, means that fine revenue has steadily been dropping and now makes up less than 1% of the Library’s overall budget. As a result, the Library expects to absorb the lost fine revenue in their regular budget. Fines have simply become pretty much insignificant to the bottom line. The Library also expects to be able to offer better service as a result of going fine free since staff will no longer have to spend time managing the logistics of fines. Going fine free isn’t just compassionate, it also makes practical sense.
Basketball at the Findlay Community Centre
There is a new spot to shoot hoops in Dartmouth Centre. The Findlay Community Centre now has a basketball net. The net is located behind the Community Centre near the playground and mural. A net at the Findlay was a recurring request that came my way over the last few years. There was some initial staff reluctance to add one to the Findlay, and for a while, converting Pine Street Park’s tennis courts to basketball was under consideration. Further discussions with staff, however, brought the project back around to what the community ask actually was: a net at the Findlay. Staff agreed to repave the asphalt, which will also make a better surface for the community rink, and District 5’s capital fund covered the cost of the actual net. Hopefully the kids and the young at heart will get good use out of the net and surface.
Voters List HRM Election
The next municipal election will take place on October 17, 2020 and in preparation, HRM is updating the permanent voters list. Anyone who is a Canadian Citizen, has lived in Nova Scotia for six months prior to October 6, 2020, is a resident of HRM as of October 6, and is at least 18 years old, is eligible to vote. If you’ve recently moved or turned 18 though, you may not be on the voters list. You can still vote in person without being on the voters list, but being on the list is required to vote electronically or by phone. You can check to see if you’re on the list on the election website here. If you’re not on the list, you can be added by calling the Elections Office at (902)-490-VOTE.
After my last COVID e-newsletter’s blurb about the Acorn People on Pleasant Street, I had several people write me plugging two other pop-up art projects in District 5. So I thought I would share them with a wider audience.
First, there is the “Fraud Lewis” piece that has appeared on a forgotten concrete vehicle barrier at the end of Brookdale Crescent. Two other barriers on Brookdale have also been painted (a fish and a dog), but “Fraud Lewis” is my favourite. Worth a little detour the next time you’re on the Banook Trail. Thanks “Fraud Lewis.”
The second location is the mushrooms of Crichton Park. What started with just a few ceramic mushrooms has blossomed into 100s in the already elaborate front gardens of the house at the corner of Thistle Street and Forest Road. If you like mushrooms, this place has you covered!
COVID has been hard on everyone. It’s great to see these little community building projects in action.
A few weeks ago I received a note from a resident asking what HRM is doing about ticks. Ticks are really a sign of climate change as they expand their range into Nova Scotia and, with them, comes the potential for Lyme Disease. They’re with us now and they aren’t going away. What’s really important is to understand how ticks live so that we can avoid them. Check out this video from Health Canada on how to be tick aware and enjoy the outdoors while minimizing the risk of bringing home unwanted pests.
Tree and Shrub Trimming
I have received a number of notes from residents lately about sidewalks being partially obstructed by overhanging branches and bushes. This is a gentle reminder that it’s every property owner’s responsibility under the Streets Bylaw to ensure that none of their plants obstruct the sidewalk. It’s an easy situation to miss as everything grows so quickly in our short summers, but it’s important to address as the sidewalks need to be open for everyone to use. Looking around my own yard, I noticed that I have some minor trimming to do on the big Forsythia in front of my house this weekend!
Please note that in the case of street trees or vegetation adjacent to HRM owned space, it’s the municipalities job to address the problem. Don’t trim street trees yourself!
The best way to address encroaching vegetation that isn’t yours, whether it’s private property, a street tree, or municipal property, is to call 311 to log the problem. If it’s on private property, a bylaw enforcement officer will visit to remind the property owner of their responsibilities. If the vegetation is HRM’s to deal with, someone with Road Operations or Urban Forestry will come to trim things back. 311 is your friend when it comes to encroaching vegetation.
Dartmouth Gluten-Free Pantry
Are you gluten-free or Celiac and struggle to afford food? Dartmouth’s Gluten-free Pantry is still going strong. Call Hannah Minzloff 902-223-9479 to sign up for a free bi-weekly gluten-free food box. Each box includes a variety of 100% gluten free products and fresh produce. Home delivery is on Tuesdays or pickup on Wednesday at Stairs Memorial United Church, 44 Hester Street. Thanks to community collaboration this is a FREE service during COVID-19.
The Pantry is being supported by the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia. The Foundation is fundraising to keep the project going. If you’re interested/able to donate, you can do so on the Foundation’s website here.
Secondary Suites Public Hearing
September 1, 6:00 pm (continues September 3 if required)
HRM will be holding a virtual public hearing to consider changes to the Regional Plan and all of HRM’s various subplans that would legalize secondary and backyard suites in residential areas across the municipality. The goal is to enable a greater diversity of housing options in a way that doesn’t alter the fundamental fabric of existing communities, and doesn’t create demand for expensive new services.
Since the hearing will take place virtually, anyone wishing to speak will need to notify HRM in advance. To be placed on the speakers list, contact the Clerk’s Office by email email@example.com, by phone at 902-490-4210, or by fax at 902-490-4208. In your message, please include the meeting body (Regional Council) and the planning Case number (21162), in addition to your name, community of residence, email address, and telephone number.
If you have questions about what is proposed, check out the staff report here and/or contact the planner that has been leading this project, Jillian MacLellan, at 902-717-3167 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now – Friday, September 4
HRM is collecting feedback on a development proposal for the corner of Thistle and Maple Streets. The proposed development is a townhouse style with 20 over/under units. Parking and a small playground would be located behind the townhouses. Access would be from Maple Street, but the driveway would only allow right turns in and out due to the proximity of the intersection with Maple Street (earlier versions of this proposal had proposed a regular driveway that would have allowed left turns). You can review details of the project online on HRM’s website here. Feedback received on or before September 4 will be considered by staff as they prepare their recommendation report.
