E-News December 2022

Lights at Sullivan's Pond

Happy Holidays:

Well another year done! Amazing how time flies. I want to wish you and your family happy holidays and all the best for 2023. The New Year is a time to reflect on the year that was. 2022 was a return to somewhat normal life after all the disruption in 2020 and 2021, but COVID and the pandemic also hasn’t gone away. The disease is still making people sick, and supply chain issues and labour shortages from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine are affecting everyone. Our society continues to be strained, especially around housing and homelessness and the new provincial government has shown a willingness to trample local democracy. There was of course joy though amidst the challenges. Hundreds of kids packed the Common for the opening of Shirley’s Splashpad, we welcomed the world back to Lake Banook for Canoe 22, the Woodside Ferry Terminal renovations were completed, Disc Golf fever swept the Commons, the next phase of work at Northbrook Park was completed, and the loop trail around Penhorn Lake was finished. Council met in person in 2022 and, like always, there were some ups and downs at City Hall. Here are some of the highlights of the year that was from my District 5 perspective:

  • The Provincial government took over planning at Penhorn and Southdale (Eisner’s Cove Wetland) and approved both developments, sparking protest
  • HRM opened both the Dartmouth and Halifax modulars. HRM was overly optimistic about how quickly they could be put in place, but the timeline of 4 months for Dartmouth and 8 months for Halifax still makes them the most rapid of rapid housing anyone has built in HRM since the Explosion
  • Even with the modulars, the housing and homelessness crisis deepened, leading HRM to designate some specific parks for outdoor sheltering
  • Phase 2 of the Northbrook Park plan was finished, with a repaved trail and lighting
  • The pilot project to smother Floating Yellow Heart in Little Albro Lake concluded and Council approved an alternative plan to deploy herbicides in the lake (pending Health Canada approval). This will likely happen in 2023 or 2024 depending on the federal approval process
  • 114 Pleasant Street, which seemed like a goner, and 65 Tulip Street in District 5 were registered as heritage properties
  • High school students at Dartmouth High and Woodlawn High were given transit passes and the pilot program was extended into 2023
  • HRM relaunched the lake monitoring program in 76 lakes across the municipality, including every lake in District 5
  • My perpetual complaint to Public Works about the state of the sidewalk bricks on Portland Street was substantially, but not fully, addressed with a large swath of the repairs over the summer season
  • HRM officially shared that the active transportation grid is behind schedule, a disappointment that I want to see improvement on and a pressure for 2023
  • A company with ties to Atlantic Road Paving applied to infill a large water lot in Dartmouth Cove, sparking a furious reaction from the public and neighbours. The feds haven’t made a decision yet so this will likely be something I’m writing about again in 2023
  • The District Boundary Review saw a problematic first draft of revised Council districts in Dartmouth turn into a much more acceptable submission that is now off to the Utility and Review Board for approval (see more on that below)
  • The early black settlers who were interred in an unmarked mass grave in the 1970s when development occurred in their former community by Mic Mac Mall were finally given some dignity. Christ Church and Victoria Road Baptist came together, with some funding from HRM, to install a proper marker in the cemetery. A correction of an old wrong
  • The Sullivan’s Pond palm tree died and was replaced with a Northern Caltalpa. The palm tree at Shubie Park also had a rough winter, but bounced back and is in its box again for the winter season alive and well
  • A Mi’kmaq name was selected for the renaming of Maitland Street: Patuo’qn (driftwood). Skokomul (new wooden boat) was also approved for the future extensions of Dundas Street in Dartmouth Cove
  • The next phase of the Sawmill River project was delayed until 2023/2024 to coordinate with Halifax Water rather than tendering the two pieces of work separately
  • As part of COVID recovery measures, over the summer all transit was free on Fridays and the ferry was free on Saturdays. HRM also offered a concert series in Ferry Terminal Park
  • We tried closing the lower half of Portland Street as part of Canoe 22
  • Penhorn Lake’s trail was built (thanks Penhorn Lake Area Trails Association!) providing a loop around the Lake. I expect the missing connection to the Terminal and Sobeys will fall into place in 2023 as part of the Penhorn redevelopment
  • The Housing Trust, with some help from HRM, the Province, and the Feds, purchased the two older yellow brick apartment buildings at Five Corners, ensuring that they will remain affordable for current and future residents
  • I started doing open coffee hours once or twice a month and had many informal chats with residents. I intend to keep doing this in 2023 as my schedule permits
  • The Alderney Gate lobby renovation was completed, bringing the magic of the redone Pedway down to the building’s ground level. An important public space that is now even better
  • The Disc Golf pilot project on the Common was a runaway success that wildly exceeded all expectations
  • New picnic shelter at Albro Lake Beach
  • Traffic calming completed on Hawthorne, Joffre, and Slayter Streets and the first 40 km/hr zones in District 5 were implemented
  • The informal Woodside car show had to be barred from HRM’s parking lot at the Ferry Terminal due to unruly behaviour
  • Transit faced numerous cancellations in both ferry and bus service due to labour shortages
  • Hurricane Fiona caused a lot of devastation in our Province, but Dartmouth was largely spared
  • The new on-demand accessible taxi service launched, bringing the same ability to call a cab when you need it to folks in HRM who have physical disabilities
  • The museum strategy came to Council, setting a plan for how HRM will complete the planning work for a museum project

