Well this is it for 2019! Amazing how time flies. I want to wish you and your family happy holidays and all the best for 2020. The New Year is a time to reflect on the year that was. As always, there were ups and downs at City Hall. Here are some of the highlights from my District 5 perspective:
- The long awaited Centre Plan is now real, bringing a new vision, and predictability to development in Halifax and Dartmouth. Clarity for residents and developers on where we’ll accommodate growth, and what form it will take.
- Chadwick Street was redesigned and, although the construction turned into a much longer saga than expected, the end result is a street that has space for pedestrians and reduced speeds through traffic calming. A major transformation.
- HRM and the Province have come to a working agreement to fix the dangerous intersection of Woodland Avenue, Mic Mac Boulevard, Highway 118, and Lancaster Drive. Details still need to be finalized and the project needs to be budgeted for in future years, but a roundabout is in the works.
- Council agreed to a pilot project to try and deal with the invasive Floating Yellow Heart that has taken over Little Albro Lake and that could threaten other lakes in Dartmouth. The first actual attempt by any order of government to tackle the issue.
- HRM launched a pilot program, allowing kids 12 and under to ride transit for free.
- Trees in planters were added to Portland Street, bringing needed greenery without having to wait for silva cells to be installed during some future paving project.
- The Sullivan’s Pond Palm Tree’s winter protection was transformed from ugly pine box into a canvass for a temporary art installation. Thanks Dart Gallery!
- Long neglected Northbrook Park finally got some attention with a new playground. Planning for work on the rest of the park, including paths and lighting, is underway and will be phased in future years.
- District 5’s third participatory budgeting process saw some new non-profits and programs receive funding. Three years in and enthusiasm for participatory budgeting hasn’t waned with over 400 people once again showing up to vote.
- HRM and Develop NS entered into a partnership to have Develop NS manage the Alderney wharf, bringing Develop NS’s program of day berths to the Dartmouth waterfront. Dock and dine is now possible in Downtown Dartmouth.
- HRM became one of the first municipalities in Canada to declare a Climate Emergency, and then, over 10,000 people took to the streets in September. HRM’s Climate Change Plan will be released early in 2020 and will come to Council in the spring. I expect concrete proposals to decarbonize HRM.
- On the gloomy side, the Centre Plan arrived too late to stop the Prince Albert/Glenwood developer from switching his development from the hard-fought 8 storey residential project to an as-of-right 16 storey hotel. A sad end to a long and frustrating saga.
- Also on the negative side, Council voted to provide the Schooners with $20 million towards a stadium. Funding is contingent on the Schooners finding an acceptable site and convincing the Province to provide the rest. I lost the argument that it’s a high-risk deal and that we have other more pressing priorities for our limited capital dollars.
- The Sullivan’s Pond Geese were the stars of District 5’s soap opera. The four new geese and the six older geese initially formed separate flocks, but eventually coalesced as one. There was excitement when one of the geese sat on a clutch of eggs, and then sadness when the eggs turned out to be duds. The year ended tragically when one of the new geese attacked a senior, badly injured her in the resulting fall. Hopefully some of the geese can return to the Pond in 2020 and that it’ll be a quieter year!
- Council accepted the Cogswell plan. A tender award is expected in early 2020 with demolition and construction to follow.
- Dartmouth went through, hopefully, the last summer of water restrictions as the new dam at Lake Major was finished, giving Halifax Water more storage capacity and the ability to regulate the flow out of the Lake.
- The Sportsplex reopened to positive reviews and was renamed after the Zatzman family in recognition of their donation towards programming at the facility.
- The Halifax Port Authority finalized their plans to accommodate larger vessels. Implication for Dartmouth is the container yard isn’t moving across the harbour, but a cruise terminal might be. More to come on that in 2020.
- HRM purchased additional lands at Blue Mountain Birch Cove, moving the municipality closer towards completion of the envisioned Wilderness Park.
It was quite the year! Thank you for following my blog and newsletter. Being your councillor certainly doesn’t fit into a 9-5 box and there are occasionally days that can only be described as frustrating, but the work is really rewarding. It’s a privilege to be able to solve problems with you and to make our little corner of the world a better place. Thank you for your continued trust in me.