Flower Streets Complete Streets
August 4 – 14
HRM is launching an exciting planning project in the Flower Streets that will look at making design changes to encourage better pedestrian and cycling connections to Sullivan’s Pond/Banook and the Dartmouth Common. This project has come about because the Integrated Mobility Plan identified Dahlia Street as a future local street bikeway that will form part of the IMP’s minimum grid of connected cycling infrastructure.
It’s important to note that a local street bikeway isn’t necessarily a bikelane. A local street bikeway is primarily about diverting and slowing traffic so that bikes and cars can safely share space. Vernon Street in Halifax is an example of a recently built local street bikeway. This project will look at what cycling infrastructure is needed, whether Tulip or Dahlia is the better cycling route, and how it all connects with the multi-use trail on Banook and at Sullivan’s Pond.
While Dahlia’s local bikeway status in the IMP was the initial spark for this project, the scope is bigger than just accommodating bikes. When HRM looks at a street’s underlying design for a project, the municipality uses a complete streets lens, which means thinking about all road users. For pedestrians, there are a couple of big issues in the Flower Streets (1) crossing Victoria Road to get to the Common (2) crossing Crichton Avenue from Dahlia, and (3) the lack of a sidewalk on Oak Street. There really is no safe or practical way to get from the Flower Streets to Sullivan’s Pond or the Common on foot. I have heard complaints from pedestrians about all three areas over the last few years and I have had senior staff out for show and tell several times. I’m very pleased that that work is about to potentially pay off.
The Flower Streets Complete Streets project is in the very early planning phase. Your feedback is important. Check out the HRM Shape Your City Page for opportunities to engage with staff, including a survey, and two online Q&As.
Lot Grading and Stormwater Bylaw Survey
July 20 – August 18
HRM is looking at consolidating and improving existing regulations around lot grading into a new bylaw. The proposed bylaw would apply throughout HRM to all large residential, commercial, and industrial developments, construction of parking lots, and any retaining walls of more than 1.05 meters in height. The bylaw would also impose restrictions on how hauling fill is handled. HRM is also looking at enhancing its stormwater requirements in the new bylaw. You can provide feedback on HRM’s website here.
Construction Noise Bylaw Survey
July 20 – August 31
HRM is considering making changes to the Noise bylaw as it relates to construction. Right now, HRM’s bylaw is fairly permissive, allowing construction activity from 7:00 – 9:30 each weekday, 8:00 – 7:00 on Saturday and 9:00 – 7:00 on Sunday. HRM is seeking feedback on how these times might be adjusted to strike a better balance between the need to get projects done, and giving residents a break from the noise of ongoing work. You can take the survey here.
To keep you informed about what is going on at Council, I’m writing a regular blog after each meeting. Each of my entries is about what I saw as noteworthy from a District 5 perspective and my views on the issues. We might not always agree, but I think it’s important to provide a record of how I voted and why.
Council, July 21
The return of a few significant items including the Cornwallis report, and transit fare technology (no large sized tickets after all). Also assistance to the Nature Trust to protect land in Blue Mountain Birch Cove and renovations of the Woodside Ferry Terminal. Read about it here.
Council, July 7
Sidewalk patio design standards, artisan vending at Ferry Terminal Park, secondary suites, and social procurement. Read about it here.
Given our current COVID shutdown, there are a lot fewer events to report.
Dartmouth Visual Arts Show
August 5 – 30
Craig Gallery, Alderney Landing
The Dartmouth Visual Arts Society is returning to the Craig Gallery. COVID has their show taking place a bit later than planned and without an opening night reception, but it’s still going forward. This is one of my favourite art events each year because of the wide diversity of works. Swing by the Craig Gallery to check out works by over 50 local artists. The Visual Arts Socoety show runs until the end of August.
HRM Rec Van
Wednesday, 9:30 – 11:30 am, July – August
COVID has disrupted formal programming for HRM’s Parks and Rec department, but unstructured play is still a go. HRM’s Rec Van is visiting locations throughout HRM, and two are handy to District 5: Brownlow Park on Friday mornings, and the Dartmouth North Community Centre on Wednesday afternoons. The van will visit both locations all summer long.
Wednesday, 3:00 – 5:00 pm, July – October
With the Woodside Ferry running with many fewer passengers and a fraction of its normal hours, the Common Roots Urban Farm stand is moving locations this year. Rather than setting up right outside the ferry terminal doors, you can find your fresh produce that’s grown right on the Nova Scotia Hospital grounds at 296 Pleasant Street every Wednesday. You can visit the stand or shop online on their website here.
Urban Cycling 101
Wednesdays, July – August
Halifax Cycling Coalition
Do you want to get around the city by bike? The Urban Cycling 101 Course will help you build your confidence to cycle on urban streets. The course will help you to feel safe riding in mixed traffic. Take the course and find a sense of freedom that comes with the simple act of riding a bike.
The Urban Cycling 101 course is intended for adults (18 years of age and older) who know how to ride a bike but want to deepen their skills for riding with traffic in an urban setting. The course is also helpful if you have been riding in the city for a while, but you still have a few questions about the rules of the road. You do need to have your own bike or access to a bike to use for the course. If you don’t have a bike or access to a bike, you can rent one from Halifax Cycles.
Due to COVID-19, Cycling 101 has gone virtual. The course is free and is being offered at several different times over July and August. Check out the Cycling Coalition’s website to learn more here.