Thank you for following my blog and newsletter over the course of the year. I look forward to hearing from you in 2023!


District Boundary Update:
The District Boundary Review Committee’s final recommendation was approved by Council last week. Thanks to lots of feedback from folks in Dartmouth there were substantial revisions to the initial draft and the really big problems were corrected. Montebello/Port Wallace is no longer being paired up with Fall River and Windsor Junction, Cole Harbour exists as a district again, and Downtown Dartmouth won’t be arbitrarily divided along Sawmill River/Sullivan’s Pond/Banook. These are all positive changes that were supported by the public. Here is the revised map for District 5:

The new Dartmouth Centre (District 5) takes Dartmouth North from District 6 in exchange for Penhorn, and loses Southdale/North Woodside to District 3

While it’s a plus that Downtown Dartmouth isn’t being cut in half anymore, the fundamental riddle remains: there are too many people living inside the Circumferential Highway for everyone to fit into one district, but there aren’t enough for two districts. Population wise, we’re 1.5 districts inside the Circ, which means that someone has to pair up with someone on the other side of the highway.

The current solution was to pair Highfield with Waverley and Woodlawn, which was never a great fit given that there is really no community of interest connecting Highfield to either of those places. The Boundary Review Committee’s revised District 5 is a plus for Dartmouth North, but it shifts the problem of who pairs up with the suburbs elsewhere. The new district map has Penhorn joining up with Woodlawn, and Southdale/North Woodside paired with South Woodside and Eastern Passage.

The new District 6 gives up Dartmouth North to District 5 and offsets that loss by picking up Penhorn and the rest of Woodlawn
The new District 3 jumps over the Circ to take in Southdale/North Woodside but gives up parts of Woodlawn north of Portland Street to District 6

Penhorn was developed around the same time as much of Woodlawn and there are some shared school boundaries with Woodside, but the Circ is still very much a boundary. Similarly, there are historic ties between the Woodsides, but connecting Eastern Passage with Southdale is a stretch, even more so when you consider the rural nature of Cow Bay. I don’t love losing either of those areas from District 5.

With Council approving the new map, the next step is approval at the Utility and Review Board where there is still a chance to provide feedback. I suspect the new map is probably as good as we can do right now with a Council of 16 and the population per district that then results, but I recognize that the pairing of Penhorn and Southdale with areas on the other side of the Circ is imperfect. Maybe in 10 years when the boundaries are next reviewed, all the Centre Plan growth in places like Shannon Park, Mic Mac Mall, Wyse Road, Downtown, Penhorn, Southdale etc will mean there will be enough people to have two council districts inside the Circumferential!

Brightwood in winter. Photo: Hugh Millward

I have received a number of messages from folks regarding Brightwood Golf and Country Club’s decision to formally close public access to their grounds during this year’s off season. The grounds have technically never been open, but the Club has always looked the other way and the public has used the space at their own risk. This year’s news was met by dismay from many folks who use the course as unofficial park space and a stark reminder that Brightwood is a good neighbour, but it’s not a park.

The reason for the true closure this year is Brightwood is doing a lot of work on the course, including to trees, bunkers, the turf, and the patio around the building. It’s an active work site and it’s not safe to have people around while that’s taking place.

A few people have asked me if the Club is allowed to bar the public and there seems to be some myths floating around about arrangements with HRM that I want to take a few minutes to clear up.