Downtown Dartmouth Infrastructure Project: All may seem quiet, but planning work for the Downtown Dartmouth Infrastructure Project has been moving ahead. If you’ve missed my previous entries, the project is a whole bunch of things all wrapped up together. It’s daylighting the rest of the Sawmill River, fixing the intersection of Portland/Alderney/Prince Albert, connecting the Harbour Trail to the Banook/Shubenacadie Trails, changing Alderney Drive from a suburban style parkway into a complete street, further improving Starr Park, and enabling redevelopment of Dartmouth Cove. It’s a transformative piece of work!
The project team recently had Fathom Studios complete a render of the current plan showing what the block between Dundas and Alderney could look like in the future. For a full-size view, click here.
So what’s next? There is at least three years worth of work ahead. HRM still needs to finish planning and design work and acquire a few parcels of real estate from adjacent property owners. That’ll take at least 2020 to finish. The first phase of construction will follow and will involve extending Dundas Street across the Canal into Dartmouth Cove. It’s important to extend Dundas before Phase 2 of the daylighting project gets started so that the new road connection can serve as a detour during construction. Halifax Water had originally been hoping to get started in 2021, but that is now looking like 2022.
The Downtown Dartmouth project’s main risk is funding. HRM has started its capital budget deliberations and the total cost of every potential capital project identified for the next three years exceeded HRM’s available cash by over $300 million. Staff had to make some tough choices in preparing the draft budget. Unfortunately, the Downtown Dartmouth project ended up in the unfunded pile.
While I get that HRM doesn’t have the money for everything that we want to do all at once, I was still disappointed that the Downtown Dartmouth project wasn’t included. It hits all sorts of HRM’s strategic goals, from transportation, to encouraging redevelopment in a growth area, to climate change mitigation. Plus, delay comes with some significant risk and opportunity costs. At least two developers in Dartmouth Cove want to proceed with projects, but can’t until HRM sorts out what Dartmouth Cove is going to look like. On Halifax Water’s side, the old pipe that’s still underground won’t wait forever and a repeat rainstorm like Hurricane Beth could result in flooding. If HRM delays, we risk not being ready when Halifax Water wants to proceed, with unknown potential implications for securing federal funding for the much more expensive Phase 2 daylighting work.
The good news is that, although the Downtown Dartmouth project wasn’t included in the default budget, it’s not dead yet. I was very pleased that my Council colleagues supported me in moving it to the budget options list. Council will look at it again in March or April once we’ve finished going through each department’s operational budget and have the full picture of what all our various choices mean for taxes, debt, and services. I’m hopeful that Council will, at that time, find the money to keep this project moving. More to come on this in the New Year.
Capital Budget: It’s that time of year again, budget season has begun at City Hall. Council started with the capital budget and HRM’s various departments have no shortage of suggestions about what needs to be fixed/improved over the next three years. The problem is the list exceeded HRM’s available funding by over $300 million, forcing some difficult choices. It’s important to note that the budget is still a draft and, based on past experience, it will be adjusted and modified based on Council’s direction.
So what capital projects are in the draft budget of note for District 5?
- Potential funding for the new building/washroom at Grahams Grove (2021?)
- Renovations for the Alderney Library in 2023 (separate project from the carryover lobby renovation)
- Woodside Ferry Terminal renovations (2020-2021)
- Regional Centre Bike Network (2020 projects: Wyse Road, Penhorn Lake, potential AT crossing over Circ to link Banook and Waverley)
- Replacement green for the Dartmouth Lawn Bowling Club in Woodside,
- Replacement playground for Bicentennial Elementary
- Upgrades for Banook Boardwalk
- Design work for improvements at Silvers Hill, and Birch Cove
- Design study for Windmill Road.
- Prince Albert Road redesign and paving at Grahams Grove
- Repaving Bedford Street and Demetrous Lane (paving projects beyond 2020 aren’t identified)
Some of the budget’s significant initiatives beyond District 5 include funding for HRM’s climate change plan, the Cogswell redevelopment, and Forum project.
With any budget, alongside the “what’s in” there is always the “what’s out” list. As noted, I was disappointed that the Downtown Dartmouth Infrastructure Project wasn’t funded in staff’s draft budget, but I was pleased that my colleagues supported moving it to the options list for further consideration. Other heart breakers that didn’t make it include the Dartmouth/Cole Harbour phase of Transit’s Moving Forward Plan, a splash pad program, and the Macdonald Bridge Bikeway ramp.