First, Brightwood is zoned park and community facility under the Centre Plan, which is the same zoning that is in place for HRM parks. The PCF zone, however, is also the zoning used for other private athletic clubs, like the boat clubs on Lake Banook and St. George’s Tennis. The PCF zone doesn’t require a property owner to provide public access. They’re not prevented from doing so, but it’s not a requirement of the zoning.

Second, there is also no tax arrangement between HRM and Brightwood. Brightwood is taxed in the exact same way that all golf courses are taxed, which is set out in the Provincial Assessment Act. There is no agreement between HRM and Brightwood to reduce the Club’s tax bill in exchange for allowing the public to access the land during the off season.

What it comes down to is Brightwood has been a good neighbour in allowing the general public to use the course during the off season, despite lots of good legal advice that I suspect they’ve received over the years to bar access entirely. We’ve benefitted from their generous approach towards off-season access. I would ask that everyone now pay that generosity forward and respect their need to safely complete work.

Winter Operations and Parking Ban
It’s that time of year again. It’s looking like a green Christmas here in HRM, but our first dash of snow isn’t likely far away. The winter parking ban came into effect on December 15 and will be enforced when there is a declared storm. During the ban, on street parking is prohibited from 1:00-6:00 AM. Vehicles violating the ban can be ticketed or towed. Snow clearing is always something that Council hears lots about, with the main question being “when will my street/sidewalk get cleared?” You can find service standards for all of HRM’s streets and sidewalks on the municipal website: streets, sidewalks. Please check the standard for your street or sidewalk before ringing 311.

Nova Scotia Power Frustrations
I have had a number of people write me and tweet me over the last month asking when the street lights on Thistle Street opposite the Sportsplex will be fixed. They’ve been out since Fiona after a power pole next to Bicentennial was completely destroyed. It’s understandable that some powerless street lights were a low priority repair immediately following Fiona when homes and businesses were in the dark, but Fiona was almost three months ago now. Initially NSP had this section incorrectly recorded as fixed. HRM identified it to them as still broken in October and they have been pressing the power company to fix the lights ever since. At this point, NSP has provided HRM with several dates and then failed to follow through (last one that I have via staff was that it would be fixed December 2 which it wasn’t). It’s very frustrating. HRM has even looked to see if we can get the lights working without NSP, but it’s unfortunately not possible. We need them so we’re stuck waiting.

Southdale Future Growth Node
Since my last e-newsletter, the Province has approved plans for the Southdale Future Growth Node (Eisener Marsh) and Clayton Development’s specific development agreement. Some of the buildings shifted during the planning process, but it was pretty much approved as first presented. The one significant revision is a road connection to Gaston Road. A Gaston connection is a good thing as Gaston will be far better able to handle traffic than Lynn Drive. Gaston also already has a bus route that could possibly be extended into the new development and onto either Baker Drive or Woodside Ferry. This is a good revision.

I’m still disappointed though in how the Southdale planning process was hijacked by the Province and what that ended up meaning for the public. The result of the Provincial takeover is there really was no discussion or input from the public into this major development. Between the poles of “don’t cut a single tree “and “develop right up to the wetland’s edge” was a whole lot of space for potential discussions. None of that discussion happened, or at least it didn’t happen with the public, since the Province took over the process, made all its deliberations secret, and actively indicated that they didn’t want any feedback. There was no chance for the public to shape outcomes or even get basic explanations about why decisions were made. This was a complete trampling of local democracy and it means it’s very hard to be confident that what is going to be built is the best possible outcome. The saying “Nothing About Us Without Us” has become kind of trendy in planning circles over the last decade. At Southdale, it very much was a “Without Us” process courtesy of the Provincial government.

Student Residence NSCC Campus
Construction has begun on the new residence at the NSCC Ivany Campus on Pleasant Street. The new building will provide rooms for 200 students. As some have noted, construction is in a very noisy phase right now. Piles are being driven for the foundation, which is a loud and unpleasant. The pile driving will pause for Christmas on December 24, will resume again on January 3rd, and is scheduled to continue until the end of March. It’s disruptive, but there isn’t anyway around it. The building needs a foundation. Starting in the new year, the NSCC is planning to post regular updates on construction on their website. I will share the link in my January e-news when it’s available.