I expect HRM will find the money to finish Moving Forward since it has produced ridership gains elsewhere in HRM. Not finishing Moving Forward would leave the municipality with a transit network that’s not fully implemented! That’ll be a discussion for 2021. The Macdonald Bridge Bikeway is in the unfunded list for 2022 so that too will be a discussion for another day. There has been a lot of interest in splash pads at City Hall and they’ve joined the Downtown Dartmouth project on the options list for further consideration. HRM’s recently adopted Aquatics Strategy prioritizes three locations for splash pads over the next few years: Dartmouth, Timberlea, and Eastern Passage. The funding would likely build one per year and it’s not known what order construction might proceed in or what impact community fundraising may have in terms of timing or enhancements.
Although the budget process is lengthy and, at times, messy, it’s pretty neat that this all happens in public. HRM’s budget doesn’t emerge from a backroom fully formed. It emerges as a draft and then gets revised and modified in public. Municipal government might be messy, but there is a reason it’s often said that it’s the form of government that is closest to the people.
One final note on the budget. Budget committee meetings always have time for public participation. It’s one of the few opportunities where members of the public have the chance to address Council as a whole. So far, we’ve heard from folks speaking in favour of Council spending money on splash pads, road safety, sidewalks, and a new community centre in Sheet Harbour. Council is scheduled to finalize the capital budget’s options list on January 7 and we’ll then be into setting, broadly, where taxes are heading on January 15. Departmental budget presentations will follow later.
Penhorn Lake Washroom: Never has demolition looked so sweet. The old cinder block washroom at Penhorn Lake is no more. The old building served us well, but it was way past the end of its life. In the spring, HRM will construct a new washroom at Penhorn Lake to take its place. The plan is to, hopefully, have the new building finished in time for the 2020 swim season. Penhorn Lake is well-used and it’s also, consistently, one of the cleanest of HRM’s supervised beaches. I’m very pleased to see a new building coming to the Lake so that everyone can continue to enjoy this gem.
Halifax Water and Lead: Halifax Water’s lead removal program might be about to increase in scope. Halifax Water is applying to the Utility and Review Board for permission to fund the full removal of privately-owned lead lines. Lead is an important issue in District 5 since there are many homes here that were built before 1960. The City of Dartmouth replaced the publicly-owned lead pipes before amalgamation, but, often, homeowners didn’t replace their portion of the pipe (from the property line in). The result is there are still many lead pipes in Dartmouth on private property.
It’s increasingly clear that there is no safe level when it comes to lead exposure. Health Canada recently cut its lead guideline in half from 10 ug/L to 5 ug/L, but also indicated that the goal shouldn’t be 5 ug/L, it should be to reduce lead levels to the lowest possible concentration. Utilities across North America have been increasingly focussed on removing all sources of lead contamination from municipal water and recent reporting by the Star has sparked a surge in interest. Halifax Water went from having 3-4 phone calls about lead a day to 100s.
Halifax Water has been a leader in research and practice and for the last two years has offered a grant program to help homeowners cover the cost of replacing their privately-owned pipes. The grant program covers 25% of the cost up to a maximum of $2,500. The uptake wasn’t what Halifax Water had hoped for though and they’re now applying to the Utility and Review Board for permission to cover the full cost of replacing privately-owned lead lines.
Taking over responsibility for privately-owned lines will allow Halifax Water to proceed by street rather than by individual property owner and will better position the Utility to take advantage of opportunities to coordinate lead line replacements with HRM paving projects. The result is we’ll get the lead out of the water supply quicker, an individual’s finances will no longer be a limiting factor in addressing this public health issue, and overall costs will be reduced by 30-35%. It makes senses. I hope the Utility and Review Board approves the request.
Starr Park Plaque: The National Historic Event plaque for Starr Manufacturing is, for the first time, out of storage and on display in Starr Park. Starr Manufacturing was designated as a National Historic Event back in 2012, but because Starr Park was very much a construction site, it wasn’t possible to place the plaque on site until recently. While there is still work to be done in recognizing Starr’s contribution to Dartmouth’s history, it’s a good first step to have the plaque out on display. For more information, checkout the Parks Canada release from 2012 here.
Volunteer Awards Nominations: Know someone in the community who is indispensable? Who puts in tons of time and effort on behalf of others? Think they should be acknowledged for that? Well the HRM Volunteer Awards is for you.
HRM is currently seeking nominations for its 2020 Volunteer Awards program, an annual event that puts a spotlight on residents and groups who donate their time and skills to make our community a better place. The nomination deadline has been recently extended to Tuesday, December 31. Nominations must be submitted in one of three award categories: adult, youth (ages 13-19), and community group. Recipients will be notified in writing and will be invited to a reception. I have attended the awards night each year and it really is a lovely celebration of the people who make HRM a great place to live.
If you know of someone who should be acknowledged, I encourage you to nominate them. Detailed nomination criteria and applications can be accessed online here.
Coming Here: We’ve had a few servings now of the white stuff so it’s worth reiterating HRM’s approach to snow and how you can help make the season more manageable. Checkout the Public Service Announcement from Winter Works below:
Preparing your property for winter is essential to HRM’s ability to properly clear streets and sidewalks of snow and ice when needed. Follow these simple steps:
- Remove planters, lawn decorations and any other portable objects near the sidewalk.
- When bad weather is in the forecast, safely store items that may still be used during the winter
- Mark any permanent structures or objects with a reflector that will be visible above the snow. This helps crews identify obstacles.
- Trim any tree branches and shrubs that originate from your property. These can obstruct access and visibility for snow-clearing equipment.
- When parked in a driveway, make sure your vehicle isn’t hanging over the sidewalk. Overhanging vehicles are obstacles for crews and prevent proper clearing.
If you do incur property damage as a result of snow clearing, please report it to 311 so it can be assessed when the weather improves.
Never clear snow from your property onto the street or sidewalk. It is against By-Law S-300. This is a serious problem that can cause safety issues for pedestrians and other users as it complicates clearing for crews. When this happens, crews are often forced to double back, delaying service on the rest of their routes.
Residents are reminded to secure off-street parking for the winter months so that snow plow operators can safely and efficiently clear the streets and sidewalks. The overnight winter parking ban will be in place during declared weather events between December 15 and March 31. Vehicles obstructing snow clearing equipment will be ticketed or towed, particularly in priority areas such as bus routes and streets around hospitals and schools. You can get notifications on when the parking ban is in force via hfxALERT. Sign up online here, or call 311.
HRM is changing its communication strategy during winter storms. For minor (0-5 cm) and average (5-15 cm) snowfalls, updates will be posted three times a day (7 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m.) on HRM’s service updates page and via @hfxgov on Twitter. For major snowfalls (15+ cm), updates will be posted four times a day (additional update at 8:00 pm).
We can’t control Mother Nature or what this winter has in store, but if we work together we can all be better prepared for whatever the season may bring.
Post Office Move: Change is coming to an age-old Dartmouth institution. The Post Office doesn’t need the large space provided at their Queen and Wentworth location anymore. They’ll be moving out of the old building into a smaller space at 31 King’s Wharf Place on January 20.
Already thinking of healthy living resolutions for the New Year? Haven’t had a chance to try out the new Zatzman Sportsplex yet? Good news, three month memberships are on sale. For the whole month of December, three month memberships are tax free and can be purchased in a Christmas card form. A 15% savings until December 31! For more information checkout the Zatzman Sportsplex page here.
Public Hearing, Sea King / Lancaster Townhouse Development
Thursday, January 9, 6:00 pm
Harbour East Council Chamber, Alderney Gate (opposite the library)
WSP has applied to rezone the large parcel of vacant land at the intersection of Lancaster Drive and Woodland Avenue from R-1 to the townhouse zone. The applicant also proposes to increase Dartmouth’s townhouse zone’s allowable lot coverage from 35% to 55%. The requested rezoning is to enable a senior’s townhouse development on the site. The public hearing in which Council will make a decision on this application will take place on January 9 (rescheduled from December due to a mailing error on HRM’s part). For more information, see the staff recommendation report here and the project’s website here.