Banook Judges Tower
A Dartmouth landmark is about to change considerably. Canoe-Kayak is starting work to modernize the judge’s tower on Lake Banook. The Tower served the paddling community well, but it has accessibility issues and it lacks the basic equipment needed to hold proper international events. It’s just not up to modern requirements. The work involves partial demolition and then a new addition, plus a bridge to the Division Building to make it accessible. Since Banook is more than a lake, it’s a sporting venue, HRM contributed 1/3rd of the project’s estimated costs.

District 5 Tree Pruning
There will be some significant tree pruning coming to District 5 over the next few months. The annual pruning program runs until March 2023. The intent is to visit trees proactively before something goes wrong. HRM’s goal is to visit each street tree every seven years. Below are some google map images of where work will be taking place in District 5.

Flower Streets and Park Avenue area
Newcastle and Hazelhurst
Harbour Drive and Esdaile Avenue
Part of Johnstone Avenue and Cameron Street
Portland Street, Lakefront, Silver’s Hill, and Murray Hill
Hillside Avenue in Crichton Park

To learn more about HRM’s urban forestry program visit: halifax.ca/trees

Student Transit Pass Program Renewed and Expanded
I wrote about this in my Council blog already, but it’s significant enough with a very direct impact on many families in Dartmouth that I wanted to highlight it in my newsletter as well. Last year, high school students at Dartmouth High and Woodlawn High were provided with transit passes for the year. The idea is to get youth to ride transit in their formative years in hopes that they will go onto become lifelong users. Based on research in Kingston, Ontario, where the idea of a high school pass was pioneered (at least in Canada), providing passes also allows youth to take on more extracurricular activities and employment.

At our last Council meeting, Council okayed expanding the program with HRCE and Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial. What this means is that, in January, the new grade 10 students at Dartmouth High and Woodlawn High will get passes as will the junior high students at the feeder schools including:

  • École secondaire du Sommet – Grades 9-12
  • École secondaire Mosaïque – Grades 9-12
  • Bicentennial School, Grades 7-9
  • Caledonia Junior High, Grades 7-9
  • Dartmouth South Academy, Grades 7-8
  • Ellenvale Junior High, Grades 7-9
  • Eric Graves Memorial Junior High, Grades 7-9
  • John Martin Junior High, Grades 7-9

HRM, HRCE and CSAP will review the extended program in fall 2023 and provide recommendations to Regional Council on next steps. For more information, visit HRM’s website here.

Oathill Lake hillside restoration. Photo: Oathill Lake Society

Oathill Lake Park Restoration
Some great work this fall by the folks at the Oathill Lake Society along Lorne Avenue. Oathill Lake doesn’t have any supervised beaches, but it is used by locals for swimming during the summer months. All those feet combined with fishermen had worn down a section of the hilly shoreline off Lorne Avenue. The Society, HRM, and Ducks Unlimited came together to organize some habitat restoration. The muddy crushed eroding grass was replaced with native plants, retaining stones were added, and some stone steps were put in place to mitigate the impact of all those feets going down to the shoreline. Great work by everyone involved!

Oval Opens for Season
The Oval on the Halifax Common is open for the season. The Oval is free to use and equipment is available at no cost with a valid ID. CSA-approved helmets must be worn for kids 12 and under. For a schedule of skate times, check out HRM’s website here.

Volunteer Awards
Do you know an outstanding community volunteer? Feel that it would be worth recognizing them for all their good work? HRM is accepting nominations for the municipality’s 2023 Volunteer Awards. The deadline for nominations is Friday January 6 so there is still time to nominate someone. I would encourage everyone who thinks of someone to nominate them. This is a lovely event that provides recognition and a thank you to the many folks that make HRM a better place to live. For more information, to check out past winners, and to nominate someone awesome, visit HRM’s website here.

Public Consultation

Public Hearing, 11 Canal Street
Thursday, January 12, 6:00 PM
Harbour East Community Council Chamber, 60 Alderney Drive (opposite the library)

Harbour East Community Council will hold a public hearing on January 12 to consider a development agreement for 11 Canal Street. The development agreement is a little different than development agreements that I have seen in the past and that’s because it’s the first one to come forward in one of Dartmouth’s future growth nodes. The agreement basically structures development around the Centre Plan’s as-of-right zoning rather than requiring a specific building design. The agreement is basically creating a zone rather than a specific building. The greatest density would be allowed fronting on Canal Street, stepping down on the back half of the property along the actual canal. This fits with the direction in the Dartmouth Cove Plan that has since been incorporated into the Centre Plan, which identified the interior of Dartmouth Cove away from Portland Street and the water as the place best suited for greater density. The developer’s working plan is to build a tower along Canal Street and a second shorter one behind it facing the canal. For more information, check out the staff report here.