Discover Halifax Tourism Master Plan
Now – January 9, 2020
Discover Halifax, HRM’s tourism marketer, is preparing a Tourism Master Plan to guide efforts to grow the tourism sector. Tourism contributes $1.3 Billion each year to HRM’s economy, but there has never been an overarching plan in place to guide the growth of this sector. The new plan will be focussed on ensuring the sustainable long-term development of the industry with a specific interest in ensuring benefits for the broader community and all regions in HRM. Discover Halifax is conducting a public survey as part of the the plan and is encouraging residents and business owners to share thoughts, perspectives, and interests. The survey can be completed online here.
Now – December 22
HRM is inviting residents to provide their views around micromobility transportation (bike and scooter share systems). The survey is being carried out because Council will be considering potential bylaw changes to allow for micromobility options in 2020. Survey results could influence the recommendations to Council.
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 Update, December 10: The stadium vote. Read about it here.
Council Update, November 26 and December 3: Details on the proposed Woodland Roundabout and on the Forum redevelopment. Read about it here.
Abundance Program Holiday Craft Fair
Hosted by the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland NS
Thursday, December 19, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
1 Tulip Street, Dartmouth
Shop local this holiday season by visiting the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia’s Holly House Holiday Craft Fair. Members of the Elizabeth Fry Society Pre-Employment and Education Program have been working hard to create unique and beautiful gifts to share with the Community.
MP Darren Fisher Holiday Open House
Thursday, December 19, 4:00 – 7:00 pm
82 Tacoma Drive (suite 200), Dartmouth
Join MP Darren Fisher and staff for a Holiday Open House. Snacks and warm drinks provided. Everyone is welcome.
Alderney Landing Kitchen Party
Friday, December 20, 2:00 – 3:00 pm
Alderney Landing (market level), 2 Ochterloney Street
An hour of musical enjoyment at the Alderney Landing Kitchen Party
East Coast Carolling
Friday, December 20, 3:30 – 4:30 pm
Alderney Gate Public Library
Come to the library for a performance from East Coast Carolling. For 15 years founder John Lindsay-Botten and his musical friends have made their presence known with their professional cappella seasonal sounds.
Reel Family Movie Night
Friday, December 20, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Alderney Landing Theatre, 2nd floor, 2 Ochterloney Street
Alderney Landing and Scotiabank present the Scotiabank Reel Family Movie Night on December 20th with How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carey version). This is a free family event held in the theatre at Alderney Landing. Tickets available starting December 9, 2019 at Alderney Landing, Scotiabank Portland Street, Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission, #buylocal (Business TBA), Celtic Corner, and Strange Adventures Portland Street. There will be concessions available with all proceeds going towards supporting more movie nights.
Brought to you by Alderney Landing, Scotiabank, C100 FM – Today’s Best Music, The Chronicle Herald, Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission, B’Y Local, Celtic Corner, and Strange Adventures – Dartmouth.
HRM New Years Eve Celebrations
Tuesday, December 31, 11:00 – 12:15 am
Grand Parade, Halifax
Ring in the New Year in Downtown Halifax with a free outdoor concert and fireworks display. Lineup includes cirque and dance performances, plus music from Famba, Scientists of Sound, and Maximum Overdrive.
City Hall New Year’s Day Levee
Wednesday, January 1, 9:30 – 11:00 am
Halifax City Hall
Join the mayor, myself and the rest of Regional Council as we celebrate the New Year at City Hall with that very Canadian holiday institution, the New Year’s Levee.
Government House New Year’s Day Levee
Wednesday, January 1, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Government House, 1451 Barrington Street, Halifax
After visiting City Hall, join his honour, Arthur LeBlanc, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, and her honour, Patsy LeBlanc for the Province’s Levee at Government House.
Dartmouth Lawn Bowls New Year’s Day Levee
Wednesday, January 1, 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Dartmouth Lawn Bowls Club
2 Mount Hope Avenue
The Levee circuit continues on the Dartmouth side of the Harbour at the Dartmouth Lawn Bowls Club.
Interfaith Harmony Week, Nurturing Connections
February 1-9 (registration opens December 20)
As part of the UN’s World Interfaith Harmony Week, Interfaith Halifax will be holding a week of sessions. It’s a chance to engage and share in the practices of religions from all around the world. Participants are expected to attend the opening and closing sessions, three of the events during Interfaith Harmony week, and the Celebration at the Central Library on February 9. The event is free, but registration is required. Registration runs from December 20 – January 13. For more information visit Interfaith Halifax’s website here.