Grahams Grove, Penhorn, Westphal, and Main Active Transportation Connections
If you missed it, HRM has been looking at potential road and sidewalk improvements to better connect neighbourhoods around Grahams Grove across the Parclo via active transportation. The goal is to better connect:

  • Lake Banook Multi-use Pathway to Penhorn Multi-use Pathway
  • Lake Banook Multi-use Pathway between the Conrad Bridge and Micmac Boulevard on-ramp
  • Prince Albert Road to Waverley Road
  • Waverley Road to Main Street
  • Main Street to Tacoma Drive where it meets Gordon Avenue
  • Prince Albert Road to Main Street
  • Harris Road to Valleyfield Road

I was late with my e-newsletter last month and the online survey for phase 1 has actually closed. Public consultation for round two will look at specific infrastructure options to make the connections and will begin in early 2023. You can review the materials so far online here. If you have any questions or feedback ahead of round two, you can contact the project leader, Megan Backos at backosm@halifax.ca or at 902-478-9725. Stay tuned in 2023 for more on this important project.

Council Update

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 13
Planning for the redevelopment of Mic Mac Mall, regulating short-term rentals, transit funding that’s not all that it seems, and potentially expanding the street navigator program. Read about it here.

Council Update, November 22
A rocky start to what is looking like a difficult HRM budget where Council’s choice will be unpalatable cuts or a higher than usual increase in the tax bill. Plus, updates on the Bridge Flyover and the Minimum Grid, student transit passes, and a possible boardwalk on Banook. Read about it here.



  • Tree pruning, $198,900, Asplundh Tree Service
    Cyclical tree pruning across HRM, including several areas in District 5 (see News above)
  • Frederick and Pinehill repaving, $1,108,757, Dexter
    Paving of Frederick Street and Pinehill. Tendered this year but work will take place in the spring
  • Museum Strategy Phase 2, $150,000, Aldrich and Pears
    Alternative procurement to get the same company who completed the work in Phase 1 back for Phase 2


Nothing District 5 related tendered over the last month! Slow time of year for projects in between budgets


Skate with Santa
Thursday, December 22, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Emera Oval, Halifax

Santa will be at the Oval on Thursday. Come see the big guy and enjoy some holiday music, and candy canes.

Dartmouth Menorah Lighting
Thursday, December 22, 5:00 PM
Plaza at the foot of Portland Street

A new tradition in Downtown Dartmouth, a menorah has been installed at the foot of Portland Street to celebrate Chanukah. There will be celebration on Thursday

New Year’s Eve
Saturday, December 1, 9:45 PM – 12:30 AM
Grand Parade, Halifax

HRM’s traditional New Year’s Eve festivities will take place on Saturday, December 31 from 9:45 p.m. to 12:30 AM in Grand Parade. This free event will include a live TV broadcast on Eastlink. Musical artists performances include JJ Wilde and Devon Cole. Fireworks will follow the musical show. For more information, visit HRM’s website here.

City Hall New Year’s Levee
Sunday, January 1, 9:30 – 11:00 AM
City Hall, Halifax
If you’re not too tired from the night before, the Mayor and Council’s annual New Year’s Day Levee will take place at City Hall on January 1. Come by to welcome in the New Year.


  1. Merry Christmas Sam. I am wondering if you can tell us which part of Gaston they will be cutting a road into for the connection to The Eisner Cove project. I am really hoping the districts don’t change as you are so familiar with the needs for our area. I am Sure Becky would take good care of us but changes are hard to adapt to.

    • Hi Charmaine. The road would go between the two big apartment buildings (76 and 86) on the land that currently holds a single white house.

      District boundaries are final on the HRM side. I don’t love it, but there isn’t a great solution for the riddle of too many people inside the Circ for one district, but not enough for two. The next step will be the Utility and Review Board where there will be an opportunity to provide feedback

  2. Is there any chance we can get traffic calming done around dartmouth south? There is a lot of foot traffic and I see cars fly down rodney, Prince Arthur and surrounding areas. With the new development there will only be more need for this.

    • Prince Arthur is due for major paving and as part of the work they’re going to look at the street design, which will include potential for traffic calming since there is a school zone. Early to say exactly what all that will look like. Design work is slated for 2023

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